Mendokoro Ramenba from the Makers of Yushoken is Now in MakatiDecember 17, 2014
I’ll probably get vilified for this statement, but I’ll say it anyway—Elbert Cuenca is the Philippines’ version of Ivan Orkin. To all those unfamiliar with the name, Orkin was featured on the first series of A Mind of A Chef, a New Yorker who dared to open a ramen shop in Japan. The ramen master became known for his broths, soon opening up in his native New York, and publishing a cookbook. Some even said his ramen was just as good as those found across Japan, maybe even better than a few, and all this from a guy who used to be a teacher in Tokyo.
Cuenca, famous for his and his brother’s exacting philosophy on cooking, is just like Orkin, but in Manila. He’s making ramen here that might be better than those owned by Japanese chefs around the city or even some of the foreign imports. I’m making that statement because I know it’s true. Yushoken, that mythic shop in a strip mall in Alabang, is my favorite ramen place in Manila.
One of the things that made Yushoken so huge was the fact that it was walk-ins only, a little tucked away in the South, one of those restaurants that had a great little backstory. But that often wears away, except in their case. The food was too delicious, in a league of its own, that the lines still crawl out the doors until this day. Almost every bowl is an exacting representation of Yushoken’s dedication to the noodle craft—shio, shoyu, and miso are all artfully done. Trendy tantanmen is rich, soulful, and chock-full of minced pork and unapologetic heat. Even their chahan and karaage are things to rave about, making their slightly ramen Nazi rules bearable. Still, Alabang is a trek away for many, so news that the Yushoken group opened a shop smack in the middle of the CBD was the perfect Christmas gift for foodies around.
Named Mendokoro Ramenba, it is an edited version of its big sister—less seats, a tighter menu that removes all non-ramen menu items from its predecessor. Ultimately, nothing has changed: the place is still well-appointed, the lines just as ridiculous, and the ramen still brilliant.
They offer their standard shio, shoyu, tantanmen, and miso, and their cold ramen salad, plus only two of their tsukemen offerings. There is, however, an off-the-menu special that is unique to Mendokoro alone, a garlic version of their miso. It is umami at its finest, a deep bowl of intensely earthy, salty miso, with a pungency of garlic. The chashu is just as fatty, and perfect in soaking up the delicious stock. The tokusei tsukemen, cold, slippery noodles dipped in a savory, concentrated broth full of pork, was just as intense and complex as it was in Yushoken. Hiyashi Chuka was never really my favorite dish, but for those looking for less intense flavors, the combination of sesame and ponzu in the ramen salad is easily a good choice. No matter what you order here, you’re probably in good hands.
Cuenca has done it again. While I might have a qualm about the more succinct menu, I’m more than ecstatic to have Mendokoro Ramenba in the busy city. It gives anyone who’s missed out on their delicious ramen a chance to revel in the pleasures South people have been spoiled with thus far. Just make sure you grab a seat before one of their limited 180 bowls is lapped up by another hungry dweller.
Have you tried Yushoken? What’s your favorite ramen joint in Manila? Tell us below!
This review was conducted solely by the author, who did not accept any form of cash advertising, invitation, sponsorship or payment. It was paid for by the author or Pepper.ph, and the views represented are purely the writer’s own. It is based on one anonymous visit to the restaurant.
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