Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ukokkei: The Best Ramen in Town?

Nissin Cup Noodles Seafood Flavor. That's the closest we got to ramen before. Admit it, that's how most of us knew about Japanese ramen. It is only now that we get a plethora of choices when it comes to authentic Japanese ramen. And while Japanese restos have been offering such, real, thick-souped ramen has yet to become popular...until now.  

Ramen Cool, Ramen Bar, Shinjuku...these are just some of the ramen places known to Filipinos. But whenever you Google "best ramen in the Philippines", one restaurant always comes on top: Ukokkei. I (Glutton Girl) have been hearing about this restaurant for quite some time now, but I've never had the chance to really dine there because of its proximity from my place of comfort (aka Fort) and because it seemed so hole-in-the-wall. And when I think of hole-in-the-wall restos, I suddenly worry about parking. (And she was right. - Glutton Guy)

We visited Ukokkei last Wednesday, our first reunion since we-don't-know-when. Both of us have been busy with work and school that we haven't really had the chance to meet up and eat. The reunion seemed rather more special since we both came from recent trips and had an exchange of pasalubongs. I (Glutton Girl) suggested that we have dinner in Ukokkei because we're meeting in Makati and I really just wanna see what the fuzz is all about. 

And fuzz there really was. No parking? CHECK. We had to pay extra 40 bucks for parking since we parked in the next building. Waiting to be seated? CHECK. We were 2nd in line. I specifically asked if there was still Tiantianmen (which is their highly-recommended special ramen, served only 6pm onwards, with 20 bowls to go). No Tiantianmen? CHECK. I asked if we could order in advance. The waitress said no. Ho-hum. And there it was, when we ordered, "NO MORE TIANTIANMEN". We thought of leaving, but we figured maybe they had something else to offer. People would not just go for the Tiantianmen, would they?

Now on to what we ordered (despite the dismay that is the lack of Tiantianmen):

Ukokkei Miso Chashu Ramen, Php 380

Glutton Girl: This was my order. I like chashu (thinly sliced pork belly) in my ramen. I always order this type of ramen and nothing else, so it was very predictable of me to take this route. That and I wanted to compare it to Ramen Bar's version of chashu ramen. I really liked Ramen Bar's version, but because I was in arguably the best ramen place in Manila, my expectations were set pretty high. And this ramen didn't disappoint. Thick soup? Check. Right amount of chashu? Check. Bean sprouts? Lovely addition. Check. It was everything I imagined it to be: strong and powerful, but soothing and comforting. This is what ramen is supposed to be. (Although don't get me wrong, I love Nissin Cup Noodles.) My only request though is maybe next time they could put more soup in the bowl. When I was nearly finishing my meal, I found more noodles than soup. I like my noodles drowning in soup. 3:1 ratio, if you must.

Glutton Guy: Whenever I think of pork belly, I would want my soup to taste rich and flavorful. Ukokkei's Miso Chashu was that and more. It had that delicious noodles that really worked well with the thinly sliced pork. However, after a few sips of the soup, I then realized that the spices they used for it were a bit too overpowering. The pork was cooked perfectly, and it would have been more delicious had the soup maintained a little bit of balance. The size of the ramen, however, was huge. For 380 bucks, it absolutely is worth every centavo. I would agree on Glutton Girl's suggestion regarding the addition of more soup on the ramen. : )

Seafood Miso Ramen, Php 420

Glutton Guy: I have tried a different version of the Japanese seafood ramen before, and this one was equally satisfying. I super love seafood, so I really enjoyed this bowl of noodles. I would suggest more seafood of the dish though, since I only found a piece of crab meat, a piece of squid, a piece of shrimp, and some clams shells. The soup was also a bit overpowering for me. But, it's most probably something that I would order again. They say that the satisfaction of the noodle eater depends on how loud he eats the dish. Well, I was just 'slurping' my way to the bottom of this bowl. : )

Glutton Girl: This was Glutton Guy's order. He wanted something with seafood in it, so the waitress recommended this. His ramen is of a special one, same group as that of Tiantianmen, and can only be found on the walls of the resto. I don't understand why it's not included in the formal menu, but whatever floats their boat. It was very good as well. The waitress told us that his soup base was a combination of miso and shoyu (soy sauce), hence the milder taste. My soup base was more powerful in terms of flavor, but the subdued soup of this ramen perfectly complemented the seafood it came with. Really good ramen too. Better than the seafood ramen I had in Shinjuku.

Ajitamago, Php 40 per half

Glutton Guy: As Filipinos have "itlog na maalat" as sides for their dishes, the Japanese have ajitamago for their ramen. It's a somewhat soft boiled egg that really goes well with the delicious bowl of ramen that you order at Ukokkei. For 40 pesos a half (yes, it's a half of the egg), it better bring some spark to the already yummy ramen. Well guess what, it absolutely did just that. It's not that bad to have this as an add-on to your soup, I tell you. : )

Glutton Girl: I told Glutton Guy this was a must. I've tried Japanese egg in Ramen Bar before and damn it was good. It's like soft-boiled eggs but better. Yum yum. I told Glutton Guy we should just split one whole egg since I already expect the soup to be strong. And I was right. The egg was a great addition to the already yummy ramen. I can still remember the texture of its yolk.. Order this when you're there. Please.

Yaki Gyoza, Php 120

Glutton Guy: I have tried gyoza before, and it was absolutely delicious. Gyoza is actually the Japanese version of dimsum. Ukokkei's gyoza was not that bad, but in my opinion it wasn't the best as well. I didn't quite get the taste. I felt I needed something more. The waitress actually told us to try the dip with the gyoza (which, by the way, she offered to do for us). Still, it didn't offer anything special. I would have wanted it to have more flavor and to be a good side dish to the ramen that we were eating. It just didn't deliver as I hoped it would. Nevertheless, it still wouldn't hurt to try it, I guess. : )

Glutton Girl: Five pieces of gyoza for Php 120, not bad! And the taste? Great as well. It was a good breather from the strong soup. The skin of the gyoza was perfectly cooked too, slightly crispy, slightly chewy. Just the way I like it. I suggest you eat this without the sauce; it's already good as it is.

I guess it's obvious that the food was glorious and it was worth the no-parking, no-tables-yet, no-Tiantianmen situation. It's worthy of another visit, except for one thing: SERVICE. You see, restaurants, no matter how good their food is, can get a negative vote from customers if the service is bad. Ukokkei's? VERY BAD. Rude, unpleasant, and very cocky, if we may call it. Examples:

1. "Ma'am waiting po, antay nalang kayo sa labas kasi bawal dito sa loob." Then turns her back on us.

2. Us: "No Tiantianmen? But I asked you a while ago and you said meron pa. That's exactly why we waited!"

Waitress: "Eh wala na po eh. Nung waiting kayo, may 2 pang bowls. Pero inorder nung nauna sa inyo, so wala na ngayon."

Us: "yeah but you should've considered that. You knew that was why we were willing to wait."

Waitress: "Pili nalang po kayo diyan. Balikan ko kayo mamaya pag tapos na kayo pumili?"

3. After so many photos that we took of the restaurant, about 50 I tell you, the waitress goes: "Sir, bawal po yan." WOW. Didn't you see us take pictures a while ago? And we were about to leave already. As if their rudeness hasn't reached the quota yet, nagpahabol pa bago kami umalis

Glutton Girl: You see? Because of these, I personally don't want to go back. Despite the great food and the lovely ambiance. I don't want to leave a restaurant feeling bad when I know I paid its worth. And because the prices in Ukokkei are not cheap, you expect decent service, right? Maybe that's just me, but I hate bad customer service. If you don't like your job, leave. Your attitude reflects on the restaurant. I'm just one customer who'll probably never go back because of the service, but that's still a customer lost. I'd rather head to Ramen Bar in Eastwood and get my ramen fix. Same quality anyway.

Glutton Guy: While I do agree that service wasn't the best at Ukokkei, I would have to say that it also wasn't the worst. We just have to admit, nobody's perfect; the same goes for restaurants. A food place may be excellent in the price or the taste of the dishes that they offer, but may lack in offering good service to its customers, and vice versa. This said, Ukokkei did a bad job on service when we were there, but that shouldn't remove the fact that the dishes there are good. Don't base your decision on this factor alone. And yes, Glutton Girl was a bit melodramatic with her rants hahahahahaha

Good food, bad service. Up to you readers to visit Ukokkei or not. Maybe you'd be lucky and get a happy waitress. Still, a good place to try out once. But only for the ramen.

Here's how we rated Ukokkei:





(Ukokkei Ramen Ron had 2 branches: 1. Tesoro's Commercial Building, 1016 Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City, and 2. 888 Gateway Plaza, 2126 A. Mabini Street, Malate, Manila.)

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