Saturday, September 17, 2011

Have your Ramen and eat your Gyoza, too, at Raku

Chicken Gyoza Kyo
I've been invited for lunch at Raku Hokkaido Ramen House a couple of days ago and immediately a day later, I developed a serious hankering for gyoza, those wonderful little Japanese meat and vegetable dumplings you see in every appetizer section of a Japanese restaurant menu.

Salmon Gyoza Kyo
Vegetarian Gyoza Kyo
Pork Gyoza Kyo
Scratch that. I do not want just any gyoza from just any Japanese restaurant. I want gyoza from Raku

Salmon Gyoza, Shrimp Gyoza, and Scallop Gyoza

Vegetarian Gyoza
What sets Raku apart from most of the Japanese restaurants I've been to as far as gyoza goes is that they offer different varieties of it. I love that Raku puts a lot of thought into the gyoza, enough to dream up and offer to the dining public chicken, vegetarian, shrimp, scallop, and salmon gyoza over and above the usual but nevertheless beloved pork gyoza.

If those choices aren't enough or if you're just plain feeling adventurous, you can get a "kyo" version of any of them. In which case, you get all sorts of delightful toppings on your gyoza like fish roe, nori, katsu sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise, rendering your customary salty and tangy gyoza dip all but a redundancy.

Shoyu Ramen
Also on the menu is a wide selection of ramen, Raku being first and foremost a ramen house, more particularly of the Hokkaido variety. I found it interesting to learn that, as with our adobo where every province has its own version of, the different prefectures of Japan have their own signature take on the ramen. Hokkaido, Japan's "winter playground", is famed to be the "home to the world's best ramen."

Gyuniku Ramen
Tonkotsu Ramen

Miso Ramen
The secret behind the Hokkaido version is the warm, delicately balanced miso broth which became "a source of comfort against the island's harsh weather. Carefully prepared over many hours, the flavorful soup is a blend of freshly ground miso, chicken and pork hocks." With this interesting bit of information and vivid images of the late Brittany Murphy in scenes from the movie, The Ramen Girl, I expected only the best ramen from Raku, one of whose owners has apprenticed with a Hokkaido ramen master.

The ramen at Raku comes in large bowls and heaped with all these beautiful and delicious ingredients, most of which, are imported from Japan to give the diner a taste of authentic Hokkaido ramen. The servings are enough for two, I would think, or for one with a really big appetite.

Ebi Tempura
Php195 for 3 pieces, Php290 for 5 pieces
Next on my plate was the iconic, Ebi Tempura. Quite a number of restaurants, Japanese or not, often try to pass off what tastes more like camaron rebosado rather than a proper Ebi Tempura. Raku's ebi tempura I am happy to report passes the "camaron rebosado test." It's crackling to the bite even after sitting on the table for a while. And the shrimps are quite large under all that perfectly fried layer of tempura batter.

Shitake Miso Udon Shitake Mushrooms in Miso Sauce
Ebi Remon Udon Fresh Shrimp in Lemon Bonito Oil
Until October 31 of this year, Raku is offering several special items on its menu for its Udon Festival. Among the udon dishes on offer is the Ebi Remon Udon. It's got a vibrant yet simple taste I liked and it made me feel like all the flavors in it from the Lemon Bonito Oil to the fresh shrimps conspired to make the udon the star of the dish.

Apple Nectar (Php145) ; Strawberry Cheesecake Mirukuseki (Php185)

After lunch, I had a tall glass of cold apple nectar. I am not a big fan of apple juice so I was a bit skeptical about giving this drink a try. But I'm glad the "curious cat" side of me took over to choose it. It was nothing I had expected, definitely refreshing and actually quite addicting. If I hadn't known it was apple, I would think it was green mango juice at first sip. The flavor is hard to explain. I guess it's one of those things you've got to try to understand. The Strawberry Cheesecake Mirukuseki (think strawberry cheesecake milkshake) is the one to choose if you are looking for a more belly-filling dessert-type drink.

Hiyashi Kani Ramen Salad
Cold Kani and Corn Salad
Hiyashi Chashu Ramen Salad
Cold Chashu Kani Salad in Soy Vinegrette Ramen
And I am positively smitten by those lovely plates! Like all of the key ingredients found in Raku's cuisine, these beautifully crafted plates are sourced and specially hand-picked from Japan. I love the dainty details and the impressive craftsmanship that went into them and how they serve as an artful backdrop for the food.

Man, I am still craving for a gyoza.

Raku is located at G/F Le Grand Building, 130 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City.

1 comment:

Gita Asuncion said...

i love jap food! and your photos are making me crave for some!

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