The Humble Ramen Goes Luxe—Lobster, Wagyu, Cocktails, Anyone?—At Wonder Bowl by Ramen Nagi
Back in the 1950’s, locals lined the streets of Japan on its coldest nights to have their turn at a piping hot bowl of Chinese soba, after Chinese tradesmen introduced an influx of wheat noodles into the country. This broth-based noodle dish—known today as ramen—has taken over the world in what one might even call a “ramen craze,” bringing in flocks of hungry customers and long lines wherever it decides to go next.
It’s difficult to remember Manila without ramen, especially after the opening of Chef Ikuta Santoshi’s international ramen chain, Ramen Nagi, back in 2013. Today, not only does the Philippines now have 20 different branches of Ramen Nagi to choose from, but also Santoshi’s newest and boldest restaurant initiative yet—Wonder Bowl by Ramen Nagi.
The goal is simple: to provide an elevated izakaya experience that incorporates modern-day delicacies, such as lobster and Wagyu, into premium flavors of ramen, all of which are best paired with one of many special alcoholic libations put together by Japanese mixologist Makoto Nagano.
For instance, one might order the limited edition Wonder Miso Ramen or flat noodles in a golden salt base broth with a burnt miso taste topped with Wagyu beef, mushrooms, onions, Japanese leeks, and Chinese chives. As you work your way through the bowl, you’ll find that the pungent richness of miso is balanced nicely by the freshness of the kitchen’s recommended cocktail pairings, the Sake Smash or Nagi Highball.
Another unique menu item is the Wonder Salt Ramen which is topped with red onion, kale leaves, bamboo shoots, Japanese leeks, Wagyu beef, and shredded chili. Along with this jumbo-sized ramen bowl, one might choose the Candy Cane or Grapefruit Sour for a sweet punch to equalize the salt-based broth.
The third and final limited edition flavor is the Wonder Lobster Ramen which features lobster and ebi soup stock infused with lobster meat, green and purple cabbage, Japanese leeks with ebi powder, and pork chashu. It goes without saying that this ramen stands out from all the rest, as submerged into the broth is your very own whole lobster, whose tail and claws are so long they peek out of the bowl. Certainly, this is an Instagram-worthy dish, and pairs best with the silky Beer Flip cocktail. (Note that you can avail of the same ramen without the whole lobster for a more affordable price.)
Aside from these premium dishes, Wonder Bowl offers five additional flavors of ramen and a variety of appetizers to go with them, such as Fake Tofu (spoiler alert: it’s actually cream cheese-based) and Truffle Foie Gras Gyoza.
Many will also be surprised to discover that ramen is hardly Wonder Bowl’s only specialty, as is the case in most ramen joints. Jamie Matibag, the brand manager, expressed that the other specialty dishes—like Bone Miso Marrow, Chashu Gratin, and Manga Meat (which must be pre-ordered the day before)—are just some of the must-tries that differentiate the restaurant from the surplus of other Japanese eateries across the metro.
The size and diversity of Wonder Bowl’s menu may make anyone wonder—what exactly prompted the complex ideas behind this restaurant? After all, Wonder Bowl has everything — from ramen and cocktail pairings, to meaty entrées and light desserts. The answer to this is simple: “It’s a reflection of the passion and innovation of the chefs behind it,” as “each menu item is their own original creation,” says Matibag.
There is no doubt Japanese cuisine has been historically well-received in the Philippines. In fact, one might even say that Filipinos have accepted ramen as the occasional substitute for their beloved cup of rice. As such, the Philippines was deemed the unrivaled choice for the first home of Wonder Bowl, before it opens branches abroad.
G/F The Globe Tower, 32nd Street corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, FB: Ramen Nagi Manila
Photos by Jar Concengco