MANILA, Philippines – It’s always winner winner chicken dinner at Marudori, the newest ramen venture of the people behind Makati City’s famous ramen gem, Mendokoro Ramenba.
The new restaurant located at 8 Rockwell is all about the chicken – Marudori specializes in the Japanese classic tori paitan ramen (chicken-based broth) and other chicken-based side dishes.
The Nippon Hasha Group – the restaurant arm behind Mendokoro Ramenba and Ramen Yushoken – brings forward an intimate yet sleek new dining spot that highlights simplicity and authenticity, both in the Zen-inspired interiors and straightforward menu.
Ambiance-wise, it’s warm, casual, and bustling at the same time – the inside is cozy but not too cramped, and the bar seating in front of the mesmerizingly busy open kitchen almost replicates Japan’s solo ramen experience.
If you’re there for dinner, Marudori’s al fresco patio is a great spot if you’re with friends or on a date night with your significant other. It’s breezy, spacious, and you get an unblocked garden view of Rockwell, coupled with warm, dim mood lighting per outdoor table.
Tori time! What’s on the menu?
When translated, “maru” means whole, and “dori” (tori) means chicken. This is the essence of Marudori’s cooking technique, which makes use of whole chicken and all its parts in their ramen and tasty sides. Slow-cooking chicken parts results in a thick, almost gravy-like broth that is different from the soupy, liquid-y broth of the tonkotsu-based (pork-based) ramen you may be used to.
Marudori also makes sure to only use locally-sourced poultry as well, working closely with Philippine farmers.
Compared to Mendokoro’s offerings, Marudori’s tori paitan ramen is more subtle, light, and simple in flavor – it’s not as complex or “explosive” as the former, but still tasty. It’s almost like a comforting chicken noodle soup, transformed into a broth that’s thick, creamy, and viscous, packed with high-quality chicken flavor, thanks to a variety of chicken parts (white and dark meat) slow-simmered for several hours.
The slightly firm house-made noodles are just what you’d expect from authentic ramen. But what was the breast thing about it, for me, was the sous-vide cooked chicken breast slices served atop the ramen – thinly-sliced, oh-so-soft, moist, and incredibly tender. The other toppings included each have their own roles as well – the leeks, menma (bamboo shoots), and yuzu peel add some freshness, while the iconic marinated aji tamago (half-boiled egg) adds that extra umami flavor and creaminess to the dish.
Among the recommended options ramen beginners should try is the Shio Paitan (P430), hailed as the “true-to-form” bowl that’s simple, straightforward, and faithful to its origins. It’s made with a salt-based tare (Japanese multipurpose sauce) and served with the aforementioned toppings – a classic and filling choice you can’t go wrong with, especially if you’re new to the world of tori paitan ramen.
Another ramen reco is Marudori’s Shoyu Paitan (P460), a soy-based broth served with grilled chicken thigh. They also serve the spicy sesame Tantanmen (P490) and Ebi Miso (P640).
Marudori also serves Tsukemen, a redefined, interactive ramen experience created by Chef Kazuo Yamagishi. It’s the separation of chilled, thick, and firm noodles and savory, rich broth, wherein you dip the noodles in the flavor bomb of a broth before devouring it.
I got the Gyokai (P530), a recommended, umami-rich option that’s savory because of the shoyu base, and tangy because of the house-made fermented skipjack tuna flakes included. The broth, which is also simmered in chicken parts, is served with the delicious gyokai chicken, as well as lemon, yuzu vinegar, and yuzu kosho on the side to help cut through the richness of the dipping broth, which can get a bit too salty if eaten continuously.
All about the side chicks
They may be called side dishes, but at Marudori, they definitely deserve the spotlight, too – they’re flavorful enough to stand on their own, and I wouldn’t mind going back to gorge on them with steamed rice.
Marudori’s take on gyoza is an interesting hybrid between a xiao long bao and the famous Japanese dumpling. It’s shaped like the former, but cooked like the latter – crispy and brown on the bottom, but soft and chewy at the top. It’s much bigger than your typical gyoza, generously stuffed with a decent blend of ground chicken, veggies, and seasonings, dipped in a sweet vinegar sauce. Three pieces of gyoza cost P150 while five pieces go for P250.
Your poultry party won’t be complete without Marudori’s Shiro Miso Karaage (P450) – I enjoyed these big pieces of marinated, boneless chicken, breaded in a salty-savory seasoning, deep-fried until golden-brown and very crunchy, but still juicy and tender on the inside. The dipping sauce is great, too, since it’s not your typical Japanese mayo dressing – it’s a slightly sweet, tangy sauce made from ponzu and honey, which decreases the oily, umay factor that I’ve experienced with the karaage-mayo combo before. Squeezing some lime juice atop the chicken helps, too.
They also have a refreshing, light, and smoky Grilled Shrimp that has flavorful, well-cooked ebi on top of crunchy coleslaw, seasoned with sesame dressing. Squeeze some lemon juice for a welcome zing! Three pieces cost P280, while five cost P420.
Marudori’s Tsukune (P280) is also a different take on yakitori – they used minced chicken mixed with seasonings and a sweet-tangy teriyaki sauce, served on a stick. The flavor is on point, but the mushy chicken texture isn’t something I’m inclined towards. The teriyaki-egg dipping sauce adds an extra oomph, though!
It’s safe to say that Nippon Hasha has done it again, this time with a more simple and subtle brand of equally flavorful ramen. Marudori is must-try casual joint to visit, especially if you’re not really looking for spicy and complex flavors, but a wholesome, light, and faithful ode to Japan’s tori paitan flavors, with a creamier broth. If you want more umami, Marudori’s side dishes can compensate for that – each one is flavorful in its own right, and the use of high-quality poultry and seafood and authentic ingredients are evident in each dish.
Marudori is accepting dine-in customers on a first-come first served basis. The restaurant, which opened in February, is located at the Ground Floor of 8 Rockwell, Hidalgo Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City. It’s open from 11 am to 9 pm daily.
It is the third ramen house of the Nippon Hasha Group, founded by CEO Ryan Cruz and created by Japanese Ramen Champion Hideaki Aoyama. The first was Ramen Yushoken in 2012 and Mendokoro Ramenba in 2014. – Rappler.com