My Rating: ★★★★★
Our ramen crusade continues! Ramen Nagi, a popular ramen joint in Hong Kong and Japan, has been in my radar since its official opening announcement in SM City North EDSA a few months ago. Now that we’ve finally tried it out, I’m sharing with you our slurp-worthy experience.
I’ll start with the bad: The interiors are vibrant, modern, and attractive, but the place is compact, crowded, and noisy. I understand the cheerful (and loud) greetings from the staff whenever diners come in, but it gets annoying. Ray and I were discreetly comparing the place to Hanamaruken Ramen, where you can slurp your ramen in peace.
The menu showcases 4 ramen variants: Butao King, Black King, Red King, and Green King. After a few minutes of deliberation (LOL at the word!), we’ve finally decided what ramen to eat.
We were given Omotenashi sheets (“omotenashi” meaning “to entertain guests wholeheartedly” or “the spirit of selfless hospitality”.) Customized ramen is a first for me (actually for the both of us) so we carefully went through our preferences and returned the sheets to the waiter. Ray have chosen the classic Butao King while I opted to brave the murky waters of the Black King. I almost ordered the limited Curry King but changed my mind the last minute. Naintriga lang talaga ako sa squid ink ramen.
In this order sheet, you get to choose how rich and spicy you want your broth, how firm you want your noodles, and how much special sauce and garlic you want in your soup. You also get to decide if you want to include pork and veggies in your ramen (if yes, then choose between pork shoulder or pork belly, and green onion or cabbage.)
You can also select from a variety of extras or add-ons to further customize your ramen and level up your experience (with additional costs, of course): Tamago, extra noodles, shoulder or belly, cabbage, seaweed, green onion, and kikurage. If you want to play it safe, check the Chef’s Recommendationbox.
We inspected the condiments laid before us while waiting for our chosen kings — fresh garlic, beansprouts, and chili powder/Japanese spice. Freshly-squeezed garlic reminded me of Taisho Ramen, where I got squeezer-happy dumping the garlic bits and juices into my soup.
For drinks, they serve water and cold barley tea similar to Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen.
So the husband had the Original King (Butao) Ramen with Tamago. It’s a signature dish by Ramen Nagi, and he wasn’t disappointed when he asked for a rich tonkotsu broth. The Butao ramen has this pleasingly rich, umami flavor. Weird as it may sound, he said that the broth tastes like balut soup (fertilized duck egg).
Here’s the king of my blog entry, the Black King (Kuroo) Ramen with Tamago. I usually squirm at the sight of icky-looking food, but I wasn’t grossed out by the Black King’s appearance at all. I guess the aroma hit my senses first. It’s appetizingly fragrant, maybe because of the blackened garlic, plus the additional garlic I asked on my order sheet. There was no need to squeeze fresh garlic.
I forgot to take a photo of the Tamago. It’s the ultimate soft-boiled egg for me and one of the best as far as ramen is concerned.
Its tonkotsu pork broth with calamari ink is luxuriously jet-black. It is a pretty good combination, very interesting actually. The crazy mix of squid’s ink, meaty broth, and complex spices is unforgettable — garlicky, meaty, savory, and spicy. Speaking of spicy, I suggest that you pick “None” for the Fire Sauce level, then add chili or garlic later on. We’ve chosen the level 2 spicy but it came out waaaaay too spicy for our liking. I mean, I love spicy food but you know how the strong heat sometimes masks the real flavor of the food. We had to take breaks to make sure we still enjoy the distinctive quality taste of our ramen.
The ramen already has kikurage (mushroom) but it’s still incomplete without the seaweed sheet. Anyway, beneath the toasted garlic bits is a scoop of who-knows-what. Although a bit hesitant, I scooped some into my mouth and realized that it’s meat, flavorful minced pork to be exact. They call it the black ball.
I’m happy with my choice of pork belly. I got a really big slab of pork (going redundant here!) that’s tender, and with just a thin layer of fat. The noodles are also thin, but I prefer the thicker variant, particularly noodles from Moshi Koshi Noodle Boss. Tip: Extra hard is the way to go if you want your noodles still chewy even after 10 minutes.
Don’t hesitate to try the Black King. Aside from its authentic tang, you won’t get all messy naman because the waiters will provide disposable bibs to protect your clothes from getting ink stains.
They have generous serving sizes and they serve great food, so I think the price is just right. I couldn’t decide now what ramen house is my favorite. However, for gourmet ramen I strongly recommend Ramen Nagi. The next time I’ll be there, I would love to meet the Green King. Italian x Japanese sounds appealing!
UGF, City Center, SM City North EDSA