If you regularly read our blog, you will know that one of our favorite cuisines is Japanese. So after seeing Butamaru, a modern Japanese restaurant, in the list of partner restaurants thanks to our recent partnership with Big Dish, we chose to eat there.
We are truly grateful to be blessed to have the opportunity to try various kinds of ramen both locally and internationally. However, we have yet to try the Hakata-style ramen of the Fukuoka region in Kyushu, Japan. Let alone a variation of it which is offered by Butamaru.
I have also been studying Japanese these days. And, in Japanese, I know that buta in Butamaru stands for pork. Meanwhile, maru stands for round. So I have an initial idea that their dishes are mostly pork based which I like.
When we went to Butamaru, we got to meet the owner, Mr. Jerome Lim. We learned from him that he and his cousin were planning to franchise a Japanese chain before. But then, the Japanese thought that there was no market here in the Philippines.
Driven by their passion for Japanese food, Mr. Lim flew to Japan to look for the best ramen. It was in Kyushu Island that he and his cousin fell in love with the Hakata-style ramen. He then proceeded on learning the art of ramen-making under Oita’s Master Artisan Sugimura-san, a ramen noodle supplier to shops all over Japan.
Interior & Ambiance
A welcoming sight to see, Butamaru has two dining areas. The first floor has a ramen bar which is perfect for those who plan to enjoy a ramen alone. With a little window for peeking inside the kitchen, we opted to eat there for the ramen joint experience. We also got to stare at the wallpaper filled with beautiful black & white photos taken by the owner while waiting for our food.
Those in groups are best to head to the second floor. Plus, there are comfortable booth tables great for nuclear families. Butamaru plays Japanese songs in the background to add to the mood. We appreciate it along with its location being on the quiet side of Alabang because we felt like we were transported outside of the Philippines.
We started off our meal with some GYOZA, PHP 140 (or USD 2.8). It is a popular dish eaten alongside ramen as a side dish. The owner of Butamaru was delighted to tell us that they make their gyozas fresh every day. The combination of the pillowy softness from being steamed, the deliciously crisp underside, and the lovely filling make for a good tasting gyoza. Best to eat it in one bite so as not to lose the meat juices. In addition, you may dip it in a 1:1 ratio of mixed soy sauce and rice vinegar. What we usually do is quickly pour it together in the served dipping sauce bowl.
Moving on, we also got to try out their TORITEN, PHP 210 (or USD 4.23). This may look like a chicken karaage, at first glance, for some but it’s actually not. It’s actually a Tempura style chicken which is famous in the Oita prefecture, Japan. We honestly don’t know how an original Toriten is supposed to be. What we know for sure is that this has a light and crispy coating yet the meat remains tender.
As mentioned, Butamaru offers a variation of ramen inspired by the Hakata-style ramen. We state variation since the owner adjusted the ramen to the Filipino’s palate. First, the noodles are bigger and softer which Me-An loved. I, on the other hand, prefer the ultra-thin, straight, firm noodles but it didn’t bother me too much.
Another difference is that their 16-hour tonkotsu (boiled bone pork) broth is light which lets one taste the flavor of a satisfying bowl of ramen. Their ramen also don’t come with SOFT-BOILED EGG so you’ll just have to note that you have to pay an additional PHP 50 (or USD 1) for it.
By the way, if you have ramen leftovers, you won’t be able to bring it home. The good news is, while other ramen restaurants don’t allow take outs, Butamaru offers such. So you can enjoy their ramen also in the comfort of your home. What they do is to put the broth and the noodles in separate containers for the noodles not to turn mushy. However, it is highly encouraged for their ramens to be eaten in the restaurant.
For their ramen, we were able to try out two of their ramens with Me-An trying out their SHOYU RAMEN, PHP 340 (or USD 6.84) with soft-boiled egg plus PHP 50 (or USD 1). With the tonkotsu broth, shoyu (or soy sauce) is supposedly used as the seasoning. We couldn’t detect it. What we tasted was a hint of smoky, garlicky flavor from the burnt garlic oil drizzled on top of it.
The combination of those with the quality ingredients: the noodles, fall apart tender Chashu pork, wood ear mushrooms, green onion, and roasted sesame seeds created a ramen bowl that Me-An could finish. She normally has leftovers particularly the pork but Butamaru’s ramen is an exception.
I, on the other hand, tasted their bestseller, the CURRY TANTANMEN, PHP 370 (or USD 7.45) with soft-boiled egg plus PHP 50 (or USD 1). Using the same tonkotsu broth, this variation has the signature spicy and nutty flavor of the Chinese dandanmian or dan dan noodles. However, Butamaru did was to put a unique twist to it by adding Japanese curry that has a milder flavor than the Indian counterpart. It is served with minced pork, wood ear mushrooms, green onion, roasted sesame seeds, and Chinese cabbage.
One sip of the spicy and thick curry broth and I know that I am in for a ramen that’s bound for an extra loud slurp. That is how good it is! I would have to say that this is the best Curry Tan Tan Mien that I’ve had in the Philippines! I’m craving for it just thinking again of BUTAMARU!
I asked the owner if I could try their BLACK SESAME ICE CREAM, PHP 100 (or USD 2 ). According to the owner, there is a supplier who supplies him the ice cream, but the flavor is actually custom made just for him. Trying it out, the flavor of the black sesame was mild, but what actually got me sold is how creamy it is. I was eating it very fast that I even forgot to share it with Me-An.
BONUS: Lunch Set
On top of ala carté meals, they also offer reasonable lunch meals on weekdays. There are three lunch sets to choose from which costs PHP 360 (or 7.24 USD) the one we were served with comes with was their SET A which has the following:
- Ramen of choice
The owner offered us their Shio ramen since it is his personal favorite. I could see why. It’s a pretty straightforward ramen and where one can just focus on the flavors. I actually didn’t eat this at the restaurant since we were already full. We had it wrapped and I only got to eat it two days after. Despite it, it still tasted delicious. Something I don’t get to say every day.
- 3 pieces of gyoza
Their gyoza was deep fried to perfection. Plus, we love that they included shredded cabbage topped with Japanese mayonnaise on the side.
Me-An took it home and enjoyed it as it was neither greasy nor salty. She mentioned that, with the ingredients of it, it can be a meal in itself.
- Dessert of the day
The desserts included changes every day. For the set served to us, it came with fresh watermelon slices.
Butamaru’s other sets are SET B which has the following:
- 5 pieces of gyoza
- Dessert of the day
And SET C which has the following:
- 1 pc. pork bun
- Dessert of the day
Spending Less on Dining
Overall, we found Butamaru’s prices to be reasonable for the quality of its food. Utilizing the Big Dish mobile application to dine there makes it even MORE reasonable. One can get from 10% to 50% discount that’s perfect for those who want to save money but doesn’t want to avoid dining out.
Also, my other thoughts on Butamaru is that although the Japanese restaurant scene is pretty much saturated by now, the owner still found a way to keep its selection unique by offering some changes to the dishes to make it even better. We’ll definitely be back for their ramen plus their very filling lunch sets.
UPDATE: We forgot to mention in this blog post. Butamaru is set to have a branch in Ortigas so north peeps won’t have to travel further to be able to try their food offerings.
[UPDATE] as of August 17
Butamaru now offers Izakaya dishes which small inexpensive snacks served to accompany alcoholic drinks in an Izakaya type of Japanese bar. So we weren’t able to try this as it didn’t reach out table but this is pretty interesting. It is ball shaped gyoza covered in breaded and deep fried like a Katsu. Afterwards, it is served in a Takoyaki style as it is topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise dried bonito shavings, and green laver.
Another new offering of Butamaru is this. It is a soupless ramen with bamboo shoots, egg yolk, pork, leeks, and their special oil.
Upon mixing it, one would be reminded of Chinese’s Zha Jiang Mian but the taste is completely different, of course. The ramen bathes in a heavy savory flavor that made us forget about wanting to slurp a broth. You must try this unique ramen noodles.