Hidden in the quieter side of Timog, Nomama Artisanal Ramen was easily branded as an avant-garde as soon as it opened. Partly, it was because no other ramen bar in the metro managed to look this fine before. Manly, minimalist, and Zen-like, the restaurant is a far cry from the narrow, crowded, and Hiragana-riddled noodle shops Manila is used to. In place of Japanese lanterns, Nomama has an ingenious (though slightly morbid) wooden pig sculpture as its most iconic decor. The spacious room, a compatible mix of blonde-wood and concrete, creates a serene enclave that shuts out all the outside annoyances.
But aside from exhibiting modern Japanese aesthetics, the restaurant is also keen on dispelling the notion that ramen has to be either 'shoyu' or 'miso'. 'In Japan, each ramen house has a different flavor, a different take, a different style. Here, most of the ramens are pretty much the same,' Chef Him Uy de Baron-- whose face is as no-nonsense as his name, shared as he handed me Nomama's menu.
It was a trip to Japan that prompted him to open up Nomama. A self-professed “noodle person,” Chef Him confessed to eating ramen--everyday--for the entire time he was there. 'I came back and I can't find anything that replicates that experience. I decided to open up my own ramen resto,' he related.
It's great that ramen ranks as one of the top food trends of the year, but the noodle-making business is one that's hard to penetrate. Few restaurateurs have the confidence to go against the usual, and purist fans aren't forgiving in tampering of flavors. Even with that in mind, the well-decorated chef, praised for his work at East Cafe at Rustan's Makati, went ahead with his will of offering unique flavors of ramen. The result is Nomama Ramen, which is a play on the words "not your mama's ramen."
What to order when at Nomama? Their specialty ramens, of course! There's the Ox Tongue and Chili Tofu Ramen (P290) and Thai Green Curry Ramen (P310) for those who want some outing from their comfort zone. But those hesitant can opt for the Nomama Ramen (P290), which is distinctively nutty and creamy but at the same time, features the familiar miso-sesame blend of broth. The hand-made noodles-- stringy and perfectly cooked, is made ten times better by the brilliant soft-boiled egg.
Most first-time customers head to Nomama for the ramen, but regulars know that the other dishes are worth seeking as well. For your raw fix, in place of your regular pink and supple salmon (not available here), get the Beef Tataki With Chips priced at P280.
Beef Tataki With Chips
The dish, made with grounded (or pureed, even) Kitayama beef is faultless. Lightly seared, then dressed in sweet and succulent sauce, the very-- very--soft chilled beef bits go perfectly with the accompanying potato chips. The inclusion of bitter alfalfa leaves is an excellent call.
If munching on (not so) raw beef isn't your thing, the Raw Salad (P230) which is a toss of mixed greens, tomatoes, corn, and edamame, is no way inferior in flavor to the previously mentioned meaty composition.
Another of the top-grossing items is the Twice-cooked Pork Belly Teriyaki (P410). The extra-fatty pork is slow roasted, pan fried, then smoked table-side. Saying 'wow' is inevitable when presented with this literally smoking dish.
Twice-cooked Pork Belly Teriyaki
There's been much talk about Chef Him's Kit Kat bar (P175); the raves probably have reached you. It's quite good the same way Reese's is good. I just wish it's served a little softer.
Kit Kat bar
The Dessert of the Day: Flourless Chocolate Cake With Miso Salted Caramel turned out to be more impressive. Warm, mildly sweet, and at times salty, this dessert has 'perfect' written all over it.
Flourless Chocolate Cake With Miso Salted Caramel
If you can afford the above average price tag, head to Nomama for one of the most distinctive dining experiences you can have in Quezon City. The ramens are worth the journey. The non-ramen items, all the more. And if you still need some convincing, the gyoza dessert that's coming soon might do the trick. You've read that right. A gyoza that's also a dessert. Now, what did I say about Nomama being avant-garde?