I walked in a half sprint under the midday sun, chasing whatever shades I could find while silently cursing myself for not bringing my umbrella. “Crap, I’d come home, a 50 shades of black,” I muttered to myself, as I dutifully followed the instruction of Google map that was supposed to lead me to a ramen house. Alabang area is an unfamiliar territory for me and it’s the first time that I’d been to Westgate Center. When I heard, “you have reached your destination” while standing along Commerce Ave., it felt like I’ve been Punk’ed. The sun was high, it was not the right time to be lost. Because I had a bit of suffering I wondered if this trip would be worth it. To end my aimless walking I sought the help of a security guard, only then did I finally get to the place I was looking for. Turns out the ramen house doesn’t own a spot by the street. You need to snake through some corners to find it. I think I now have a clue what a person who got lost in the desert feels like upon discovering an oasis because when I found Butamaru it felt like I was seeing an oasis.
Butamaru started operating in September 2014. During our visit, we were fortunate to have met its Public Operations Manager, Brent Co and Butamaru’s star chef, Chef Jerome Lim.
Butamaru, just like the other ramen houses, embraces a modern minimalist theme typical of the Japanese interior design. Downstairs there’s a long bar with stools, facing a wall adorned with grayscale photos of Japan, its people, and its culture. Beyond that wall hides the kitchen, a small rectangular hole in the middle offers a peek of what’s inside.
Upstairs, save for the picture frames on the wall, the unique chandelier that seemed to have been made by straws by the stairs, and some artificial plants, you wouldn’t find any other decorations.
Unlike in most food blogger event I’d attended in the past where we had no control over the food that was served to us, Brent granted us the liberty to pick off the menu.
When I’ve no idea which to order I tend to go with my instinct so I ordered Tantamen (PHP 350), spicy peanut and sesame ramen. You have the option to have it real spicy or mild, I chose the former and somehow, had me earning the respect of my fellow bloggers. I’m not sure if it’s due to my high level of pain tolerance or the fact I have a taste for spicy food (maybe both) that I was able to truly appreciate my ramen. No, that’s a mitigation of the fact, actually, I totally loved Tantamen. After trying two ramen houses where I honestly felt like I didn’t get my money’s worth, I’ve learned to lower my expectations. And so, Butamaru’s Tantamen was a delightful surprise. I’m not sure about my companions, but I found the spicy flavor to be sharp but manageable. The peanut flavor is strongly present both in the aroma and the taste. The firm noodles, the deep orange creamy broth, the bits and strands of veggies, and the strong spicy flavor made for a one hell of a ramen. I will go as far as saying that this is by far the best ramen I have ever had.
The other ramen varieties that the other bloggers ordered, but I didn’t get a chance to taste, are Miso (PHP 350), a miso-based tonkotsu and Shoyu (PHP 320), soy sauce-based tonkotsu. I did manage to have a little sip of Curry Tantamen, which as the name implies, has that an unmistakable curry flavor.
Then came the parade of Gyozas: Plain Gyoza (pork dumplings, PHP 130), Curry Gyoza (PHP 150), and the one that was served upside down, Cheese Gyoza. Since I am a cheese lover, I thought my favorite would be the Cheese Gyoza, but after tasting the three, my vote goes to the Curry Gyoza for being the most savory of them all. It’s so tasty it can go without condiments.
If you are a rice person, worry not because Butamaru offers delicious rice meals too. We were able to try Takana Chahan (PHP200), a Japanese style fried rice and Chashu Don (PHP 280), which is roast pork over steamed rice with soft-boiled egg.
The crowd favorite, without a question, is the Chasu (PHP 150), round slices of roast pork that are very soft, you can pull a piece by just using chopsticks. It was really appetizing and makes for a great topping, both on their ramen offerings and rice meals. It is worth noting that the chasu on Chasu Don is sweeter.
We also tried what I believe to be the most curious thing in the menu, Ramen Salad, it’s noodles with fresh vegetables tossed in black sesame dressing (PHP 280). I mean really, have you heard of such a thing? It was served rather beautifully in a bowl, the vegetable cuts and the meat arranged in a way that is every obsessive compulsive’s dream. I had an impression that I might not like it, but Butamaru seems to be on a mission to prove me wrong. Ramen salad despite being dressed in vegetables is packed with flavors.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t have enough room in my stomach to finish my bowl of ramen. Looking at the pictures now, I feel burdened by the same sense of longing one gets from remembering all the foods that he wasn’t able to eat on Christmas Eve.
Even when it took me almost two hours to get there through public transportation, even when I got lost, even when my skin burned a little under the heat of the sun, I am happy to report that the trip to try Butamaru is indeed worth it. I’d gladly do it all over again for another chance to eat the best ramen I’ve ever had in my life.
CE405 Westgate Center,
Filinvest Corporate City,
Alabang, Muntinlupa 1781
Telephone: (02) 877-4255