The Lucky Turtle | Ramen Kamekichi

The breathy drawl that came from the other end of an unregistered number was unmistakably Alexis Yap’s and with that an instavite to dine at the new Ramen Kamekichi. That almost bioluminescent glow from their glass shopfront at their new location has been tugging us to go for a few weeks already. Versus the planned Netflix and chill for that night, an immediate yes to SunStar Cebu’s Best of Cebu 2014’s Best Ramen was the obvious choice.

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“Wataro.”, the PussyKat immediately recognized the framed paper art from the Japanese designer on the wall. Blonde wood in repetitive geometric patterns form a drop ceiling to cap the blue-green walls. Teal, we were corrected. What it deviated from in traditional Japanese restaurant colorway it kept in its clean Zen aesthetic in the space’s total departure from its former shipping office incarnation. From what was a veritable hole-in-the-wall, the Rodriguez family elevated Ramen Kamekichi to combine authentic traditional Japanese goodness with a modern boutique restaurant feel at this new location.

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We were first introduced to their best-selling Jigoku Ramen — noodles in a spicy soy sauce soup base that comes in three spice levels. One already had a good amount of spicy heat but none too much to linger. The noodles notably had some bite with a great wheaten flavor that balances that of soy.

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I’m a fan of pork bone broth and Ramen Kamekichi’s Tonkotsu Ramen presents a render of creamy, medium density and a mildly intense pork flavor. The flavor extends into the chasyu to round out the entire dish.

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Shoyu Ramen, with its basic soy sauce base, allows the finer appreciation of the individual components. Here the flavor of the noodles really take center stage in the savory soup that is light on the palate.

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Ramen Kamekichi’s Okonomiyaki comes moist and soft with a slight chew. A generous topping of bonito flakes or katsuobushi give the dish some fascinating movement with the escaping heat aside from imparting smooth umami flavor.

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Gyoza’s, side dishes as they are, were a great solid accompaniment to the ramen. Theirs were of exceptionally thin and dumpling skein that still held together well with chopsticks. Pan-frying gave these deliciously crispy bottoms while keeping the rest of it soft.

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Buta Ika Shougayaki is heavenly union of pork, squid and a profusion of white onions. These are stir-fried to combine the meaty, briny and vegetal sweetnesses all while keeping each one taste still distinct.

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I’m usually dismissive of rice dishes but Ramen Kamekichi’s Chahan got a lot of oohs and aahs from around the table that I had to give it a try. Quite tasty just as it is with more flavor and texture from generous assortments of ingredients including pork, squid, egg and vegetables.

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Yakitori, chicken skewers, and Yakibuta, pork, were served as penultimate proteins to what seemed an already a very complete meal. Both meats were almost fall-off-the-stick in tenderness with the sweet and savory brushing sauce punctuating and not obscuring the natural flavors. Any one of their Japanese brand beers or sake would have been a great match had it not been a weeknight with long lineups for everyone the day after.

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Capping the night was the lone dessert item on the menu, Matcha Ice Cream. Smooth and with a strong matcha flavor, it helped cleanse the palate of the savories and made for a sweet finish.

Kamekichi translated means Lucky Turtle. The Japanese chef, Kame, must have considered himself lucky to have such culinary skills to name his shop that and we could only be so lucky he decided to make this island his adoptive home. Like the turtle, Kamekichi’s rise was slow and without fanfare but it is right on in its consistency. That is the secret to its customers’ loyalty and its inevitable longevity.

 

 

Ramen Kamekichi is now located at 38 Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City beside the Garcia Ancestral Home.

The Present Progressive | The Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa’s Ultimate Dream Date

Our waiter takes his leave after pouring the house white wine, an Undurraga Chardonnay from Chile, when she goes for the throat saying I don’t seem to love her as much anymore. I say nothing knowing her monthly period is coming up and bring my wine glass to my nose to take in the citrusy floral scent. I sip and swirl noting a rich fruitiness with a hint of petrol, like a Riesling, and crisp apple flavor gliding smoothly on the tongue ending in some heat at the back of the throat. She asks if I was listening. Apparently, I never listen. But I do. Always.

OBSERVATORY

The deafening silence breaks only with the lapping against the breakwater on which The Observatory was perched. I look up to tell her I do. Listen and love. Always. It took a long time for us to find each other even when we have long known each other. And I have ever since. Listened and loved. Always. I attempt to break the ice asking if she remembers how she used to check me out at the building elevator from its highly reflective doors. Her monthly period is coming up. Period.

_Pan-seared Scallop, Pacific Lobster Tartare, with Calamansi Vinaigrette and Rocket Leaf

Pan-seared Scallop, Pacific Lobster Tartare, with Calamansi Vinaigrette and Rocket Leaf

Appetizers of Pan-seared Scallops and Pacific Lobster Tartare were being served and I remember from Invertebrate Zoology that lobster have been noted to cannibalize their siblings. Mine did. I notice the buttery emulsion of the tartare and thought it was more of a puree versus a micro mince. She doesn’t eat lobster and I’ve always been a sweeper. I point out to her that the scallops were perfectly seared. The beauty of Maillard begins only at around 140 degrees Celsius. I think we also have become better together through the fire. I know we have. She says she does, too. The pleasantly tart vinaigrette had just enough tang to cut through the rich lobster. Vegetal bitters come from the minute Rocket and slightly leathery Ixora flower garnish. Bitters in the background help make the other flavors sing. It did for us.

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I apologize I am always too busy. But I am and I need to be. More of this perhaps? But this is what we always do. Pleasure is business and business is pleasure. And we love it. And I love you. And I, you.

Prawn Confit and Steamed Fennel with Curry-Scented Sauce Americaine

Prawn Confit and Steamed Fennel with Curry-Scented Sauce Americaine

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Do you know that certain species of prawns bred in captivity are monogamous? I am still that annoying kid that grew up on Discovery Channel and, thankfully, she found that highly amusing. Deep soup plates smeared with curry sauce are presented and under a hillock of dill-topped steamed fennel hid two beautifully-butterflied, confited prawns in loving embrace. Our waiter pours Sauce Americaine into the recesses and, again, takes leave. The sweet, flavor of fennel and the more citrusy of dill, both anise-like, envelope the briny sweetness of the seafood made hefty by the weighty mouthfeel and roof-of-mouth texture of the slightly spicy veloute. She doesn’t eat prawns, too, and, like I said, I’ve always been a sweeper.

Poached Red Grouper and White Radish witn Green Asparagus and Black Truffle Sauce

Poached Red Grouper and White Radish with Green Asparagus and Black Truffle Sauce

Third’s a charm and the mood markedly improves by the time the Poached Red Grouper was brought to the table. The pungency of truffles is unmistakable. She doesn’t like her vegetables but gives asparagus a pass on account of how her friend Rosare used to bring back boxes of those when she goes back to Cebu from Sultan Kudarat. I return her story with how the Gong family went on spring holiday in Yunnan province and brought me back a Daikon the size of my forearm as a gift. What the shaved asparagus spears lost in some crunch was made up for by the flavor it took from the poaching brine to meld with its earthy brightness. The grouper, undoubtedly the sweeter of the sea-meats, kept moist from its hot bath which also dulled the peppery flavor of the radish the fish sat on. She laughs when I pick through my plate to identify Mint, Edible Mum Leaves and Spring Onion Blossoms. I have always loved her laugh.

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We would like a daughter. She’d have dinosaurs instead of dolls. But she would still love pink. Glossier. But wears black because it goes with anything. Homeschooling. Real books. Real, tactile learning tools. Or we could just stick to pugs. Pugs are already a handful. Baecan alone is. Tippy. Tippy Baecan. Dickens. I love you. And I, you.

Red Wine Slow-Cooked Veal Cheek with Foie Gras Sauce, Stewed Onion and Potato Puree

Red Wine Slow-Cooked Veal Cheek with Foie Gras Sauce, Stewed Onion and Potato Puree

In jest, or so I’d like to believe, she’d blame weight gain squarely on me. I always invoke choice and preach exchanges in deficits for surpluses as the latter falls naturally under my territory. Geese are hand fed until their livers expand from the excesses of that love — if I were to explain the emotion called foie gras. Delicately rich and buttery liver in the sauce tiptoes the line of overkill in the main course already decadent with the stewing in wine and time. The darkly sweet flavors of mature steak surprise in the otherwise ultra-tender young meat. Some toasted couscous sprinkles bring in a slight smoky crunch. I tell her yet again how I think onions share the same sweetness with apples and how the stewed onions extend the meaty sweetness. The creamy potato puree anchors both the solids and flavors to the plate. It’s almost always potatoes that finish any dish.

Strawberry Compote

Strawberry Compote

I’ve had all of my four impacted molars already removed. I guess neither of them was my sweet tooth. She never really cares for dessert until oh-I’ll-just-have-a-taste brings her to the last three spoonful’s of my single order. But I never mind sharing and sharing calories. She doesn’t really like strawberries either. Until it happened in Barb’s Strawberry-Bacon Ice Cream. She’s evolving and she doesn’t even know. I’m loving every minute of it.

Romance and strawberries are so clichéd that combo has made the full circle back to a requirement. Maybe it’s the color. Strawberries aren’t even technically berries. But these are somehow aspirational in the tropics. Like Washington apples in the eighties. And she doesn’t really enjoy strawberries. But I do. Maybe because I’m kind of stuck in the eighties. A thin piece of toast piped with cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with Mint, Ixora and fresh strawberry slivers might as well have been a separate dessert as it was a rather elaborate garnish. Welcome nonetheless. Vanilla ice cream & chilled cream foam soften the syrupy intensity of the compote.

Five courses stretched over five hours. As did thousands in two years. Lana Del Rey warbles from the Cowrie Cove nearby. Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful? We drain the last of the Chardonnay. Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul? The citrusy florals now seem more pronounced. I know you will, I know you will, I know that you will. The rich fruitiness with a hint of petrol, like a Riesling, and crisp apple flavor gliding smoothly on the tongue ending in some heat at the back of the throat. Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful? She asks if I was listening. Always. And, yes, I will. You will always be. And I love you. And I, you.

 

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SHANGRI-LA’S MACTAN RESORT & SPA, CEBU PRESENTS THE ULTIMATE DREAM DATE: A MILLION-PESO FANTASY

Couples seeking the quintessential celebration will revel in Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu’s Ultimate Dream Date, a thrilling, one-of-a-kind offer with a one-of-a-kind million-peso price tag – to be launched on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2016 and available year-round.   Putting together the finest in dining, accommodation, shopping and jewelry, the Ultimate Dream Date takes romance a notch higher, as it promises a lavishly unforgettable experience.
The Ultimate Dream Date begins with a limousine ride going to the resort, where the couple enjoys an overnight stay in the resort’s Presidential Suite, a luxurious twobedroom suite with a dining area and balcony offering panoramic views of the ocean. The couple also enjoys a harmonizing signature treatment at CHI, The Spa and access to its rejuvenating water pavilion.
As a prelude to a blissful evening, the couple gets to hop on a helicopter ride over the scenic Mactan Channel, ending in a pre-dinner cocktail of Dom Pérignon Champagne upon arrival. An exquisite five-course dinner then follows at the resort’s Paradise Island, a scenic hideaway at the heart of the beachfront. The dinner is complemented by free-flowing beverages, dreamy tunes by a private musician, plus a spectacular piece of diamond jewelry for the lady.

The celebration does not end there, as on top of the romantic dinner date, the lady will be given a shopping spree at a luxury retail chain with private butler assistance, which may be availed on the couple’s preferred date.

A selection of romantic dining offers is also available at the resort’s scenic spots including Paradise Island and the iconic Observatory and Gazebo for Valentine’s Day.
A six-course set menu served at Paradise Island starts at P20,000++ per couple, and includes a bottle of champagne, free-flowing non-alcoholic beverages, a bouquet of flowers and a private musician. Meanwhile, a five-course set menu at the beachfront, along with the aforementioned inclusions, starts at P15,000++ per couple.

Couples who wish to toast to their love stories at either the Observatory, Gazebo, or Acqua Veranda may enjoy a five-course set menu with a bottle of champagne, bouquet of flowers and CHI, The spa discount voucher. This package is priced at P15,000++ per couple.   At the resort’s outlets, couples may also celebrate with an indulgent gastronomic experience. At Acqua, a Valentine’s Day five-course set menu served with a glass of sparkling wine is at P4,000++ per person, while Cowrie Cove’s five-course set menu with a glass of sparkling wine is at P5,000++ per person. Tides will also offer a Valentine’s Day special with a lunch buffet priced at P2,250++ per person.

The day of romance indeed casts a festive spell all around this seaside paradise. Couples who wish to celebrate in luxe style at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu may contact (63 32) 231 8224 or email fbreservations.mac@shangri-la.com for further inquiries and reservations
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The Fault Is NOT In Our Stars

Just as quickly as twenty sixteen dropped in on us did the long lists of resolutions start to fade into a blur for many of us. As with most everything in our lives today, we have the Chinese to thank for the loophole of a second annual beginning — the Chinese New Year.

“Wú yéye shì Shànghǎi rén.”, I’d manage to squeeze convincingly from my limited Chinese Takeout Menu Mandarin when some G.I. (Genuine Insik) poses a question against my salient features. Dy Tai Biao left his wife and kids in the Southern Capital City to travel with the Lims to pursue whatever dreams overseas. That he fathered an illegitimate brood of six on this Island accounts for a fourth of the mongrel that I am. Growing up, my exposure to the local Chinese culture wasn’t much different from any other local’s other than the odd invitation to some distant relative or acquaintance’s Teng Hon or some association party. I thought a year in the Capital would have been enough of an immersion but, no. I found myself still quite ignorant of many Chinese cultural practices as anyone who has rested faith in that runaway hit Roño. It doesn’t help that I didn’t get to watch that either.

It might have been that planetary alignment of recent that had us cross paths with Waterfront Cebu City’s Arnel Aparis at a late night convenience store run. With that encounter came an invite to preview their Chinese New Year Dinner menu with a Yeesang Tossing Ceremony and an audience with internationally renowned Feng Shui expert, Maritess Allen, for her Luck and Prosperity Forecast for the Year of the Fire Monkey.

What looked like the most random collection of guests were gathered at the Waterfront Cebu City’s Tin Gow Chinese restaurant. Greetings for the new year were exchanged as if it was in the mother tongue. “Gong Xi Fa Cai! Kung Hei Fat Choi!”. A Yeesang or Prosperity Salad tossing ceremony opened the night.

yeesang

“Nian Nian You Yu!”, we wished for abundance through the year as pieces of salmon were first put into the dish. “Da Ji Da Li!”, to wish for “good luck and smooth sailing” as lemon juice was squeezed on the fish and pieces of pomelo were added, increasing auspicious value. “Zhao Cai Jin Bao!”, as pepper was sprinkled all over to “attract wealth and treasures.” “Cai Yuan Guang Jin!”, as oil was poured to circle the ingredients encouraging “numerous sources of wealth”. “Hong Yun Dang Tou!”, as the traditionally auspicious “red” in carrots were added to declare “good luck approaching”. Shredded green and white radishes symbolising youth and progress were already mixed into the carrots. ” Jin Yin Man Wu!”, as crushed peanuts were added to wish for a “household filled with gold and silver”. “Sheng Yi Xing Long!” as sesame seeds were added for “prosperity for the business”. “Tian Tian Mi Mi!”, as Yusheng or plum sauce was poured to wish that “life may always be sweet”. Flour crisps were scattered to “Man Di Huang Jin!” to literally ask for a “floor full of gold”. Then the diners enthusiastically tossed the salad ingredients to bring the growth of their fortunes just as high. The primarily vegetable salad was crisp and refreshingly sweet with a nutty crunch from the sesame seeds, peanuts and the flour crisps with the oil and yusheng giving it some weight.

yeesang toss

Over a very substantial lauriat service, the surprisingly entertaining Maritess Allen all but swung from the chandeliers in her very engaging general forecast. The benevolent Dragon and the sneaky Snake will have the light of the White Star in the South East, the resourceful Rabbit will gain prosperity in the East and the Horse receives Heaven’s Luck in the South. The Sheep and the Monkey who have been helping each other since the Great Race will find Wealth in the South West while their other friend, the Rooster, will be lucky in Education and Romance in the West. Illness shall be upon anyone centrally located while Misfortune will befall the Tiger and the Ox in the North East. The wily Rat gets his ancient Karmic comeuppance with Violence in the North. Interestingly, Arguments for the Dog and the Boar in the North West hold true for this Boar and his estranged kinfolk — a mangy, hydrocephalic mutt.

yeesang dinner

Things made a turn for the personal when Mrs. Allen opened Q&A and provided personal advice members of the audience. Guidebooks, charms and amulets were recommended to avert misfortune and ails and also to increase luck. The night ended with all in attendance writing their most earnest wishes for themselves and their loved ones on balloons which we released all together outside the main lobby. We were sent off with more well wishes for the New Lunar Year and a package of Niangao or Tikoy for a “higher year”. All things considered — the God-granted and manipulations of luck through Feng Shui, Mrs. Allen reminds us that equally important is working hard and smart to achieve our dreams in life. John Green couldn’t be more wrong as the fault is not entirely in our stars.

yeesang baloons