I first heard about Mitsuyado Sei-men on ANC’s Executive Class. Knowing the kind of places and products they feature, I knew that this ramen place has got to be something special.
So one Saturday, I made my way to quiet Jupiter Street in Makati to visit the first international branch of the restaurant also known to be the House of Tsukemen. I stepped inside and not only was I brought to another place - I also went back in time. The interiors are made to look like the streets of Japan some 50 years ago – cobblestone floor, a food stall complete with wheels on one side of the room, an old bicycle hanging from the ceiling on the other, and vintage-looking posters all around. It was already becoming a memorable experience for me just by walking in.
The Three Arrows
The name of the restaurant and its logo has an interesting story: the word “mitsuya-do” means “the three arrows”, which came from a Japanese tale about a feudal lord named Mori Motonari. Mori had three sons and gave each of them an arrow. He demonstrated to them that when the three are held together, the strength of each is multiplied which makes them harder to break. These arrows are what you can see on their logo, which in turn represents Product, Service and Situation – their three key ingredients in maintaining a strong and enduring brand. “Sei-men” refers to “noodle-making”, an aspect that the company is proud of because they make their noodles fresh everyday using imported Japanese flour. I had the chance to take a peek at how they make their noodles in the glass-paneled “noodle room” right by the entrance. They also make their own gyoza skin and their gyoza is also one thing that people keep coming back for.
But what is tsukemen, you may ask? It refers to “dipping noodles”, which is a new style of eating ramen that started in Tokyo about 7 years ago as I was told by their chef, Takahashi Yu. He also told me that Japanese people like to eat very fast (images of Gokou and Gohan ran through my head as he said this) and with tsukemen, they can eat faster because the noodles are not hot.
Double Cheese Tsukemen and Marutoku
The Double Cheese Tsukemen (P340) comes with a hot bowl of tonkotsu or pork bone broth for dipping. The cold noodles (you can opt for hot) are topped with parmesan cheese. A side of Marutoku (P100) , which consists of tender char siu pork, vegetables, soft-boiled Japanese egg and nori was served with our tsukemen. My (still) mediocre chopstick skills were put to the test but I made sure that didn’t get in the way of eating the smooth ramen noodles bathed in cheese and flavorful broth. To eat this dish, just remember to pour, dip and slurp – pour the cheese sauce on the noodles, dip them into the broth and slurp away!
Our second dish was something new to their menu, the Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen (P380), with sliced pork, pickled ginger and Japanese egg. The broth is made from boiling pork bones for many hours which gives it a thick consistency and creamy taste. To make the broth even richer, mix the egg into it. I was wary of the red pickled ginger at first but the key is to have a little bit of everything in one spoonful.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen
Next was a plate of Black Pepper Chicken (P180), a simple but savory dish of grilled chicken that’s real juicy with not a hint of dryness.
Black Pepper Chicken
During the whole time we feasted on these dishes, my friend Nina pointed out that we didn’t even touch the set of condiments on our table. Also, the tsukemen and ramen that we had were only the regular servings and yet we were so full.
And to top off this adventure, we had Strawberry Kakigori (P90) for dessert, which is shaved ice with strawberry syrup topped with vanilla ice cream. The strawberry syrup was not overly sweet and this was so kawaii, as the Japanese would say!
The famous Anthony Bourdain said that there’s so much he doesn’t know after his first taste of a Filipino dessert on his show. Food not just fills our bellies and makes us feel good, they also tell us stories. By knowing the stories behind delicious food, we get to know not just what tastes good on our palates; it also opens us up to new ideas and encourages us to try the unconventional.