It’s actually the year of the Water Snake. And while I hardly know anything about Chinese astrology and approach to luck, I’m going to make a prediction of my own right now and say that Kichitora of Tokyo is well on its way to becoming one of the best ramen restaurants in Manila.
Visit Kichitora at SM Megamall's Atrium
“The story behind Kichitora is actually pretty interesting,” shares Larson Chan. “My family owns a business that does a lot of tie-ups with Japan. I would travel frequently to both Japan and the United States, and I would always eat a lot of ramen in both countries. When I went back to the Philippines, I realized that we don’t really have a lot of good ramen places here. This is the niche I want to fill with Kichitora.”
Kichitora means “lucky tiger” in Japanese. The reason behind the name is that Chan wanted to name the restaurant after his mother, who was born in the year of the tiger. Coincidentally, the name of the Chan family’s partner’s wife is Kichise, which gives the restaurant all the more significance in terms of family ties.
Kichitora follows the basic ramen rule (noodles plus soup) religiously. Not only do they make their own noodles, but they also make their own flour. As of now, Kichitora offers tsukemen (literally translating to “dipping noodles”) and their own specialty ramen. What sets Kichitora apart from most ramen restaurants is that their ramen is chicken-based.
Their current best-seller—and also the current love of my newfound ramen life—for the dipping noodle ramen variants is the Paitan (White Soup) Chicken Ramen (P360). Chan mentioned that this type of ramen is very popular among women patrons. I can personally adhere to this because the simple but comforting taste is very well attuned to my preferences. The soup alone is so delightful; it, together with the noodles and pieces of chicken breast, already makes such a big impact. I could have it again and again and never get sick of it.
Paitan (White Soup) Chicken Ramen
Egg served with Paitan
From their specialty ramen menu, we were offered the Special Miso Chashu Ramen with Ma Oil (P395). Chan fondly refers to this as the “burger of ramen” or the “ramen for men” because its taste is complex and full-bodied. It’s a terrific dish to try out if you want to go the unique, non-traditional route, but it’s a little heavier than the Paitan. Still, it’s a totally new experience—I highly recommend it.
Special Miso Chashu Ramen with Ma Oil
In Kichitora, karaage and gyoza are not appetizers, but are served as companions of the ramen dish. Their Karaage (P250), served with Japanese mayo, is cooked to a perfect golden crisp while their Gyoza (P150 for 5 pieces) is as equally pleasant. Both are definitely complimentary to ramen, regardless of what variant suits your tastebuds well.
To those who love sweets, you won’t be disappointed in the special desserts that Kichitora has to offer. The one I’m particularly fond of is the Coconut Tofu with Matcha and Azuki (P150). It’s a different concoction from what I’m used to in Japanese restaurants because it adds a twist to the standard dessert. The mixture of flavors and textures is ideal, and the azuki beans give it a subtle oomph. The Almond Jelly (P150) is a perfect sweet ending for those who have pretty much eaten their fill. It’s light, semi-sweet and comes with a bit of fruit.
Almond Jelly and Coconut Tofu with Matcha and Azuki
Chan is more than happy to report that the food they serve sit very well with the customers. “One of the best forms of praise I ever heard came from a Japanese man,” he shares. “The man told me, ‘These aren’t noodles. This is ramen.’ And ‘These aren’t dumplings. This is gyoza.’ We really offer the real deal. Japanese patrons tell me that they no longer have to go home to Japan to treat themselves to quality ramen.”
They say 2013 is the year of the ramen war. With so many promising ramen establishments popping up in the city, it’s not hard to see why. Kichitora of Tokyo, with its sleek interiors, beautiful kimono-patterned walls, lucky tiger panel (can you count how many times the number eight manifests itself there?) and sinfully delicious ramen, is sure to be a fierce competitor in this war. The tiger is a force to be reckoned with, after all. And luck moves in mysterious ways.