Time to get their Tantanmen on
A) John & Yoko is more of a "Japanese Fusion" Restaurant
B) Yakimix is a smokeless grill place where you pretty much just
C) And Yakimix's buffet food is a mix of Chinese and Japanese cusines
A TV Commercial director and fellow foodie (Also the only person I know who has actually tried "Butter Beer") I work with, Direk Paolo Dy, visited our new office one day. As I showed him around, I grumbled that I'm going to miss having the restaurants in C. Palanca to choose from. Then he said, "Well at least you're just down the street from " Ukokkei"!". I stared at him blankly, and then he looked at me, all baffled and replied, "You DO know what Ukokkei is, right?". I told him, that I wasn't really into Japanese food, but he would have none of it. As a client, Direk Pao is a joy to work with, because he's one of those laid back directors that is easy to talk to and always seems to be in a good mood. So when he gave me an intense look, and told me in a firm tone, "One of these days we are going.", I knew I was in the presence of a man who takes his Ramen seriously.
A few months later, lo and behold, Direk Pao treated me and some of the PostManila peeps for a job well done on one of his projects. Take one good guess.
Ukokkei was actually the place that my cousin Patty had mentioned to me awhile back. She was telling me that she loved this Ramen place, and during a visit, she was so annoyed because there was this celebrity "socialite" there that was so noisy and acted like she owned the place. I don't want to say who she was, but let's just say she was acting like a "Great Bitch". :)
In my entire life, believe it or not, I've never sat down and ate a bowl of Ramen- as in, JUST Ramen for a meal- so this was going to be a first for me. However, all it took was one spoonful to make me wonder how I could have lived all 34 years of my life without ever eating this bowl of wonder.
The service was decent, however, I was a little bit peeved with something they did to us, but lo and behold, it was the work of the man who has been come to be known in the Ramen world as the "Ramen Nazi".
We were a party of about twelve, so they gave us two tables. Since the other members of our party came a little bit late, we were at first around seven people. After around 30 minutes or so, the rest of our party hadn't arrived yet, so the waitress asked us to move to one time. I said, that would be fine, however, what will happen when the rest of our party DOES arrive? she offered no other alternative for me, except to say na, "It was what the chef said". So we moved tables, then true to form, when the rest of our party arrived fifteen minutes later, the waitress could not give them a place to sit. The solution? The other members of our group who already got their orders had to speed up their eating and go ahead.
I must say though, I was lucky I had Direk Pao with me to walk me through on what to order, because without him, I probably would have asked for a Katsudon or a Chicken Teriyaki (Domo Arigato, Sensei). The menu was a little bit confusing, but they do have some value meals. Instead, by the time I left Ukokkei , I was a "Ramen Connesieur".
I went back a few weeks later with my cousin Paolo, and another director, Joaquin Valdes of "Tapa D' World" fame. This time, I was armed with Rina's camera (Check out the two hams in the topmost picture of this post).. that was until The Ramen Nazi struck again.
First off, I hope I'm not offending anyone (except the chef) with the term, "Ramen Nazi", but believe you me, that's the nicest thing I could think of. I'm sorry to say this, but the guy is a total prick, not unlike the Soup Nazi of "Seinfeld" fame. But I will be the first to admit, he makes some damn good Ramen. He had the waitress come over to my table to ask me to stop taking pictures because the flash hurts his eyes. We we around 15 feet away from the kitchen. Fine, I'm not a hard guy to talk to, so what I did was, I turned off the flash, faced the other way (meaning I had my back to him) and continued to take pictures. Guess what? It still wasn't enough. The waitress came back to me with a look of fear in her eyes, asking that I stop because the chef was getting upset. So I asked the waitress, "So let me get this straight. I'm not allowed to take pictures of my own food that's placed on my table?". All she could say was, "I'm sorry sir, he's getting upset". I have no idea if he has any ninja skills, and my two companions wanted their Tantanmen so badly that they were probably going to pretend they didn't know me in the event that I get thrown out.
Thankfully, I had gotten enough pictures of the food (none of the place though) for me to just let it go.
At first I thought that the Gyoza (P120) looked burnt, but when I bit into it, it was done just to my liking. A delicious, meaty dumplying with a crunchy bottom, enveloped in a light wrapper. I realized that If you don't burn the bottom parts of a Gyoza, then it's basically just a dumpling, right?
Given my love for pork, Direk Paolo suggested I get the Miso Char Siu (P380), and boy was he right on the money. Thank goodness he suggested when he did, because I was about to order the Shoyo Char Siu, simply because I expected the soup to taste like "Miso Soup", something that i absolutely abhor. He explained that the "Miso" in the Ramen was a bit sweeter than Shoyo, and tasted nothing like Miso Soup.
This was probably the best soup based noodle dish i've ever had. I would be hard pressed to find anything better. The hand made noodles were firm and cooked perfectly, and the slices of pork were so tender and soft, you'd think that they had actually enjoyed laying in that Ramen bath.
Paolo and Direk Joaquin ordered the "Tantanmen" (P380), which is among the specialties of Ukokkei. I haven't tried this myself because I heard it's spicier (but according to Joaquin, "Fattier") than the Miso Ramen, (my tummy can't handle spicy stuff), but I heard it's so good, and for some reason, the Chef only makes Ten Bowls a night. If you get there by around 8pm, there's a very good chance there won't be any left. To this very day, my cousin Paolo and Direk Joaqs still get Tantanmen cravings from time to time.
"Coach" Karlgene, Carbo-loading for his next run
Another Ramen of Ukokkei I tried and loved was the Buttered Corn Ramen (Don't remember the price.. I think it's around P330 to P350). It's lighter than the Char Siu because there are only around two pieces of meat, and is instead filled up with corn kernels and a square of butter that melts upon mixing into the bowl. It's awesome, however I still prefer the meatiness of Char Siu.
Just so you know, the Ramen Nazi also has a few rules to Ukokkei, the first being a no take out. The chef feels that his dishes should only be enjoyed at the sanctity of Ukokkei. I don't blame him for that either, because if you end up eating it cold, and you don't enjoy it, you might blame the Ramen Nazi.
The second is, a strictly "No Sharing" policy. I actually don't mind that rule so much because anyone who tries swiping some of my Ramen could very well lose an appendage.
I have no idea what happens if you get caught sharing with our companion. My best guess is that the chef walks out of the kitchen, snatches your bowl away and screams, "NO RAMEN FOR YOU!!"
I wonder if I could apply as their new mascot?
I think Pao wants to be M. Lhullier's new mascot too!