I love how creative Chef Him can be when it comes to making his dishes very presentable. Meatballs in soup spoons, Nachos and Salsa in shot glasses, to name a few. Needless to say, I have been getting him for every single book launches, mall displays and other events thereafter.
A few weeks ago, I landed at a Facebook page which immediately gave me the impression that it's that of a soon-to-open Japanese restaurant. Browsing further, I then found that that it's owned by Chef Him and true enough, Nomama Artisanal Ramen is set to open this September.
Note though that Nomama Artisanal Ramen is not your usual Japanese restaurant. Don't expect ladies clad in soft Kimono attires complete with socks and wooden slippers, no one will scream "Irasshaimase" as you walk in the door and lastly, no mini fountain or pond inside the restaurant too.
What you'll get is a relaxing vibe where you get to sit on pretty minimalistic wooden chairs or hang out at the bar where you can watch Chef Him hard at work in his open kitchen. Placemats are made of white paper and on top of each table is a wooden box filled with all the utensils that you may need -- chopsticks, spoons, soup spoons and even cute tiny dessert spoons. It exudes a casual vibe that will surely not intimidate even the simplest diner.
For the month of August, Nomama held two sets of weekend dinners where diners got a sneak peek of what to expect from the restaurant as it formally opens on September 8. From the day that I learned about his special dinner, I didn't waste any time and quickly invited my food-loving friends Richard, Irene, Joan and Abet to join us for the last Saturday dinner.
It was raining pretty hard that evening but this didn't stop us from heading to our dinner venue. Paul and I got there at exactly 7PM and we found all the parking slots filled up. Luckily, the staff of Nomama were kind enough to guide Paul as he went to find a parking slot at the side street of the restaurant.
Chef Him was there to welcome us and he even came out to visit our table just as a gracious host would. As soon as our group was complete, out came our first dish -- Beef Tataki with Sweet Potato Chips. I'm a fan of sweet potato chips especially the crunchy, lightly salted ones. Initially when I found out that we're having Beef Tataki, I felt a little hesitation inside as I try my best to avoid raw meat after suffering from amoebiasis last year. However, Paul told me that our Beef Tataki wasn't that raw and it was indeed very good that I just had to dig in to try it out myself. I tried it with some alfalfa sprouts and a piece of sweet potato chips and I enjoyed how well each contrasting texture blended well together. What I noticed though was that some chips were crunchy while some were quite chewy already. I guess it's because the chips were fried way in advance and kept in a clear plastic container that some have lost its crunchiness over time.
Up next, we had the Soft Shelled Crab Salad with Nomama Dairy Dressing. The dressing was pretty light that I could hardly taste the creaminess normally found in dairy dressings. The highlight here though were not the greens, it was in fact the two pieces of soft-shelled crabs sitting one on top of the other. Each serving is good for two and while Paul was busy shooting away, I was ready to dig in. With my wooden chopsticks on hand, I took a bite of the soft-shelled crabs and agreed with Irene when she commented that it was very flavorful. Yum!
Our 3rd course was a plate of Classic Pork and Mushroom Gyoza. Don't be fooled by the term "classic" as initially I was just expecting a regular type of gyoza but to my surprise I got a piece filled with thinly sliced mushrooms with bits of pork. It was very good! Very typical of Chef Him to exceed one's expectations. We all loved this dish! This is perfect for those who are not fond of meat-loaded gyoza as the mushroom makes it a healthier, lighter alternative. I want more of this please!
By this time, I was starting to feel quite full already and was surprised that we were just half-way through dinner. I was still dreaming about the gyoza when our fourth dish came out -- Snapper with Orange Gatsrique and a Shisso and cherry tomato salad. It's amazing how Chef Him can play around with colors and textures. I think I've pretty much completed most of the colors of the rainbow that evening. I love fish and I was excited to try this juicy piece of snapper fillet which was drizzled with some citrus sauce and topped with sweet cherry tomatoes and squash flower. To be honest, I wasn't so fond of the squash flower so I just placed it aside but Paul and I literally wiped our plate clean as we finished off every piece of fish fillet and tomatoes. The fish was very fresh and soft and the tomatoes juicy and sweet just the way we love them.
From the delicious seafood dish, we had one that the men in the group enjoyed very much. The Short Rib Curry with Roasted Kobacha was another unforgettable dish. I love how tender the meat was that it literally fell off the bones. Each piece was very soft with a small piece of fat which I obediently cut out and push to the side of the plate. The curry sauce was thick, rich yet not so spicy perfect for non-spicy eaters like Richard, Irene and yours truly. I tried a piece of roasted kobacha which is a Japanese variety of squash. It was firm yet I still prefer our local squash more. Chef Him added a few pieces of edamame beans which I like very much.
I guess Chef Him wouldn't put the word "ramen" on his restaurant name if this is not his specialty. After 5 delicious dishes, we finally had our own bowls of ramen. At the start of the meal, we were asked to choose from three types of ramen : Nomama Ramen, Green Curry Ramen or Ox Tongue and Chili Tofu Ramen. Of course, I immediately crossed out the last option upon seeing the word chili and Paul and I agreed to order one each to be able to have a taste of two types of ramen. Smart idea, don't you think?
Out came Paul's Nomama Ramen which I guess was the house specialty given that it bares the name of the restaurant. The first thing I noticed was the half slice Japanese egg (which I learned from Richard is called ajitsuke tamago) and its bright yellow yolk. I love eggs that I immediately asked Paul if I can have a small bite. It was creamy and the yolk still quite runny. I will definitely learn how to make ajitsuke tamago at home.
My choice of ramen was the Green Curry Ramen. Before taking a sip, Paul warned me that it might be too spicy and he's open to swapping ramen bowls. I carefully took my first slurp and true, the soup was a bit spicy but pretty bearable given that I love green curry so I told Paul, he can continue to enjoy his Nomama Ramen while I'm pretty happy with mine. It had a sweet, spicy mix that made it so delicious that I couldn't stop having spoonfuls after spoonfuls of the soup. The noodles was firm yet it has a weird aftertaste, thus making us conclude that Ukkokei still wins in the ramen noodle category. On top of the noodles were strips of chicken which was delicious. The skin was a bit crunchy and the meat tender. The greens gave more texture to the ramen soup yet it had a slightly bitter taste that I wasn't so fond of. Normally, I don't finish the soup whenever I order ramen or any noodle soup for that matter but this time, Paul was indeed surprise to see my bowl almost empty save for the green peas that I carefully put aside. It was delicious and I'm definitely going back for more. I just need to remind myself to tell Chef Him to not add any green peas next time.
We all had a lovely dinner and after our ramen bowls have been cleared out, we were each given a dessert plate with a cute looking spoon. Dessert took some time that Richard was even teasing us that he saw the server heading out to the convenience store to by bars of Kitkat. I wonder how come they called this dish Kitkat...could it really just be the ordinary chocolate bar with perhaps a scoop of ice cream on top?
What came next was a big surprise for all of us. It was a specially made chocolate dessert with a mix of soft chocolate mousse on top and a hard crunchy chocolate bar at the bottom. I just had to take the small dollop of whipped cream on top and agreed that this dessert was truly worth the wait. I just hope Chef Him will come up with a nicer name to give more justice to this dessert when he formally opens his doors to the public.
|Group shot with Chef Him|
Great job Chef Him and continue to surprise us with your mouthwatering creations.
Nomama Artisanal Ramen is located at G/F FSS Bldg 2, Scout Tuason cor Scout Castor Streets in Quezon City. It's right across Max's Fried Chicken. Call them at 0917-5228272 / 5422558.