Nestled along Jupiter street is a restaurant that stands rather unassumingly– not a hint of the secret world hidden within its walls seeps through its doors.
I have been hearing plenty of things about Mitsuyado Sei-Men from both bloggers and foodie friends, but since I don’t frequent this area much, I haven’t had the chance to try it until now. If you would remember, I have written about the recent ramen craze to hit the streets of Manila, and among the names I’ve encountered, this has been one of the most raved about. And in a way, I can understand why. The moment I entered the restaurant, I was hit with an unmistakable wave of wonder and familiarity.
Even though I’ve seen pictures of what the restaurant looks like inside, nothing beats actually standing there in person to see how the restaurant has managed to capture a tiny piece of Japan within its walls.
I had been to Japan once for a day, in the town of Fukuoka which was a rather tame glimpse of the magic and oddities I knew Japan held. Japan is one of my dream countries to explore and growing up I developed a love for its anime (which I can draw well!), its extremely rich culture (I want to dress up in a kimono), and especially its food (one of my absolute favourite cuisines). As I walked the streets of Fukuoka, I held on to my camera and snapped as many pictures as I can while just allowing myself to be there, taking in my first visit to this wondrous country. I took some of my most favourite travel photos (below) in this little town.
In a way, visiting Fukuoka was like a cruel twist of fate– giving me that glimpse of something I’ve been hungering for but quickly pulling it away from sight. As we pulled away from that small piece of Japan, I felt a pang of longing instantly. I spent hours near the shores of Fukuoka, but it was more than enough to whet my appetite. And now here, gaping at the recreation this restaurant has attempted, I can only do so much to contain the mix of enthusiasm and nostalgia.
The tables are wooden with matching benches that have that slightly worn look. My favourite touches are the vintage posters and Japanese paintings that adorn the walls.
There are tables designed as noodle carts that provide a more authentic Japanese street-life experience. Check out that cat on the roof poised for a jump! I loved the bold red colour used for the signages. So eye-catching!
Even the walls have that chipped and washed cement feel; rusty metal props adding just the touch of character.
With the slew of ramen houses popping up like daisies all over the metro, this restaurant manages to stay unique in people’s minds thanks to its ambiance. Of all the ramen places I’ve gone to, I would say this is the restaurant where I saw the most Japanese diners. Clearly they’ve got the feel down pat.
The waitresses are quick on their feet and are there the moment we beckoned them. Surveying the menu, I saw that the tsukemen is their most heavily featured dished.
What makes the noodles in this restaurant unique is that instead of serving it in a bowl, they deconstruct it into separate parts: the noodles in one plate, the broth in another bowl, and you have the option to add cha shiu or other noodles toppings of choice. Of course, this restaurant also serves the traditional ramen if that’s what is preferred.
But first, we needed to have a little round of appetizer. My Dad picked some fresh salted Edameme as well as their famous gyoza to try. The Edameme had a little too much salt, but you can pat it down before putting it in your mouth. The gyoza was delicious though!
Because I liked how novel the idea of dipping noodles is (I happen to love Japanese cold soba which is also dipped in a soy sauce mixture) I went with a Tsukemen without hesitation. I was in the mood for something a little spicy as usual and so I went with the Karashi Tsukemen with thick cold noodles cooked al dente. These noodles are freshly made in the very kitchen of this restaurant, and you can feel it the moment you put it in your mouth. The noodles were so fat, heavy, and filling that I could not finish the whole dish even though I ordered the smallest size!
It’s not clear to see from the photos but the broth is actually chock full of meat and veggies to eat with the noodles. For me the broth was a little too spicy and a bit more oily than usual, but I found myself enjoying my noodles because of the way the broth sticks to each strand, turning this into a lip-smacking dish. However I find I did not like it as much as Hokkaido Santouka’s spicy Kara Miso ramen.
Two of my brothers each ordered their own tsukemen. The Sichuan Tantan Tsukemen does not pack as much fire as the Karashi I ordered, but it’s got a bold flavour with just the right amount of spiciness, according to my brother. I’d probably order that next time I’m in the mood for tsukemen. Everyone just loved how the soup managed to cling to the noodles, flavouring it well.
Meanwhile, the Aji-Tama Tsukemen has a salty broth with the soft-boiled egg as the highlight of the soup. My brother seems to think it’s a little saltier than other Aji-Tama Ramens we’ve tried.
My Mother ordered the Hakata Ramen because she was in the mood for something a little more traditional. According to her, her favourite is still Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen’s Aji-Tama Ramen, as she found this also a little too salty and oily for her taste.
My Dad and my other brother decided to go with the Tsukemen everyone’s talking about, the Cheese Sauce Tsukemen. Thanks to my general aversion to cheese, this dish wasn’t even on my mind, though I was glad they ordered it so I can at least talk about it here. They didn’t go with the double cheese version (where you have grated cheese on top of the noodles PLUS the cheese sauce… I shudder just thinking about it), because they didn’t want too much of the salty-savouriness to overwhelm their meal.
You can pour as much or as little cheese as you wish into your noodles before dipping it into the broth.
If you’re a little sensitive to saltiness then I suggest you not pour the whole cup of cheese sauce into the noodles. Too much will make it easy for your tastebuds to grow tired of the cheese flavour. Mix your noodles and cheese sauce together before dipping. The general consensus is that the cheese sauce tastes too much like your typical store-brought cheese spread. My Dad who actually likes these cheese spreads says that after a while the overwhelming flavour of cheese sours the tastebuds. Anyway, just proceed with caution with that sauce.
After that major barrage of rich flavours, we decided to end the meal with something a little more familiar. I ran over next door to Yamato Bakery (there’s a door beside the “barbershop”), which is also owned by the same company that manages Mitsuyado Sei-Men and UCC Vienna Cafe.
Even though their pastries are a little expensive, you can see that they don’t scrimp on the ingredients especially with the fruit toppings and nut toppings. It was nighttime already when we came to eat so the selection of the breads on display was already limited to the last of the day. Luckily they had a batch of freshly baked Maple Croissants which we bought and took home for breakfast the next day. They were really good!
I loved their selection of matcha-filled and -based pastries. It’s something I’ve been keen on making in my own kitchen, but so far I have not found great success in terms of getting the matcha flavour to really liven up the pastry!
I brought back some Strawberry Shortcake and Matcha-Filled Cream Puffs for dessert. They looked ALMOST too good to eat. Almost. 🙂
All in all we had a good time here in Mitsuyado Sei-Men. The interior and ambiance of the restaurant in itself was pretty impressive already. I just wish I was as impressed with the food. It just did not blow me away in the manner I expected it too. (Maybe next time I’ll try some of the dry, lighter “noodle salads” they have on the menu.) Yet I would definitely come back even if only for another round of wistful daydreams about my short period in the streets of Fukuoka, preferably with another slice of strawberry shortcake in tow.
Mitsuyado Sei-Men: The House of Tsukemen
22 Jupiter Street, Brgy. Bel Air, Makati City, Philippines.
telephone: +632 511-1390
11.00am to 12.00am daily