When it comes to finding great ramen, perhaps the question shouldn’t be ‘where is the best ramen in the city?’ but more of ‘how do you like your ramen?’ Ramen is made with a variety of toppings, seasonings, and broth bases. Among the more easily recognizable varieties are miso broth, shoyu flavoured broth seasoned with Japanese soy sauce, and the celebrated tonkotsu broth made from slow boiling pork bones in order to make a rich, heavy soup that lingers on one’s lips and tongue.
Among the many ramen restaurants in Metro Manila, one chain that specializes in tonkotsu broth is Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen. Aside from its original tonkotsu ramen with chasu pork, nori seaweed, and vegetables, the menu features different additions and twists to the traditional dish such as black garlic tonkotsu, or even vegetables and cheese tonkotsu. After all, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what ramen should or should not be.
One quiet weeknight we decided to stop by for a much needed ramen fix. For the sake of adventure we veered away from the original tonkotsu offering and tried out some of the variations on the menu; Lee had the ebi (prawn) tonkotsu, while I ordered the tan tan tonkotsu, which was basically the regular tonkotsu ramen with a dollop of spicy seasoning. To wash it all down, we made sure to get a whole pot of plain black tea on the side.
Unfortunately for us we realized that it was possible to have too much of a good thing when it came to ramen. The prawn’s distinct flavour competed with the equally hearty one of the tonkotsu broth instead of complementing it. The same was true for the tan tan tonkotsu; after a while, all I could taste was the oily spiciness instead of the milder tastes of the noodles, the nori, and the ground pork. I probably wouldn’t have finished my meal if it had not been for drinking down so much tea just to cleanse my palate.
Lesson? Sometimes simpler is better—and that’s true for tonkotsu ramen. Some ramen soup bases are just platforms for heavier ingredients, but tonkotsu deserves to be the star of the show.
The Food Score: 3/5. The problem with clashing flavours isn’t only true of the bowls we ordered; during other visits to different branches, I’ve found that other concoctions such as the vegetables and cheese ramen don’t do the tonkotsu broth much justice. However the individual ingredients such as the chasu pork are cooked to perfection, and the house tea is calming and great for washing down a meal. There are also rice options and side dishes for diners wanting more than ramen for the meal.
Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5. The service here was fast and efficient, something much appreciated given the customer traffic in the restaurant. The ambiance felt rather rushed and less homey, and not like a place wherein one can leisurely enjoy a hefty dish.
GERD Score: 3.5/5. While one’s preference on ramen is a matter of personal taste, the place offers some options at the very least for people with heartburn such as the ebi tonkotsu. However, half of the ramen options have the usual heartburn culprits, from cheese to chili, which makes the place not completely heartburn friendly.
Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Most ingredients in ramen, especially the traditional tonkotsu broth aren’t known triggers for epilepsy. However if one is sensitive to gluten, then ramen is out of the food options; gluten-free noodles are not offered here. There are also fresh juices and water for patrons who cannot have sodas or alcohol, which are offered on the menu.
Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. In terms of value for money, one can definitely get full with a ramen bowl from here. However for us, the quest for our favorite ramen place in town still continues.