New Ramen Joint Butamaru in Westgate is All About The PorkSeptember 22, 2014
- Pamela CortezWords
Lately, I have been talking way too much about ramen. But in this noodle-obsessed city it’s inevitable that some of the most anticipated new restaurants are all iterations of this trend. The latest one is Butamaru, in Westgate Alabang, which opened barely two weeks ago. The name itself tells you what to expect—buta means pig in Japanese, a fitting name for the restaurant whose ramen bowls are all porcine-based.
The simple two-story establishment is dressed the way ramen joints usually are, with a bar on the first floor that gives a little peek into the kitchen. The menu is incredibly simple with only a few standard choices—shio, shoyu, miso, and tantanmen for ramen, and two types of gyoza, a ramen salad, and chahan. There are some off the menu items as well, like a curry tantanmen, and a cheese gyoza.
Chahan was standard, mimicking the dish at Yushoken. It had the necessary salty kick of umami, but the rice itself wasn’t the sticky, Japanese kind with thick plump grains, making it fall just a little short. The ramen salad was different than most takes, coated in a thick black sesame sauce. Served cold and piled on with fresh vegetables, seaweed and spring onions, it was refreshing. The first few bites were surprisingly good, with the vegetables a light contrast to the heavy noodles. However, in spite of how delicious the sesame dressing was, too much of its sweetness made it difficult to finish the bowl. Butamaru serves both traditional gyoza and hane gyoza, the winged version which has a thin, crispy outer layer that threads the dumplings together. The cheese gyoza lacked any oozing dairy, but the crispiness made up for whatever the dish lacked.
The ramen was generally consistent, more than decent, uncomplicated bowls of tonkotsu based broths. The shio was milky, with a saltiness that was just on the edge. Accompanying chashu was soft but normal and typical of other restaurants. Tantanmen had appropriate heat, but might be lacking for those who like spice. The broth was not as rich as others, without much ground meat to thicken the soup. A curry version was better, with the distinct funkiness of curry spiciness adding a much-needed dimension. Tamago came with a slightly runny center, but was forgettable.
It may be a little gauche to compare the two, but I can’t help assessing Butamaru against its Alabang neighbor, which many feel have set the standard for ramen in Metro Manila. It feels like a distant cousin, with some similar features, but Butamaru lacks the finesse that Yushoken does. The bowls are underdressed, the noodles, while made fresh, aren’t as toothsome, and the quality a little less stellar. For a slightly cheaper price, Butamaru is a worthy destination, but if you’re going for gold, travel a little further.