Well, more like brunch of champions.  Or dinner.  Since Yushoken only opens at 11am.

Yushoken has, for a long time, been something of a “Jewel of the South” in the food landscape. Yushoken, for those who have been living in a cave for the last three years, is a premier ramen spot in Alabang, situated right in Molito right beside Alabang Town Center. It’s not without a hint of smugness that I take pride in my North-dwelling Makati friends travelling over to my hometown just to have the best ramen in the country.

Of course, those days are long past as Yushoken has opened a branch in Makati — under the name Mendokoro, and if my friends are to be believed the ramen at Mendokoro actually tastes better than Yushoken’s, even if they’re the exact same recipe. But yes, such things do happen, mostly due to the skill of the chef and the ingredients used, but I digress…

I first tried this restaurant about three years ago, and have since become a regular, went on and off due to concerns of high blood pressure — and yes the ramen here can really give your blood pressure a boost if you’re not careful! — and have tried everything on the menu. This blog would be travesty if it did not give Yushoken its limelight!

I’ve always appreciated the fixtures at Yushoken. I love the wood and the high ceiling does give it a nice feel, even if the actual restaurant space is severely cramped. And cramped it is — Yushoken has lines of people waiting for a seat to try the best ramen in the South.

Yushoken's bar area, I know it well.
Yushoken’s bar area, I know it well.
Nice high ceilings with wooden rafters and ample lighting for a pleasant, cozy dining experience
Nice high ceilings with wooden rafters and ample lighting for a pleasant, cozy dining experience.

I came back to sample the ramen which I haved loved to death for the past three years, despite not liking ramen at all prior to eating here! I have never liked ramen or cup noodles or anything but one slurp at Yushoken was all it took to make me a life-long fan.

Ironically, Yushoken’s infamous menu tells you not to bring their ramen home and try some cup noodles instead if you want to eat ramen outside their restaurant. Ha!

The infamous menu that tells you in no uncertain terms how special the ramen here is and not to take it out.
The infamous menu that tells you in no uncertain terms how special the ramen here is and not to take it out.

For all its pomp and elitism, I have to admit the ramen speaks for itself. After eating here I went out trying all the other ramen spots that popped up during the ramen craze of the past few years. Frankly, none were as good as Yushoken.

Here is my favorite, the Tantanmen.  It’s a Chinese dish, the original Szechuan is Dandan Noodles and its spiciness is deliciously recreated here.

The best Tantanmen. I have tried many, but I keep going back to this one.
The best Tantanmen. I have tried many, but I keep going back to this one.

It’s a dish of ground pork and noodles lathed in a spicy chili sauce rich with Szechuan peppers. I love every drop of it. Unlike most other tantanmen I have tried, the Yushoken version has its rich tonkotsu broth, so each slurp tastes of thick piggy goodness.

There’s a lot going on in that taste, it’s spicy and fiery (though not too much — only spice-phobes who can’t stand any heat need not apply) but there’s a layer of complexity in its heat, after one slurp the first thing you’ll taste is a savory pork flavor and some mild salty goodness and a hint of soy miso texture. Afterwards the heat from the peppers kicks in, not an overwhelming heat (the dish is not blood red, it’s brownish orange actually) but a nice bite that kicks in after the waves of flavor of the first slurp.

This taste is permeated into the ground pork that you find at the bottom, which you’ll want to eat in portions along with the soup and the noodles.

As with all their ramen, the noodles aren’t my particular favorite. They’re not nice, fat and chewy like you get at say Mitsuyado, but my opinion is that their broth more than makes up for it.  I am more of a broth person (I am a soup person actually) than a noodle person even though I love pasta. Noodles are like… the filler extender but the flavor is in the broth, that’s always my motto. So it’s no surprise that I like Yushoken best — they make the best broth.   Noodles still help in the overall flavor and really make a difference in adding texture to a food, but its importance is not as emphasized in Yushoken’s ramen in my opinion.

Still, the greatness of Yushoken’s tantanmen knows no bounds. I have compared it with lots of other tantanmen, like the ones from UCC, Kenji Tei, and others. None came anywhere close to the taste of Yushoken’s tantan. I love it to death and my life has become better because of it!

 

The Miso. This is the ramen I like the least.
The Miso. This is the ramen I like the least.

On the other hand, my companion ordered the miso on this particular outing. This is Yushoken’s most expensive ramen, and they say it is their most complex (it takes a tad bit longer to prepare — but that isn’t a problem service at Yushoken is blazingly fast and you never have to wait more than 5 minutes even if the house is packed, and it always is).

The miso ramen is not often ordered based on my experience people and food-watching at Yushoken. Most people go towards Shio, Shoyu and Tantan. But this one comes out every now and then. It’s basically the shoyu broth but with tons of other stuff added in, including green onion leeks, bean sprouts (toge), and pork cubes instead of chashu.

It looks good, but tastes too much of luya (ginger).
It looks good, but tastes too much of luya (ginger).

Unlike Yushoken’s other ramens, this is the one ramen that has one ingredient that is easy to pick out — ginger. The broth isn’t really shoyu, its more like miso soup with a lot of added veggies, the menu says it is a complex blend of seven different soups. I couldn’t really figure it all out, my tongue isn’t that golden, but the taste that definitely rises above after a slurp is ginger. And it’s quite overpowering here, a little too much to be honest, and it kind of ruins the taste of the dish for me.

I like ginger, but I don’t like pure ginger taste. Even ginger tea doesn’t taste like ginger. It tastes like tea with a complex spicy kick to it that doesn’t taste like ginger. I eat chapchae, which has ginger. I eat veggie stir fry with ginger. And enjoy them, but that’s because the ginger taste doesn’t stand out.  In Yushoken’s Miso, unfortunately, the ginger taste is too overpowering, which shocked me because I am used to their broths having layered, complex tastes where it’s hard to pick out a specific ingredient. With the Miso, the ginger taste comes out so much that it’s unmistakable, and unfortunately I don’t find it too appealing.

It’s still better than most other ramens though, haha. And if you’re a ginger lover, then this ramen has your name on it.

The famous Yushoken Gyouza. There are many that say it's the best Gyouza in town. I agree.
The famous Yushoken Gyouza. There are many that say it’s the best Gyouza in town. I agree.

Although Yushoken specializes in ramen, it has suprisingly good gyouza. And I’ve read many reviews that say Yushoken’s gyouza is the best in the metro.  Some people say Osaka Ohsho has the best gyouza, but my personal opinion is Yushoken’s is better.

Yushoken’s Gyouza is not seared to perfection. The wrapper is very soft and a bit squishy, with the underside just lightly-toasted to give it an extra crisp texture. However, when you bite into it, that’s where the magic begins.

I suggest not biting the gyouza in half — eat it full. The reason is that there’s a ton of the tonkotsu broth inside: if you bite it in half the broth spills out and that’s half the goodness gone right there.  It’s this juicy flavor that makes this the best gyouza for me — no other gyouza has this quality.  When you bite it, the juicy goodness of pork flows out into your mouth immediately, after which you feel the texture of the toasted underside, the gooey softness of the top, then the rush of vegetables inside which seem to have negi onions and ginger mixed with some ground pork that is only slightly cooked and not toasted like you would see in many Shanghai rolls. It’s a very good taste experience.

It’s not strictly better than Ohsaka Ohsho’s gyouza — there’s has a more aggressively fried wrapper with solid pork inside, which makes for a real strong pork explosion of its own right. But I love the gentle juicy burst of goodness in Yushoken’s gyouza and it’s a special taste you can’t get anywhere else that I’ve tried.

One bite and the juicy goodness oozes out!
One bite and the juicy goodness oozes out!

Admittedly, though, the gyouza on my last visit wasn’t very good. The dumplings broke open when I lifted them with my chopstick! They weren’t well made, and I lost a lot of the juicy goodness as a result. That dismayed me.  Maybe Yushoken’s lost their touch? I haven’t eaten here in a while since I was trying to lower my blood pressure.

A Special Trick for you Paleo Dieters

There was a time I would eat here daily after the gym (Gold’s Gym is right next door).  Here’s a trick I’d like to share — you can order their soup without the noodles for just 200 bucks. This is basically the same as eating their ramen but without the noodles — at almost half the price.

It used to be even better when the soup was just 150 bucks — they raised the price to 200 probably because of people like me where were ordering it almost everyday, hehe!

It’s still a good thing to have especially if you’re into those crazy Paleo diets or Atkins diets and are limiting your carbs. It’s high-fat, low-carb, just like the good Dr. Atkins ordered.

Well I stopped eating this everyday when I noticed my blood pressure was going up. But that’s a different story.

 

Closing Thoughts

Yushoken still offers the best ramen in Manila. I imagine it can only get better if you go to Japan or China and get some real authentic high class ramen. Here, this is by far the best (and it should be — the recipe used came from Japan’s ramen god champion).

My biggest complaint is the same with most of the ramen joints here: the bowl is too big for most people and far too expensive. They need to offer smaller size bowls — maybe a small, medium and large — so that people can eat the right amount of ramen for their stomach size and budget.

There’s also the issue with their karaage — which by the way is terrible but that’s okay this is a ramen joint and not a fried chicken restaurant. The biggest problem with their karaage is that it’s not sliced into small pieces for easy eating with chopsticks. It’s like eating Jollibee Chickenjoy with chopsticks — it just can’t be done. Don’t order their karaage and chahan, stick to the ramen and the gyouza.

Overall, I’m happy that they opened a branch up north to help relieve the droves of people trying for a taste. I’m surprised though that even with Mendokoro in Makati, Yushoken is still swamped by people by the time 6pm hits.

This is something that is never going out of style, it seems. Best to go at 11am in the morning just as it opens, around 3pm in the afternoon, but do try to avoid going there at 12pm, 6pm until 9pm.  The lines are just way too long.

But do eat here, it’s my favorite ramen restaurant and I like to share the word. Congrats to Yushoken for being such a successful restaurant and yet catering to foodies like me who really appreciate top-class flavor!

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Posted by Erwin Anciano

Erwin has been eating food for the past 30 or so years. Yes, he actually thinks that makes him an expert on all things food-related.

Website: http://emuncher.com