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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.