I get hungry just by watching eating scenes from Japanese films, especially when the object of gustatory desire is a big bowl of ramen. My eyes are glued to the screen, envious as the characters have bowl on one hand, chopsticks on the other, digging in and slurping their noodles with gusto. And as if the loud and happy slurping isn't good enough a sign to show that the noodle soup is ever so tasty, next comes the tilting of the bowl to finish off the soup, and a little sigh to end the heartwarming meal.
"While slurping the noodles, look at the pork. Eye it affectionately."
Savory broth, firm noodles, and ample toppings create a bowl of ramen. 'A good bowl of ramen,' says restaurateur Kenneth Kho, 'is when everything is fresh, especially the noodles.' We meet at his one year old ramen shop along President's Ave. in BF Homes for lunch, joined by several friends, one of which was my college blockmate who highly recommended Kenji Tei Ramen House.
It was a rainy weekend, and it seemed like the perfect weather to serve as a backdrop for a visit to the quaint ramen house. The restaurant is small, but nicely decorated with wavy, noodle-like wooden details on its wall that make their way up to the ceiling. At night, the details photograph more beautifully.
Kenji Tei offers a delectable assortment of ramen, using noodles made fresh and matured daily. Authentic ramen, I am told, as they make Tokyo style ramen noodles from scratch, and matured over a short period to achieve certain firmness and texture. Three kinds of ramen are served here, the Shōyu (soy based), the Shio (salt based) and the Miso.
Before we feasted on ramen bowls, we got to try other best-sellers in Kenji Tei, like the Cheese Gyoza (P105), Ebi Furai (P160 - 5 pieces) and the Crispy Chicken Teriyaki (P160). Now, the traditional gyoza is a favorite dimsum of mine (next to hakaw), so I was delighted to taste a modern take of it. The cheese gyoza is deep fried and comes with a spicy-tangy sauce. The sour notes of the soft meat inside contrasted its crisp brown coating. 'This is soooo good,' my friend Abi exclaims in between bites. I could not agree more.
My friend Kaken's regular order at Kenji Tei was also a hit during lunch. 'We have to get the chicken teriyaki,' she says while we look through the menu. While obviously not a ramen dish, this one's a sure fire winner in both flavor and affordability. The glossy pieces of meat are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, with the sauce seeping through the meat. Flavorful, it is indeed, that you might think of ordering rice for this ulam, but keep your appetite in check and leave room for the ramen.
Crispy Chicken Teriyaki
The Shōyu Ramen (P180) is a good primer for ramen eating, being the most basic noodle soup that you can order at Kenji Tei. It's topped with yummy seaweed, boiled egg, green onions, and tender slices of pork. I was tempted to eat the ramen in an artful, 'Tampopo Ramen Master' manner. But really, in whatever way you prefer to devour this noodle dish, it will leave you satisfied with its muted flavors, delicately balancing the sweet, salty and tangy. A classic savory ramen with that umami quality.
Next up, the colorful Mabo Tofu Ramen (P220), another easy-to-love bowl of Shōyu based noodle soup. Its hint of flavors punctuated by different textures (crisp veggies, velvety noodles, silky tofu and coarsely ground beef) is received well by my palate. Thanks to more toppings, this ramen is slightly bulkier than the previous Shōyu Ramen. Split this into two if you wish, and pair it with the cheese gyoza!
Mabo Tofu Ramen
The Spicy Negi Miso (P200) is a best seller at Kenji Tei - it's a miso based ramen that's not overwhelmingly hot and spicy. Its broth is cloudier than the more basic Shōyu Ramen; it has that distinct miso soup texture and the Japanese onions (negi) give it a little bite. I like to use chopsticks to get a good amount of noodles to slurp, followed by a thin slice of meat topped with negi. It's nice for a stomach to find comfort in a bowl of hot ramen during a rainy afternoon.
Spicy Negi Miso
This little ramen house keeps everything sweet and simple, letting their bowls of ramen speak of comfort and heartwarming goodness that freshly prepared food promises to deliver. Clearly, this hole in the wall ramen place needs no help from Hard Gay (Youtube 'Hard Gay Ramen Shop' for five minutes of uncontrollable laughter, foooo!), and I'm sure Tampopo's noodle master will appreciate what the resto has to offer. Its steady stream of new and loyal customers prove that serving fresh and good noodle soup in a cozy setting has that timeless, tireless charm. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, order a bowl of their ramen and slurp, slurp, slurp your way into gustatory bliss.