Menya Kokoro Brings in a Different Way to Enjoy Ramen
The Filipino dining public has long enjoyed the rich flavours and satisfying textures of ramen and yakisoba, both of which are classics of Japanese cuisine. But, for those seeking a different way by which to enjoy their noodles, a new men-ya [noodle shop] in BGC offers a selection of dishes that are bound to excite the tastebuds in a number of ways.
Menya Kokoro, one of Tokyo's most popular noodle shops, officially opened its first-ever branch in the Philippines on the third floor of the Uptown Mall, BGC last 12 July 2019. The Japanese brand is the newest feather in the cap for restaurateur Malvin Ang who was also responsible for bringing the Singapore-based German restaurant Brotzeit to the country.
Founded in 2013 by chef Takuma Ishikawa, Menya Kokoro's stock in trade is a dish called mazesoba, which literally translates as "mixed noodles." It is described as a "dry-style ramen," but perhaps a more accurate way of describing it would be to say that it occupies the midpoint between brothy ramen and stir-fried yakisoba. Chef Takuma himself was at the opening to explain his signature dish to a crowd of eager Filipino guests.
For the shop's classic Tokyo mazesoba, thickly-cut and chewy wheat noodles are covered with a savoury melange of ingredients: pork soboro (minced pork braised with soy and spices), coarsely chopped chives, minced garlic, nori, and a poached egg. Diners toss all these together into a delectable mix, drizzling over a splash of konbu [kelp]-infused vinegar to cut through the richness. A scoop of rice is served as one approaches the bottom of the bowl as a way of mopping up the resulting sauce.
The Tokyo Mazesoba is but one of Menya Kokoro's six unique noodle bowls, each made different from the others either by the addition or substitution of ingredients.
The Zenbu Mazesoba is the ultimate dish on the menu: a fully-loaded bowl that, aside from the regular components, also comes with an ajitama (soy-braised boiled egg), chunks of grilled pork, menma (poached bamboo shoots), and nori sheets. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Menya Kokoro offers a Vegan Mazesoba wherein crumbled, soy-braised tofu [mame-no-soboro] takes the place of minced pork and a tofu dressing made golden with turmeric adds the lush creaminess that would normally be added by a poached egg.
For those looking for more spice in their bowls, there is the Spicy Mazesoba which comes with an extra drizzle of chili oil over the top, as well as the Curry Mazesoba to which a ladle of Japanese-style curry gravy is added.
Menya Kokoro also has something for those who aren't fond of spicy food: milder-tasting than the others, the Cheese Mazesoba comes with a slice of mozzarella on top that is torched just until soft and gooey. The salty-sweet flavour of the cheese is a surprisingly tasty addition to the dish.
In addition to the mazemen, the restaurant also offers donburi [rice bowls] topped with either Japanese curry and a poached egg or the umami-strong topping that normally goes on the Tokyo Mazemen. Aside from that, Menya Kokoro also offers its own crispy version of takoyaki [Osaka-style octopus dumplings] which are deep-fried rather than griddled, gyoza, and edamame (boiled soybeans in the pod) as appetisers.
It may be surprisingly different from the ramen that many Filipinos have grown to love, but the dishes at Menya Kokoro are a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Menya Kokoro is on the 3rd Floor - Uptown Mall, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Follow them on Instagram at @menyakokoroph.
- Photography Marga Manlapig