I’ve come to develop a fascination with Japanese cuisine by watching a lot of animé shows. One thing I’ve noticed there is how they showcase ramen. It doesn’t seem to change, whatever show I’m watching. Served on a simple ramen stand or small restaurant with wooden chairs and tables. Shout one order of ramen and that funny looking old man who’s best known for his ramen does his magic, glistening broth, firm noodles, delightful toppings, and what’s even crazier is how one bowl solves every problem there is in the world (yeah maybe they went a little overboard there, haha). I’m really excited now to find such a place in Japan and just try it for myself! Ugh.

But for now, restaurants like Ippudo in 3F Fashion Hall in Megamall will have to do. I arrived early for lunch as usual to avoid the crowd, and it’s such a nice time to visit, because all the servers are very attentive to your needs. Like there’s always a 3:1 ratio. They were quick to give me my house tea and glass of cold water, just in case I change my mind halfway in enjoying my ramen. And every time an order comes from the kitchen, they shout it out and I jump a little. I wrote that naively in the comments section, and what do you know, my server went to my table and explained how it was the culture in Japan. Of course. See? Attentive.

I ordered the Karaka Special Ramen, with deliciously spicy tonkatsu broth, extra hard noodles, amazing pork belly slices, the epitome of soft boiled egg, sheets of seaweed, and spring onion greens. And I can’t stress enough how I can’t find a single thing to criticize in that bowl (oh wait, I remember saying, this egg doesn’t look soft boiled and it doesn’t have that earthy color after supposedly being soaked in broth - but when I halved it, that egg was to die for, yes I ate everything bad I said about it).

I almost forgot about my appetizer - Ippudo’s Hakata Style Gyoza which also deserves a place in the high rollers. Hailing from Hakata, another region in Southern Japan according to research, they have perfected making their plump gyoza on cast iron, making the bottom part so crispy you’d think they fried it. The filling is very satisfying with its subtle taste.

Verdict: 4/5
So yeah, I finished everything. And going back to that phenomenon I was talking about at the start of this review.. Did it solve all my problems? No, but it sure did make me forget about them for a good while. I still believe the best ramen can be found in Japan, so I’m putting a huge difference in scores when I put 5 on that some unassuming ramen stand.. But while that’s still in the future, can we go back here please?!

New Bombay

There’s this Indian restaurant I pass by everyday going to work in Vancouver. I remember not breathing when I walk in front of it because of the pungent smell coming from their kitchen. And I can just imagine how their stock room looks like. I’d be dead (with my allergic rhinitis) if I come any closer to the door. But I don’t know what happened, maybe it’s the daily dose of Indian spices that I started noticing I soon didn’t mind the smell anymore. I did try some Indian restaurants eventually and found it ok. Still won’t go out like how you smelled going in though. 

So that’s what I think of when I see this restaurant in Podium Mall. But whenever I pass it, I don’t get any strong odors, but they had the decors going for them. All those deep red, brown, and yellow shades just force you to think of Indian food. At my table and reviewing the menu, I ordered the Chicken Shahjani which is boneless chicken sautéed in masala, cooked with onion-tomato gravy, and finally topped with omelette.

The masala mixed with the gravy gave it with a lighter flavor, unlike the usual Indian food that’s like a bomb of spices in your mouth. The omelette topping was so sad looking, that I want to give it back to the chef and just ask them to leave it out of the dish. The overall flavor was a little salty for my taste (and that’s a lot coming from me since we hail from a salt-loving bunch). It becomes bearable when paired with naan. The servers also appear very sleepy and don’t smile a lot, they’re all in a pout! The location is nice, on 5F of the mall, near that gourmet hotdog stand.

Verdict: 2/5 
I’m not a fan of the food, or just the one I ordered. Maybe there are other dishes worth going back for, but not anytime soon, at least for me. Oh and to totally forget about this meal, I bought some (chocolate and calamansi) ice cream to numb my pain. From a different store, of course. And I think this was the saving grace for my meal :)

Terry’s Selection

Terry’s Selection is a hidden treasure tucked away in the lower level of Podium Mall. If it weren’t for poeticnook’s searching prowess, we wouldn’t be able to find this restaurant at all. It was even my first time going at the lower level of this mall, I always thought it was reserved for their underground parking. But I was surprised it was lined up with several utility and special services stores and at the very end, there stood Terry’s. When entering their store, you will be welcomed with top of the line products which are hard to find in your normal grocery store. It looked like a huge delicatessen for me, worthy of another visit. And then I turned right towards their restaurant section. It was a little early for lunch and I was the first customer there.

I ordered the Callos ala Andaluza right away. I’ve tasted poeticnook’s cooking and honestly, that one’s the one to beat (but yes, yes, I know we’re here for Terry’s). Terry’s Callos had soft enough tripe, Spanish chorizo, olives, chickpeas, and Jamón Serrano. Since I didn’t order any rice to accompany this dish, they gave me complimentary bread. I think the chefs here were able to make the tripe shine and be the star of the dish, as it’s meant to be. The only downside to this dish was its serving size. I guess it was for sharing.

By the end of the meal, my dessert, Flan de la Abuela, translating to Grandmother’s Flan, is a sweet, custard treat. I’m a snob when it comes to flans, since my mother happens to make the best flan I ever tasted. I get annoyed with the small bubbles stuck in the custard for cooking it on high heat. This one’s not perfect but it had great taste.

Verdict: 3/5

I did like the interior of the restaurant, intimate and cozy, perfect for family gatherings. The crew were all very attentive, but maybe because I was the only customer (yeah, nobody came in after me, and still noone after I left! Hmm..) Since I have tasted better callos and flan, minus 2 for those already. But I do want to go back to their delicatessen and check what’s out there. Maybe visit the restaurant again, but not anytime soon.

Schmidt’s Gourmet Hotdogs

When I first saw this in Podium, I remembered that character from New Girl sitcom. I like his character because he’s funny and relatable even if he had really quirky pet peeves. So yes, I think I’m already biased with this one. Anyway, I’ve always wanted to try this but I guess I never had the chance to, until now.

Schmidt’s Gourmet Hotdogs is located on the 5th floor of Podium Mall (yes, you will see a lot of reviews coming from here and SM Megamall, because both are in close proximity of my office, so suck it up). I wouldn’t qualify it as a restaurant, it’s more like a glorified stand, really. Their kitchen is quite small and it’s just beside the counter, and their chairs and tables for dine-in customers are on the hallway. But the other restaurants beside it (there are at least 5 more), had the same set up, so I guess they were trying to go for an al fresco dining style, although they are inside the mall. Kudos to the glass ceiling, I’ll give them that.

When I asked for their best seller, they recommended the Coney Island Chillidog. I was torn between The Juilus (which had bacon) and this one, but since they recommended it, I went with that. The Coney Island Chillidog had a hotdog on a regular bun, with flavourful ground beef, sour cream, cheese sauce, and sliced jalapeños as toppings. I paired it with their house blend iced tea which is really refreshing! I couldn’t make out the fruity after taste it had. It went well with the hotdog, too.

Verdict: 3/5

Wasn’t a fan of the bun especially after hearing other reviews, I was a bit disappointed about it. I was expecting it to be crisp outside and soft in the inside. I think it was pedestrian or am I being too harsh, because it’s just a bun, hello. I liked the hotdog, maybe they could start offering hotdogs minus the bun! Could go back and try that other ‘dog, The Julius because bacon! And will order XL iced tea and another to go!

Sushi Ninja

Japanese cuisine has a lot to offer the world and maybe one of my favorites to-date. I haven’t been to Japan to try the food there but I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot of places you could get good Japanese food, if you just know where to look. Being sent to Vancouver for work and spending most bingeing times with poeticnook, we’ve uncovered these gems all over the city. And for me, that’s the closest I could get to authentic Japanese food for now. I don’t even want to try any here in Manila, because I’m sure it will not be at par with the ones we’ve tried.

But then, Sushi Ninja came. And to my surprise, it’s just near the place where I live. It’s situated at Westgate Center, Filinvest Avenue, Alabang, Muntinlupa City, which is just a 5min drive from our place. At first, I was really on the fence in trying this restaurant because of concerns of taste, quality of handling, and overall cleanliness. I guess curiosity killed my doubts, i mean the cat.

To start, I ordered the Tuna Poké from their special menu. I know that’s not so Japanese, it’s actually a Hawaiian dish, haha! But might as well hit two birds with one stone. Maybe the poké bowl was too much for one person, definitely looks like it’s for sharing. Or if you really dig poké I guess this is alright. The salmon was fresh and was tossed in some light teriyaki sauce, garnished with black and white sesame seeds and onion leeks. Next I had the Uni Nigiri. Now I’ve tasted uni imported fresh from Japan and golly, I will bet my life that this isn’t one of those but nevertheless, it’s fresh and had that sweet, delicate taste. Better than your average local uni.

The place had a Japanese vibe to it. Decorations made from bamboo lined the walls reminiscent of the animé shows I love to watch. The servers were polite and were all attentive. Food came in fast. Value for money is fantastic, I just paid a little over 500Php for the two dished I ordered.

Verdict: 3.5/5

There are a few others in the menu that needs to be tried like the mentaiko noodles and chirashi. And since this is just close to my place, I will definitely go back.