In 2011, Nomama opened to rave reviews. Armed with an exciting menu that not only consisted of mouthwatering ramen but laden with distinctive dishes as well, there was nowhere for this joint to go but up. Fast forward to two years later and this groundbreaking restaurant is doing better than ever. To celebrate their second anniversary, they added new items to their menu that, true to Nomama form, warrant enthusiasm.
Nomama, located at FSS Building in Scout Tuazon corner Scout Castor
The place, situated in a nondescript corner inside the Scout area, is packed even on a weekday. A steady stream of customers came and went during the lunch service and it was evident that they enjoyed their meal. It comes as no surprise that people love a restaurant that serves good, reasonably priced, and well portioned food.
While we were waiting, we were served one of their new appetizers: tortilla chips and Mushroom Duxelle and Tomato Basil Dip with Spiced Chips (P120). The dip was delicious. Slightly spicy, well-seasoned and chunky with bits of tomatoes and mushrooms, it was hard to stop eating it.
Mushroom Duxelle and Tomato Basil Dip with Spiced Chips
It was followed by an unconventional approach to two well-loved eats: Tonkatsu Pizza. This pizza was unlike anything that I’ve ever tried before. For starters, instead of dough, the base was tonkatsu. It comes in three different flavors: Original, Teriyaki, and Wasabi. We got to try the first two and would therefore like to concede that putting pizza toppings on tonkatsu is a brilliant idea. The Original (P265) variant is topped with Clara Olé tomato and cheese, Kung Pao sauce, and three kinds of mushroom and cheese. It closely resembles the taste of your everyday, average pizza. Of the two, I prefer the Teriyaki (P320) that’s made with kikoman soy sauce, chassu, gruyere, apples, and wild arugula because it’s more flavorful.
Original Tonkatsu Pizza
Teriyaki Tonkatsu Pizza
The noteworthy appetizers were followed by mains that did not disappoint. The Bacon Steakie with a Kimchi-Mango Puree and Onigiri (P485) was a crowd favorite. The thick slab of Mr. Delicious bacon glazed with maple and soy was perfectly complemented by the sweet and spicy kimchi-mango puree. It kind of made me wish that I was eating it at home where I can pair it with heaps of white rice but I had to make do with the Onigiri.
Bacon Steakie with a Kimchi-Mango Puree and Onigiri
Korean Town Ramen (P240 - junior bowl, P420 - regular) is the latest addition to Nomama’s impressive ramen arsenal. This spicy concoction with slow braised pork shoulder and shrimp, raw egg, enoki, Korean chili and miso is bound to be a hit with noodle lovers.
Korean Town Ramen
For dessert, we had a Smitten Warm Nutella Stuffed Cookie (P265) from Smitten Sweets with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and hazelnut crumble, served with strawberry slices. It was the perfect end to an amazing meal. Smitten Sweets is close to the chef’s heart because it’s run by his wife, Kirsten.
Smitten Warm Nutella Stuffed Cookie
The man behind Nomama is Chef Him Uy de Baron. A staunch supporter of locally grown and organic produce and proteins, he believes in “encouraging the growth of our local market”. We sat down with Chef Him and got to know him a little better.
Chef Him Uy de Baron
Question: When did you know that you wanted to become a chef?
Chef Him: Very early on. My mom kasi cooks a lot. So I had an inclination to the kitchen. I started experimenting with noodles and corned beef in the kitchen, and that kind of drew me in. And then when I went to college, HRIM was the top choice really for me. Basta service industry. I couldn’t see myself in the office kasi. So it was really either service or cooking.
Can you give us a brief history of your career as a chef?
I was one of the first batch of culinary students back in ’96 in the College of St. Benilde and then I graduated 2000, tapos I worked with Chef Henry Canoy. And then after that, opportunity came for me to study again in Sydney. So I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney. I worked there and then studied there at the same time. Sydney was a great place to go to from Asia. It’s near. Great produce, great meat, great seafood. So talagang I really got exposed to good food; great kitchens as well, so I worked there for a while. Then when I came back, I worked for a guy called Chef Marcus Gfeller. I worked for him for a while, and then after that I became a consultant. I also worked for Chef Jessie in Le Soufflé in Ortigas. After that, I opened my own consultancy. I’ve been doing consultancy for a long time now. This is my first restaurant that I opened because I wanted to make sure that I had the right concept.
Speaking about the right concept, how do you come up with ideas for your dishes? What inspires you when you’re cooking?
For me travel is a big part, and eating out. That’s why I’m a chef because I really love eating. Yun. What you eat inspires you. Travels abroad, travels around the Philippines, inspire you to cook. New ingredients. I go to the market, Farmers Market. And other things, other chefs, what they do. You visit a restaurant, you go to the chef, and he’s doing this, and you kinda ask him, you know, about suppliers.
Can you share to us how you conceptualized your new menu items?
For this one, like this one I got excited about the bacon from Mr. Delicious so I kinda used it, incorporated that. For the ramen naman I wanted to branch out. I already have a Thai Green Curry. I have a ramen that’s medyo Chinese. I wanted to go somewhere Korean, so that was the next step for the ramen there. For the dessert, it was inspired by my wife. She made those cookies and I thought it would do very well if served warm with a simple vanilla bean ice cream.
It’s really good, by the way. The cookie goes perfectly with the ice cream and the strawberries were a nice touch.
Yeah, thank you, thank you.
What’s your favorite dish from your new menu? I mean, if you had to pick one.
Probably the ramen. I really love ramen. That’s why I do a lot of them. And I try to do different kinds of ramen. So yeah, probably the ramen, the dessert. Kasi we’re really not known for dessert. So dessert is something that we’re really trying to build on in terms of variety, and a composed dessert.
Since you mentioned ramen, let me ask you this: why do you think there’s a surge of ramen places this year in the country?
When we opened in 2011, two years ago, there were only a few ramen shops. But siguro mga 2009, 2010, I kind of felt that ramen was going to be big here. Of course in the States it was pretty big by then. And then I went to Singapore, even in Hong Kong, ramen was pretty hot. So when I opened a restaurant sabi ko “okay, I want to be one of the first ones who kind of capitalize on this”. So when we opened, there were a few ramen restaurants but mostly traditional serving the same kind of ramen: shoyu, shiyo, miso ramen. So yeah, I kinda saw that coming. Ramen was gonna be big. It’s a natural progression right now. Kasi before, the Japanese restaurant you go in, from sushi to ramen to sukiyaki to tonkatsu, you can order. About two, three years ago, the trend was a more focused and specialized restaurant. So if you’re a Japanese restaurant, what’s your specialty? So if you’re ramen, just do ramen well. Now, tonkatsu’s also pretty big. So there’s a lot of tonkatsu. They’re Japanese, but their specialty is tonkatsu. Kami naman, I kinda played it safe when I opened mine. I wanna be ramen, but I don’t just wanna do ramen. During that time, I didn’t know if people were going to embrace it. I mean, I kind of felt that it was gonna be big pero who knows for sure? So sabi ko I’m gonna test it out. So we put ramen, plus other things. So even right now I feel comfortable that there’s a huge ramen thing going on out there, and we’re not competing directly because we’re not only just ramen.
That being said, what else sets Nomama apart from all the other ramen places?
If you look at all the top 10 ramen restaurants, all of them have Japanese chefs. From Japan! [laughs] So they’re trying to be authentic, which I really don’t wanna be. Because I don’t want to be shipping ingredients from Japan; I want to support local farmers, local ingredients. I want to source the quality ingredients locally. And fresh. I don’t wanna serve something frozen, something that has died six months ago. We don’t have a Japanese chef--it’s just me. Because my ramen is a spin on the things that I like.
Do you have any tips for budding chefs or restaurateurs?
Be specific with your goals, who you want to target, and know them. Know who you wanna target, what kind of food they want to eat. And it’s always good to be in the forefront of trends. So be on the lookout. Always travel.
What do you think is the next food trend that Manila will embrace, or what do you think is a food trend that we should embrace?
There’s a lot of things eh, pero just to limit in the Asian or Japanese, I think it’s about time that we have a curry place, a Japanese curry place. I don’t know lang if Pinoys will embrace it because when Pinoys think about curry, they think spicy. But Japanese curry is not spicy, it’s actually like gravy. And I think Pinoys love gravy, so Japanese curry is something that I think Pinoys will like. But there’s gonna be a lot of education towards curry. It’s not spicy, it’s not this and that.
Maybe someday you’ll put up a curry place, too.
Probably. I love curry.
If you had to cook a nice meal in 30 minutes, what would you cook?
Thirty minutes? Fried rice or pasta. Something you could just throw together.
Tell us about your earliest food memory.
My family had a food manufacturing business before, making hamburger, sausages, and stuff. But one of the things that I remember fondly was that every Christmas, we’d be very busy because they make glazed ham, with a torch and everything. They won’t allow me to do the torching, but I’d put the sugar and the pineapple and there’d be a line there and they’d be doing that. It’s nice just to wake up with the scent of caramelizing pork in our backyard. And it’s also Christmas.
What is your favorite cuisine to eat and to cook?
Asian. Definitely the broad variety of Asian cuisine.
What can you never give up eating?
I tried giving up meat before but I couldn’t.
Is there anything that you won’t ever eat? Food that you don’t like?
I’m not terribly fond of Durian but I’d try it. I wouldn’t eat some food items that I know aren’t very good but you’re eating it just for the sensation. Like, let’s say blowfish. I wouldn’t eat it because there’s a chance of you dying, plus it’s not really good. I mean, it’s just white fish. You can eat tilapia and probably have the same... And also that squid, the live squid that Koreans eat. For a fact, I know that it doesn’t taste good. So why do it? I mean if somebody told me that “Oh, my god it’s the best thing that you put in your mouth!” then I’d risk it. But the risk does not equal the taste, so...
I get what you mean. Okay, so my last question: what would be your “Last Supper” or “Death Row” meal?
Oh, my gosh. I’ve thought about that. It’s gonna be a long, long meal. That’s for sure. I can’t just choose one. I’d have breakfast. It’s a one whole day menu. Breakfast will be Filipino like tocino and stuff, itlog na maalat, danggit, fried rice, good corned beef. Then we move into lunch, lighter like sushi and stuff. And then for dinner, all kinds of roasted meat, grilled meat.
Talking to Chef Him, you’ll realize why Nomama has achieved the success that it has. With someone that’s as passionate about food as he is at the helm, it’s a no brainer. Serving only the things that he himself enjoys is a guarantee of happy customers. It’s no wonder that Nomama has lasted two years and there’s no doubt that it will last for many, many more.
Nomama is celebrating their second birthday by giving away free ramen every day for sixty days! Enjoy a bowlfest on the house just by following their promo mechanics and guidelines below. Have a bowlfest!