Mensakaba Geishu: A Welcome Addition to the Ramen-Addicted NeighborhoodAugust 29, 2019
- Pamela CortezWords
A few weeks ago, we decided that ramen was far from over. It ain’t just about the weather—this dish is no longer a trend, but is now a staple in the Philippines. However, there are so many riding on it’s popularity, that there are more than a few impostors giving ramen a less-than-stellar reputation.
But then, there are a few gems.
Located at the very end of Aguirre Street in food neighborhood BF, tucked between a massage place and a few other sad-looking stores, is Mensakaba Geishu. Its backlit red sign makes it fit in with its nondescript surroundings, so much so that if there was no hype about this place, I admit I would have skipped it myself. Heck, the word ramen is hardly in bright bold lettering. Once inside, the shop is incredibly tiny, with probably 12 seats along a counter. This feels more like Japan than most other places; it is humble, austere even, but with smells coming from behind the counter that serve as sensory cues as to what is being done behind it.
The menu is a very short two pager, with standard ramen broths in the Philippines all present; shoyu, shio, miso and tantanmen. There are also 4 others—chasu which is shoyu with slices of pork, ebi wantanmen with shrimp wonton, kantonmen with seafood and vegetables, and a soupless abura soba. Aside from this, there is a rice bowl, a gyoza and a short menu of yakitori standards, mostly chicken parts.
The bowls are very simple. These are all under the 270-peso price mark, mind you, and their simplicity doesn’t mean that it isn’t filling or delicious. I have been to some in the metro that will rip you off for double the amount, and some cheaper bowls that have most likely thinned their broths out with water, losing respect for the ingredients, and flavor all at once. Miso was dark and dense, and came with a decent, runny aji tamago that thickened the bowl well. This is standard stuff, well-done, and satisfying.
Even the rice bowl with pork was very good, with sticky rice, a sweet sauce covering the pork, balanced by the toasty nuttiness of sesame seeds and a generous amount of nori. The presence of a yakitori grill makes sure that the sticks of the best bits of chicken are smoky, charred on the edges, sticking to the grill at times to impart that near-burnt flavor. They are a steal, with a chewy, unctuous gizzard at only PHP 35.
Granted, this place will probably not be the best bowl of ramen you’ve ever had. However, it is better than some Filipino-made chains whose broths recall instant packets and store-bought broths, and noodles either too hard, or too soggy and limp. The atmosphere also makes it worthwhile, even though the authenticity and obscure-ness of it all might feel manufactured to some. It is a bright little spot, a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and definitely a welcome addition to the ramen-addicted scene.