By Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter

Restaurant Review
Hakata Ton-ichi
SM North EDSA in Quezon City

RAMEN-YA or ramen restaurants have become so popular in the country that most malls have more than one offering some form of noodle soup from some region of Japan. Such is the focus of these restaurants to maintain that authentic taste, a bowl of good ramen will set one back around P500 so it was a pleasant surprise to find a good ramen restaurant offering a complete meal for the same price.

Hakata Ton-ichi currently has two branches: one in Glorietta in Makati City and another at the North Towers at SM North EDSA in Quezon City, and it offers what it calls “essential ramen” for P180.

The restaurant interior has booths for people eating alone. The furniture are mostly wood and it has an open kitchen concept.

Their “essential ramen” is a Hakata-style bowl which comes from the Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan. Hakata ramen is known for using pork bone broth (tonkotsu) boiled for hours until the soup turns into its signature cloudy white color. It also uses thin noodles and is typically garnished with green onions and braised pork belly (chashu).

Hakata Ton-ichi’s P180 bowl is topped with jelly ear mushroom (kikurage) and a soft-boiled egg (aji tamago) and a thin slice of pork belly. Of course, if one compares this bowl to another Hakata-style ramen chain restaurants like Ippudo (whose most basic Shiromaru Motoaji retails for P385), it lacks the depth that comes from a high-quality bone broth, but if one considers its really affordable pricing, the bowl is a really good steal — the serving size is big and it has a good umami flavor with a hint of sweetness from the broth. I also found that the noodles were cooked al dente which is how I order my bowl from Ippudo.

They also offer a Red Ramen version which has a bit of spice due to the chili oil added, a Black Ramen version which has squid ink, and Miso-ichi Ramen which as miso added. Each of the specialty ramen is priced at P220.

The menu also has a selection of rice dishes like Curry Rice which starts at P260, and fried rice variants.

Those who want to splurge but don’t want to do so on a single ramen bowl can go for the Hakata King’s set for P500 which comes with a choice of any of ramen, Hakata Fried Rice, a choice of salad (potato or Hakata salad) or a sushi roll (Sunny California Roll or Teriyaki Pork Roll), a side dish (gyoza or chicken karaage), iced tea, and fruits.

This writer went to the restaurant in early August and tired out the set, choosing the Hakata salad and gyoza. The potsticker dumpling (gyoza) was cooked really well with generous fillings of pork and a crunchy bottom layer and a soft upper layer. It also has a lot of black pepper which gave it a bit of a spicy bite. The salad was basically a cabbage salad with a little bit of lettuce and tomatoes dressed in mayonnaise. It wasn’t mind-blowing but it was adequate — the same goes for the rice which was cooked well and had a generous serving.

What I did appreciate is the quick serving time as the set arrived at my table in less than 10 minutes.

I returned on another day because I felt that I wouldn’t give the restaurant a proper review if I didn’t try the other ramen types. This time I went with the Black Ramen. While I didn’t taste a lot of the squid ink flavor, I did like the garlicky addition to the broth.

I also ordered the Salmon Roll (mango and cucumber roll topped with a fresh salmon fillet) for P250. Again, the serving size is generous at eight slices, and while I found the salmon still too cold, I did enjoy it nonetheless.

The key takeaway here is to go for the ramen and go for the value it offers — affordably priced ramen with a selection of side dishes. It’s perfect for days when you just want to have ramen but don’t want to splurge.