Hitting the spot in Tokyo as Ramen Nagi and in Hong Kong as Butao, Ramen Nagi Manila was opened in December 2013 by Ramen Master Ikuta Satoshi. Tasting different flavors of ramen is a great deal for ramen lovers in Manila today, and tomorrow could be better.
Gone are the days when we are much satisfied with cheaply packaged noodles only. With more and more ramen joints, we learn to better appreciate noodles with spring and bounce, tender and luscious toppings and rich flavor of ramen broth. These are three elements that we had happily found in Ramen Nagi Manila, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City, one of the best restaurants serving specialty ramen now in the Philippines.
Review of Ramen Nagi Manila (SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City)
Since we came at the peak of lunch hour, it’s no surprise that the line started forming heavily from the outside. The ambiance of Ramen Nagi at SM MOA was busy and bustling; the setting, very casual. Cramped tables and chairs greeted us as we went in. There were no privacy booths to eat tonkotsu ramen and no other frills to look around except for the pictures of ramen and actual ramen bowls hanged up as accents on the wall behind.
We initially asked for a reservation, however the staff said that they don’t allow reservations when customers are not physically present. This is understandable since the seating capacity is limited. So I suggest you plan an early outing before the small place gets filled up.
While waiting for two tables inside to be available (to accommodate seven of us), it was nice that they offered us to be seated outdoors and start deciding what to order. Fortunately, wait time didn’t take too long. Staffs were professional and efficient, with tables turning fairly quickly.
G, H and I wanted to sample more ramen flavors than what our stomach could handle and finish in one sitting. Hence, we brought along some members of the family to join in our taste test. Indeed, the more, the merrier! 😀 We finished five variants of Ramen Nagi ramen (distributed to seven small bowls) and shared one short order of gyoza.
The Way to Order
Customers are given a sheet of paper to mark for their orders. This is what’s called the Omotenashi style. As first-timers, we were advised to select and follow the Chef’s Recommendation but we didn’t. Instead, we thought about using our right to customize according to our liking. Following the written instruction on the paper, we had encircled varying items for every bowl of ramen to differentiate.
Here are the choices:
- Richness of Taste: Light, Normal or Rich
- Special Sauce: None, Light, Normal, Heavy, Extra Heavy
- Garlic: None, Light, Normal, Heavy, Extra Heavy
- Pork: None, Pork Shoulder, Pork Loin or Pork Belly
- Vegetable: None, Green Onion, or Cabbage
- Butao Home Made Fire Sauce: Spiciness level 1-10
- Noodles Texture: Extra Hard, Hard, Normal, Soft, Very Soft
- Add Ons: Tamago, Pork Shoulder or Pork Belly, Nori (Seaweed), Extra Noodles, Green Onion, Cabbage, Kikurage
Green King Ramen – Nagi’s fusion of gourmet cultures
The Green King (Midorio) (PhP 410) could be put as Japanese ramen that’s infused and inspired with Italian cooking as it’s oozing with pesto flavor and topped with Parmesan cheese, basil and olive oil. Love trying fusion food or anything unique? This one’s for you. The broth mixed with pesto is so rich that it can coat your mouth and throat as you slurp on it. Mmmmm…yummy!
Original King Ramen – Luscious signature tonkotsu pork-broth
The Original King (Butao) (PhP 390) is probably the most basic and simple-tasting bowl of ramen in Ramen Nagi. If you just want to taste Ramen Nagi’s tonkotsu broth and hakata noodles to its original form, get this. Every element was so well executed—from the rich, savory tonkotsu broth to the bright, fresh toppings. I just wanted to dive in and demolish my share of this ramen variant at once.
To give it some much needed pep, I suggest that you add on Aji Tamago (PhP 50) like we did. 😉 The soft-boiled eggs were soft on the outside and liquid-y yolk on the inside, just perfect.
Red King Ramen – The ultimate in savory spiciness
Next, I’m extraordinarily happy to report that the Red King (Akao) (PhP 410) was actually the best one we’ve tried! With that said, hot and spicy food lovers (myself included) must not skip this flavor when figuring out what to order in Ramen Nagi. With a fireball of miso-minced pork and the hottest cayenne pepper as toppings, the Red King Ramen Akao had a hot, assertive red broth that’s beautifully spiced. Oh, how I wish throat/cough medicine tasted like this! 🙂
Black King Ramen – Sumptuous jet-black aroma and flavor
My least favorite was the Black King (Kuroo) (PhP 410), which I’ve heard, is the crowd’s favorite. Nevertheless, I commend the creativity of incorportaing squid (calamari) ink and blackened garlic with tonkotsu broth. The soup’s texture did not suffer flatness but satisfied on that deep, visceral level that any superb ramen should. There was also a little mound of spicy chili mixture we could sense in the blend.
The Ebi King Ramen (PhP 410) – Limited edition
Ramen Nagi serves limited editions of ramen occasionally. We had the chance to order one of them: the Ebi King (Ebio). This ramen had a thick prawn bisque broth, nothing that you’d call traditional by any stretch of the imagination. The dried shrimp taste was really evident, with a right balance of saltiness! Was it worth a try? Definitely. This is one of the more unique and delicious things on the menu.
Ramen Nagi’s sizzling Gyoza Dumplings (PhP 125) were well-steamed, with more vegetables than meat. The fillings were light and juicy. With golden brown bottoms, the crusty skin stayed crisp as it was served. The gyoza wasn’t so remarkable but quite respectable.
Price for Value: ★★★★☆
Much had been written about Ramen Nagi Manila’s sumptuous ramen, but knowing about it through blogs and word-of-mouth is never enough. You have to taste the ramen (at least one bowl/one flavor) and get the dining experience yourself.
Final verdict: At PhP 400+ per bowl, ramen here isn’t cheap but the quality and taste of the ramen were so good, making us want to eat more. (Can you blame us?) 😛 Plus, the serving size is big so a bowl can easily be shared between two or three people. I award Ramen Nagi 4/5 stars for price for value.
Aside from their branch in SM MOA, Ramen Nagi Manila also has branches in SM Aura, SM North EDSA and Robinsons Magnolia. If you’re far from these places, all I can say is… make the pilgrimage as it’s really worth it! 🙂