On The Next Best Thing To An Izakaya: Ramen Cool, West Avenue
Updated: Sep 28, 2022
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: This review originally published in May 2014 was among the first food reviews I finished after starting out in my second job. I haven't been to this branch of Ramen Cool ever since, but I would definitely return if given the chance.)
Back when I was still working in the Quezon Avenue area, I would usually pass by West Avenue and see Ramen Cool while on the jeepney. A colleague recommended this Japanese restaurant, which was a branch of the main one located in Pasig City's food strip Kapitolyo. I honestly saw the place as one where I would usually stop by to unwind and have dinner after a long day. Japanese salarymen usually stop by pubs called izakaya to have drinks and dinner before going home. While this didn't have alcoholic drinks, it was a quaint little spot I wanted to sit at and have some good old Japanese comfort food.
I paid Ramen Cool a visit one Friday evening. A member of their wait staff ushered me to my seat and gave me the menu. Ramen Cool's interiors had a lot of warm wood elements, almost similar to a Japanese rest house complete with an onsen (hot spring) bath. One can't help but sit back and relax with such an atmosphere...and soon enough, my first order arrived.
I got the Tempura Ramen after a colleague recommended it, and true to his word - it was served in a large bowl. The ramen bowl was topped with two pieces of prawn tempura, one piece of eggplant tempura, bok choy, shredded nori seaweed, and spring onions. The tempura pieces were already soggy due to being soaked in the miso-based broth so I set them aside. I had some initial difficulty finishing the large serving as I am not much of a fan of noodles, but I succeeded. Unfortunately, I didn't find any redeeming qualities in both the noodles and broth used - aside from tasting a hint of fermented soybean paste in the latter.
My additional order of Mushroom Tempura arrived midway: six shiitake mushroom halves coated in batter and fried just like the shrimp counterpart, served with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce and grated ginger. It was crunchy as expected of good tempura, with the mushrooms themselves contributing an umami flavor. The dipping sauce's tart and sweet tasted balanced out the savory taste of the shiitake; this variant of mushroom contains high levels of monosodium glutamate (that same chemical in Ajinomoto seasoning.)
There were still some tempura pieces left -- the soggy prawn tempura and four of the shiitake mushroom ones -- so I ordered an extra cup of rice for these. Thankfully, the condiments on the table saved the day! A few dashes of the shichimi togarashi (seven-flavor chili pepper) added a much-needed spicy kick to my palate.
And then, my drink (and dessert) arrived just in time to cap off the umami explosion. The Milo Dinosaur was Ramen Cool's more extravagant take on the Singaporean kopitiam favorite, albeit looking out-of-place in a Japanese restaurant. Chocolate drink with ice topped with vanilla ice cream and even more Milo powder is one way to spell out decadence. I would have enjoyed it, if not for the overflowing contents that made any attempts to stir everything spill over. Good thing there was a saucer below to make sure the drink did not spill. In addition, the melting vanilla ice cream made the drink cloyingly sweet so I added water to tone it down.
I definitely enjoyed that Friday night at Ramen Cool even though I drank no alcoholic beverages. Since I was definitely full from my dinner, I opted to walk from the restaurant to SM North EDSA even though jeeps passed by. Looking back, that moment reminded me of salarymen walking some distance towards the nearest train station to take the train home. I'm in a different job now, but those simple joys take me back to better days.
Until the next post.