In an intensifying battle for the metro’s best ramen, how does a new entrant stand-out from its multiplying competitors?
The room, albeit cramped and noisy, is a real attraction with floor to ceiling wooden bars along its margins. Famous Japanese calligrapher Sensyu Yasuko meticulously hand painted verses from a 600-year old love poem on the polished planks. “We wanted a modern Japanese look, and Yasuko gave us just that by making these walls,” co-founder Kenji Komuro related.
Unlike other trendy restaurants, Ikkoryu doesn’t just offer a glorified so-so dining concept. Its fans-- Ortigas execs and Japanese expats—seek Ikkoryu for its tightly-curated ramen selection. “Ramen here is definitely authentic. We have a Japanese chef that uses imported all-Japanese ingredients. Ramen here is not just like in Japan. I’d say it’s even better than Japan’s!” the cheerful and obviously proud co-founder joked in his thick Japanese accent.
The limited menu at Ikkoryu favors milky tonkotsu, the specialty of Kyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture. Among the bowls, the Ajitama Tonkotsu (P380), Spicy Tobanjan Tonkotsu (P380), and Black Garlic Tonkotsu (P380) sell the fastest.
Tonkotsu is characterized by its cloudy and milky broth, brought about by simmering pork-bone and fat over a long period of time. Ikkoryu’s is not the milkiest and thickest available in the market; most would even remark that it’s even more oily than milky. But there’s no denying the flavors that run deep within the bowl.
“Secret,” Kenji answers when asked how long exactly it takes before the pork broth ends up as milky and oily as Ikkoryu’s. “But I’d tell you that noodles here are made daily,” he added.
I may have missed the trade secret of the broth, but I was told the secret to making the bright soft-boiled egg halves that give the Ajitama Ramen a googly-eyed look. “We marinate the eggs in our special soy sauce for two days before we soft-boil it,” Kenji divulged. No wonder they’re awesome, I said.
Black Garlic Tonkotsu
The oily Black Garlic Tonkotsu ramen may not look like it, but it’s actually a comforting bowl with unchallenging flavors. Its hot broth that refuses to mix with the glistening garlic oil is just what you’d want and need to sip when you’re down with flu. Too bad Ikkoryu discourages taking their food out.
Spicy Tobanjan Tonkotsu
The same goes with their Spicy Tobanjan Tonkotsu. The fiery bean-paste ball that sits proudly atop may look intimidating, but all it would do is tickle your throat.
Sure, Ikkoryu’s kitchen delivers consistent ramen and most people go after that. But what many people don’t know is that Ikkoryu excels at snacks. When dining at Ikkoryu, don’t forget to order its steamed, then tenderly fried Gyoza (P150). The six-piece plate is enough reason to try Ikkoryu.
If you’re not too keen on ramen, find delight in Ikkoryu’s good-for-sharing Karaage (P180), which is a steal at P180. Desserts are also not to be missed. The Macha Ice Cream (P100) comes highly recommended along with Shiratama Zenzai (P130), Japan’s version of local bola-bola.
This Yakimeshi is best paired with the Karaage
Macha Ice Cream
Like its counterparts, Ikkoryu’s prices are ambitious-- glorifying what’s supposed to be a cheap, street-side affair in Japan. But unlike its competitors, you get to be served by a kitchen obsessed with authenticity and in a place that’s refreshingly trendy.
While it’s far too early to bet on Ikkoryu in this ongoing Ramen War, one cannot deny that it’s a welcome proponent in the game. Thanks Ikkoryu, we’ve another reliable place for noodle-slurping for the rainy days ahead.