Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Noodles and Some Darn Good Gyoza


As much as I consider myself adventurous when it comes to food, I cannot help but play favorites. I do venture out to try new restaurants and experiment with new dishes, but there are just those places that I keep on coming back to.

For good and relatively authentic ramen, I go to Shinjuku. For as long as I could remember, their Makati Avenue branch has been in the same location for years. When I was younger, going to a restaurant to eat ramen was unthinkable, having grown up on Nissin’s and Lucky Me. Why go out for hot soup when I can make one in my kitchen without even having to change out of my dingy T-shirt?

Until I realized how unbelievably wonderful a bowl of ramen can make you feel after a night of drinking. Not the one that comes in a styro cup- those that come in giant bowls, the broth fragrant with the essence of konbu, noodles perfectly taut, topped with slices of meat, bean sprouts, and those pink-and-white pinwheels the Japanese love to put on everything.

Even without the hangovers (which has become less and less frequent these days), a good bowl of ramen is still a good hearty meal I enjoy when I want to avoid the fried food that is favored in our home. Although Shinjuku’s Makati Ave. branch is much closer to where I live, I heard that the one in Pasong Tamo has gone through a major renovation. I also got the impression that they have a more diverse menu selection, since I remember the sign saying “Japanese Cuisine” and not “Noodle House”, which was great because I was craving for some sushi.



I do not know how the restaurant looked like before the renovation, but the new place is definitely sleek and quite modern. It still has the air of a casual eatery, but surely a shiny new one. When we received the menu, I was surprised to see that it was the exact same one as the Makati Ave. ramen house. Why they decided to call it something else, I have no idea.



I was happy to see that they at least had a small selection of sushi menu items. My eyes were immediately drawn to the Chirashi Sushi (a bowl of mirin-flavored rice topped by an assortment of sushi) and Udon Set. It was quite good and with the generous portioning, very satisfying. Although I would have wanted to see my favorite uni (sea urchin) and saba (marinated mackerel), it was still a good selection of “entry-level” sushi fare, such as raw tuna, salmon, tamago (omelet) and kani (crabstick). I also enjoyed the broth of the udon, which was very tasty.



Matt ordered the Futo Maki, which were these gigantic sushi rolls. It was ok, although he did not particularly like the sweet, candied ginger that they put in there.



Despite being a ramen house, what is raved about by both Japanese and locals alike is Shinjuku’s Gyoza (pork-stuffed, crescent-shaped dumplings that are first steamed, and them fried). Intensely-flavored and huge (I was not even able to finish my order), their gyoza is consistently delicious and masterfully-done. I have tried to make a few at home, so I know that this seemingly simple dish is really not that easy to make.



Matt- the “adventurous” eater that he is- also ordered the Tori Karaagi (translation: Fried Chicken) Ramen. The huge serving of aromatic noodles and broth was enough to fill up his “bottomless pit”, which, I tell you, is not an easy feat.

The service here was friendly and efficient. I have to note, though, that there was this extremely-annoying employee behind the counter who just would not stop talking. I was really just not in the mood for his mindless chatter, and since the restaurant is not that big, I, along with the few other customers who were there, had to put up with it. Next time, I hope he would just save his random epiphanies ‘til after his shift.

Shinjuku can definitely teach some of the newer establishments a thing or two about longevity. Their menu has obviously not evolved, but that does not matter. What they have is consistency- good quality, great tasting food that is ALWAYS done right. Marketing can only get you so far, but in the end it really comes down to flavor.

Shinjuku Japanese Cuisine
Chino Roces Ave.
(beside Makati Cinema Square)
Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 8191242

10 comments:

Miguel said...

Hmm I should eat there soon. Webn I'm in the area I always end up in Kikufuji...

Place looks good after the renovaton...

Is their wasabi the fresh one? Or powdered?

Chinkee said...

Hi Miguel! I'm not sure if the wasabi was fresh (I kinda dove into my food because I was so hungry), but it seemed pretty potent...:-)

mikky said...

hubby and i used to frequent this place... an old favorite actually... thanks for reminding us about this... maybe will go re-visit... :) btw, thanks for visiting, and the fish and chips were ok, but not great... :)

Chinkee said...

Hi Mikky! Too bad about the fish and chips... So far the most authentic I've tried is in this English pub called Sid's along Jupiter St., but the service is pretty inconsistent and the clientele gets kinda rowdy. Chili's Fish Crispers actually come pretty close...

Thanks for dropping by, too...:-)

Miguel said...

Hi - so far the best fish and chips I've tried is a place in Filinvest Mall Alabang called Union Jack. Pretty authentic with Mushy peas and all....

Chinkee said...

Miguel- Filinvest? Darn it! I wish it was closer! Hehe. I should go to that area more often...

Socky said...

Shinjuku has been a favorite since early 90's, when it was still a small, kinda dark ramen place frequented by a largely japanese clientele. My favorite was butakakuni ramen, a dish I discovered watching Tampopo, which in my opinion is the most delicious movie of all time. (Had an early post entitled "The Most Delicious Movies of All Time).

Chinkee said...

Hi Socky! I think your description of the old Shinjuku is quite accurate... I remember how we used to drive past it even back in high school and not once did we ever consider eating there because of the "shady" vibe. More intimidated than repulsed, actually. Good thing I eventually tried it and realized how unbelieavably awesome their ramen actually is.:-)

mtan said...

Hello, I found your blog via Socky's. I haven't been to Shinjuku in a year, but I have fond memories of the Makati Ave branch, very near where I used to go to school. I'm surprised to see that the gyoza is now down to 4 pieces, it used to be 6 large dumplings! My favorite of their ramen is still the spicy dandan mien style soup. Searing heat is always a draw for me :)

Chinkee said...

Hi mtan! Actually, you can now order either 4 or 6 pieces of Shinjuku's gyoza.:-) Yup, I noticed that they have quite a number of spicy ramens. I always stick to the shio pork ramen and tempura udon, then just sprinkle a bit of togarashi. I think I'll try your favorite next time...:-)

Thanks for dropping by!