Just Tried: John and Yoko Cosmopolitan Japanese, Greenbelt 5

I can always count on gyoza to make my day.

My sister is home over the weekend! The two hours I spent waiting for her at the airport was worth it because I missed her so much! The last time I saw her was back in March, when I went to Hong Kong with my friend, Jana. That is why I was so excited to be seeing my sister again.

She arrived a couple of minutes past midnight last Saturday. After getting some sleep, she wanted to have her nails done at Nail Tropics. She estimated that I would have to wait an hour and a half for her to be done. Having very short nails (damn nailbiting habit!), I felt it too expensive to have my nails done there so I just opted to have my eyebrows threaded at Browhaus.

Unfortunately, my eyebrow threading lasted only 15 minutes and I had nowhere to go in Greenbelt while waiting for her. I opted to have coffee or any cold drink somewhere while waiting. My feet led me to John and Yoko, remembering the big poster they had of their milk tea selection (which had like three options only). Learning that it served Japanese food, I decided to order gyoza with my brown sugar milk tea because I was a little bit hungry from not eating enough at breakfast.

I just loved the interior of the restaurant! It was cute and cozy, appealing to my girly side that loved pink and mint green color combo. The place wasn’t packed unlike the restaurants on the same floor, making it an ideal place for me to wait because I dislike very noisy restaurants. Not that I don’t want people talking inside the restaurant, I just get headaches when exposed to too many sounds all at once.

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My milk tea order came first. I did notice that there were huge chunks of ice in my drink to chill it. I was kind of disappointed because I felt like the presence of ice was going to water down my drink when melted. When I took a sip though, the caramel-like taste of the brown sugar tasted so yummy, though a tad bit too sweet for my liking. I then appreciated the ice knowing it will water down my drink a bit if I leave it alone for a couple of minutes, just enough to lessen the sweetness of the milk tea. Still, that drink was yummy and the boba pearls were cooked just right! John and Yoko’s milk tea is now part of my favorite milk teas list.

It took a while to have my gyoza served. It makes me wonder if they did not have pre-made pot stickers just waiting to be steamed because I doubt gyozas took that long to cook. Anyway, I was excited about it when it was finally served to me.

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I am normally not used to being served gyoza with the fried bottom facing up. There was some good browning, with a spot or too a little darker than the rest. Oh well, the gyoza was still gyoza no matter which side was facing up.

I was not prepared at all to love their gyoza so much! I mean, I am no connoisseur and is yet to learn how to describe food other than delicious, yummy, and tasty. I also have not been to a lot of Japanese restaurants to be able to say I have sampled so many gyozas to know what’s good and what’s not. Still, I loved how John and Yoko’s gyoza tasted! The filling was cooked well and the wrapper was not too thick or too chewy. While I did poke some holes due to my struggling with the chopsticks (lack of sleep makes my hands shaky), the wrapper did not tear that easily once you bite into the gyoza. You see, I already experienced having gyoza wrappers fall apart after a small bite, leaving the remainder of the filling between my chopsticks.

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After almost more than two hours, my sister was finally done with her mani-pedi session. I told her to just meet me in John and Yoko. I ordered her another gyoza set and brown sugar milk tea. We also ordered Samurai All-Meat Pizza. My sister ate five pieces of gyoza, one after the other. I knew she was hungry by that time, but hearing no complaints from her meant the gyoza really was good.

The pizza took the longest to be served. I was surprised how small the size was (the picture made me think of larger serving size), yet equally amazed at the amount of meat on that pizza with a super thin crust. They did not skimp on the meat at all! Just take a look at those big pieces of bacon! Doesn’t the pizza look so yummy!

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There were no uncooked chunks of meat and they were not overly salty. I do not know what cheese they used, but it wasn’t the stretchy, stringy kind. However, it was so creamy and it complimented the Pomodoro sauce and the meat toppings really well. The crust was crispy, but not too hard. The only downside though was that the inner slices were a little tricky to eat because of the weight of the cheese and the meat toppings. The outer slices still had some crust to hold on to while eating, but the middle part was not.

We were stuffed at the end of the meal! I really enjoyed what we ate and I am excited to try their other dishes. Overall, I was more than pleased with John and Yoko’s food and service quality. I will surely be back.

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Just Tried: Ooma (Bold New Japanese)

Youthfulness is about how you live not when you were born.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

The celebration did not stop on my birthday! After my two-day leave from work, I went back on the exact day we were going to get our pay. We also scheduled on that day our monthly team dinner/bonding.

This month, we went to Ooma, a restaurant that offers bold takes on your favorite Japanese dishes. I was excited to try out their food because I have a fondness for Japanese food even though I am not yet bold enough to try those that involved raw fish. What made me even more excited was the colorful menu of the restaurant with pictures that tempts you to try everything listed in it. Just look at its menu from its Facebook page. It’s lit!!!

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A page from their menu in their Facebook page.

For starters, we got the Crowd Favorites plate that has a mix of their aburi options. I regret that I only tried the Steak Aburi Maki because I was trying to keep my carb intake low. I made a good choice because that Steak Aburi Maki was so delicious! The meat was flavorful and tender. The truffle oil probably masked the taste of the onions and leeks because I normally dislike food with strong onion flavor. That is why, despite my attempts at staying away from carbs, I ate four pieces of it. Technically, that’s one piece each from the three Crowd Favorites and one Aburi Mixer plates that we ordered!

We also ordered their Hanger Steak that features sous-vide hanging tender accompanied by sautéed mushrooms and crispy baby potato chips. You should have seen those little chips because they were so adorable! The steak, mushrooms and chips laid on a bed of smooth and creamy sweet potato mash that melts in your mouth! The dish had a combination of white truffle oil, herb oil, and Ponzu butter. The Ponzu butter must be the reason for the slight tang that cuts through the sweetness of the mash, giving you an assortment of flavors all in one dish.

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We Filipinos love our rice so we ordered a few bowls of their House Chanan. This is Japanese fried rice with egg and mixed vegetables. I didn’t try it anymore because I was telling myself that I already ate enough rice from the aburi maki pieces I ate. However, considering that we ordered five bowls and only one and a half bowl was left untouched at the end of our meal (we went crazy on the carbs that night), it must have been pretty good!

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Ooma’s Ebi Tempura. Photo obtained from their Facebook page.

It’s sad to eat rice and just steak so we also ordered two plates of their Ebi Tempura (7 pieces each). Normally, ebi tempura would be big because of the batter coating that expanded during frying. That was not the case with Ooma’s. Of course theirs had crispy breading too, but they used large pieces of shrimp that were cooked just right; not tough and gummy. The light sauce that came with it was good enough to add flavor to the shrimp but you simply must try that Aligue Mayo (crab fat mayo) dressing that came with it! It also had Wasabi Aioli dressing that I did not try because I am not fond of wasabi for some reason.

Craving for something warm, I also ordered their Miso Soup. I was not disappointed at all because it was perfectly warm and so comforting that I could not stop going at it! The soup was flavorful but light on the tongue at the same time. The tofu was not hard nor mushy. It was at the perfect texture that I loved so much. It was hard to explain the flavors of this soup but if it there was a serving size that’s good for sharing, I bet I will go fo seconds or thirds.IMG_0659

One way to know that a place is often frequented by diners is when they do not accept table bookings/reservations. With Ooma, the waiting lines can be long at times so it’s best to go early. We were lucky because it did not take long for us to be seated when we went there. A few minutes after we got seated though, a queue was already forming outside for dinner time.

The service in Ooma is excellent as well. We didn’t have to wait long for our food to be served. Despite the speed and the number of orders from an always-packed-restaurant, I can see that they don’t compromise the quality of the dishes and they take time making sure the food’s presentation is on point as well. The servers were quick on their feet to attend to our additional orders and requests.

Just when I thought that dinner was going to be over soon and billing out was the next thing to do, one of their staff suddenly cried out something to the likes of “You know what’s today?” I was surprised because it sounded like something was happening behind me. I thought they were about to break into a cheer or something as part of their usual routine. I was surprised when it was followed by, “It’s Mia’s birthday!” and their staff and my teammates started singing happy birthday to me (they call me Mia at work). On top of that, the restaurant allowed my team to sneak in a cake from Purple Oven for me. They also allowed us to eat the cake in their place, giving us fresh new plates and utensils.

You see, whenever I eat out and I hear people from other table request restaurant staff to sing happy birthday to one of their companions in the table, I normally cringe. For me, I would find it extremely awkward for friends or family to request strangers to sing for me the birthday song. No judgment. I just know I would feel awkward if it were me.

This time, I realized that when it’s a surprise, it can be quite touching. With Ooma, to join in on my team’s surprise for me made me feel like I was not only a paying customer, but someone worth the effort of planning a surprise for. One of my teammates, MC, picked up the cake on the way to the restaurant (he didn’t go with us because he was still in a call when we left) and gave it to the staff. However, none of them knew how the staff was going to pull off giving me the cake before we left. Technically, all of us were surprised as well!

To Roxan (our team leader), Karen, Cess, Mitzi, Ced, Gid, and MC, thank you so much for being awesome teammates! Cess, I hope you were with us to celebrate but I’ll be seeing you next week so I look forward to our own girly bonding. Thanks also to Stephen (newest member of the team) and Deanne (one our department’s team leaders) for joining us! It was indeed a happy birthday week.

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Just Tried: Ajisen Ramen

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain

Japanese food is good food. I have no words to describe how much I am fond of Japanese food over American and Italian food. So, when I discovered this Japanese restaurant near my Mom’s favorite Italian restaurant, La Grotta Cucina Italiana, I knew I had to try going there for a meal!

Welcome to Ajisen Ramen! Originally from Kumamoto, Japan, this chain of restaurants already has branches in places like Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and many more. In the Philippines, it has five branches spread across Makati, Manila, Pasig, Quezon City and Las Piñas.

Situated in the corner of Plaza 100 Bldg., in Makati, I find that it does not call attention as much as the Chowking branch does, since it isat the corner of the street this building’s in. For me, that only meant less crowd and more comfortable eating time. True enough, there were not so many people when I went there for lunch.

I ordered shogayaki don and gyoza. To drink, they gave me what I think is barley water.

Right off the bat, I saw big pieces of onion. Oh dear. I truly do not like onions in my food. I spent a good five minutes fishing out the onion bits and sadly, having to fish out onions from my food always gives me a headache.

Once I had the onions out, I took my first taste of the shogayaki don and found that I quite like it. The special sauce they say they put in was not too flavorful for me to want to drink lots of water to cleanse my palate. The meat was tender, not at all chewy. The rice was not too sticky and not too fluffy.

However, what I truly loved was the gyoza. It was actually the first thing I was sure I wanted to order. The crispy bottom and perfectly steamed filling were so good and were perfectly complemented by the dipping sauce. I was not sure if it was soy sauce because it had a very light taste.

The stress from the onion situation was taken away by these heavenly pot stickers!

Except for the onions, I had a pretty good experience here. I do have to admit though that it’s a bit pricey here. I can get the same food from Tokyo Tokyo or Yoshinoya for a much cheaper price. Then again, those two are fast-food places and I probably should not compare Ajisen Ramen to them.

Will I go back? I am not yet sure. Maybe when I crave for ramen, I will. I am quite curious about their original white broth ramen. I hope it’s very good and delicious.

By the way, I just discovered that the little girl in their logo has a name! It’s Chii-chan! Isn’t she cute?!

She actually reminds me of the poster I saw in a Chowking branch in Legazpi, Albay.

Have you been to Ajisen Ramen? What would you recommend from the menu?

My Mendokoro Ramenba Experience

Ramen makes me think of all the good things life has to offer.

I love ramen so much be they from fast food Tokyo Tokyo or fancier places. I have tried Ramen Yushoken in Banilad, Cebu and had an awesome time eating shoyu ramen. I have also tried Ramen Kuroda in RCBC Plaza and remember being so happy with my order. I also truly loved the niku fuji soba from Nadai Fujisoba. More recently, I went out with friends to Ramen Nagi and had delicious Butao.

I love instant ramen too. I would usually buy instant ramen when I had to eat my breakfast while working because my previous job was just so loaded.

My most recent ramen experience was with my current office mates. It was a late night meal (around 11 PM) at Mendokoro Ramenba in Salcedo Village, Makati and to our surprise, the place still had a queue of people waiting to have their turn to eat!

The setup of the restau allows you to watch your food being prepared. You can see how the staff diligently prepare your orders, making sure they tasted really delicious!

The place smelled heavenly of quality ingredients they used. It smelled of comfort and love that can come from really good food.

That night, I had shoyu ramen.

The broth was really flavorful! Yet, it was not loaded with tallow from the meat that can sometimes coat your tongue (not a good experience). The flavor was not too strong that it will make you reach for a glass of water several times just to cleanse your palate.

The meat was cooked just right. It wasn’t tough but it was not too rare for my liking either. It had a flavor that did not come from the broth which made it more interesting to taste.

The noodles were neither tough nor soggy. It was perfect! The amount was just right to fill you up but not make your tummy feel like it’s about to burst.

Their ramen really raised the game for restaurants that offer ramen. Their recipe is just so amazingly delicious! It’s no wonder how people still line up at almost midnight just to eat here.

I will definitely be back! Also, I would like to explore other ramen places and see what places offer really delicious ramen.

By the way, I loved their gyoza too.

What is your favorite ramen place? What kind of ramen is your favorite?