Ooma Japanese Rice Bar is currently one of the most popular places in the Metro for Japanese rice rolls and Japanese comfort food-style dishes. To me, that means the best way to enter this place is when you’ve readied your tastebuds and forgotten your diet. I was all set for a gastronomic adventure of bright flavours and wonderful textures, so to say I had high expectations would be right on the money.
Ooma is a joint venture by Chef Bruce Ricketts and The Moment Group, both of whom have been consistently making waves in the food scene the past few years. This place has been riddled with lines since it opened, but it’s more tolerable now so we decided to try it out. Finally.
The name Ooma is a play on the Japanese word “uma” or “good”, and the interior is inspired by Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. I actually liked the ambiance as a normal diner, but as a blogger who wanted to take photos I had a hard time because the lighting was hard to manage. 😛
In any case, nothing was going to take away from my excitement of finally being here. I really loved the idea of having a little jar of shoyu on the table with a brush instead of the usual bottle with a spout. This is a nice way of reminding diners that you shouldn’t drown your maki in soy sauce because it is already flavourful on its own!
As a fan of Japanese food and sashimi/maki in general, I was so ready to get my food trip on at Ooma. That is until my bubble was popped.
I was actually quite upset when the first three things we ordered were met with apologies. (They didn’t even have their signature Uni Udon!) Having to travel all the way to eat a restaurant I want to try doesn’t really feel like a hassle to me, but to do so and be told what I wanted to eat was not available ALWAYS feels like a downer. This was especially true since there was no indication on the menu, nor was there any advice from the wait staff of the unavailable dishes beforehand.
I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I felt largely disappointed at this point, but I was determined to still find out what everyone was raving about when it comes to this place. Luckily there were lots of interesting rolls on the menu, and I was banking on these to redeem the experience.
Scallop & Tuna Aburi Maki (Php 295 for 6 pieces) 🌟
Torched scallop with fresh tuna, rolled in rice with cucumber and nori. Sesame seeds and nori crumbs coat the outside, while teriyaki sauce, spicy mayo, and kimchi aioli dip from the top.
What a difference a little blow-torching does! Flavourful seared scallop and tuna are drenched in a symphony of sauces that really just bring out so much flavour. There’s a bit of heat from the mayo and aioli, a bit of sweet-saltiness from the teriyaki, and let’s not forget the umami from the seafood. Oh so good!
Hamachi & Kani Aburi Maki (Php 335 for 6 pieces)
Torched hamachi features heavily along with sesame seeds, pickled carrots, fresh shallots, plus aioli and teriyaki sauce.
This one was equally delicious because of the hamachi, but for me the scallop & tuna aburi maki made a bigger impact. Maybe because I like spicy things more?
Salmon Tartare Aburi Maki (Php 295 for 6 pieces)
Fresh cut salmon flavoured with a sweet soy reduction, plus uni aioli teriyaki sauce, and topped with shiso.
As a fan of fresh salmon sashimi, I enjoyed this a lot. I’m more used to eating the spicy version of these types of makis, but a sweet-savoury twist was a refreshing change. The salmon itself was soft and fresh that it was already such a treat. Add a good drizzle of the flavourings and you’ve got a winner!
Salmon Belly Maki (Php 245 for 6 pieces) 🌟
Crispy salmon belly roll topped with aligue mayo, as well as red radish, scallion, and ginger garlic sauce.
This was a glorious, crispy little treat bursting with crunch and bright flavour. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming because of the ginger garlic sauce that serves as a flavour balancer. At the same time the sauce seems to help the salmon shine.
Tempura Soft Shell Crab Maki (Php 285) 🌟
Soft shell crab tempura inside a rice roll, served with a side “salad” of radish, cucumber, basil, and cherry tomatoes
It was kind of hard to take a photo of this as a whole thing from where we sat. The lighting was very bad. 😛 But the way it was plated reminded me a bit of a dragon or something similar. It looked very impressive at a glance, bringing forth a wave of anticipation.
It’s a good thing this met my expectations squarely! I’m a fan of soft shell crabs but this was one of my favourite versions I’ve had locally. Crisply coated soft crab inside a flavourful rice roll. I liked it with the add on veggies and the mayo, but it was also great just plain with a brush of soy sauce. Highly recommended!
Hanger Steak (Php 495) 🌟
Hanger steak cooked in sous-vide method, with white truffle oil and mushrooms, flavoured with herb aioli and Ponzu butter. Served atop a bed of sweet potato mash and crispy baby potatoes.
This was pretty amazing. The meat is melt-in-your-mouth-tender, making it a pleasure to eat. The addition of truffle oil to the naturally-flavourful hanger steak made it walk the border of being too rich, but thanks to the citrusy Ponzu butter, a slight tartness helps to subdue the flavour just so. You can still feel the decadence at the tip of your tongue though!
The texture of the meat is achieved by sous-vide method, wherein the meat is sealed in an airtight plastic bag and then placed in a temperature-controlled environment for long periods of time. This one took 6 hours, I believe. This makes for a tender, juicy, evenly-cooked hanger steak.
House Chahan (Php 99) 🌟
House special Japanese fried rice with mixed vegetables and egg.
I was pleasantly surprised by this chahan. I mean, usually you don’t really pay too much attention to the fried rice but this one really commands it. Every grain of rice is packed with flavour, to the point that you can eat just the chahan and feel satisfied already. But of course, eating it with the Hanger Steak is a must!
Tori Udon (Php 395)
Sous-vide chicken thigh atop udon noodles in black garlic cream. Served with seasonal veggies and Nori crumbs, plus an egg.
This was an intense dish. So intense that it was difficult to finish without having to drink a lot of water in between! That’s how my brother finished this anyway.
I had a bite of the noodles and even with just a few strands I already felt that the garlic cream was way too rich for my tastebuds. I wouldn’t have managed to eat a bowl on my own. Other than that, I really liked the texture of the udon as well as the chicken.
Chef Bruce Ricketts has quite the reputation for being a very creative chef, and I think that fact shines through with the menu he created here.
Ooma banks on their dishes that are packed with amazing flavour combinations, but without being overboard or gimmicky. The maki in particular were delightful to eat because of the play on textures, and flavours that tickle the tastebuds. In that sense at least, the place lives up to the hype.
I wasn’t too much of a fan of the udon however, since it was waaaay too rich for my liking. I have a feeling the Hanger Steak would’ve been the same if I had eaten a whole order on my own. The key is to find a good balance for the richer dishes by pairing them with rice.
To be entirely honest, I’d be perfectly happy coming back here just to have a maki party, because I really enjoyed every maki dish we ate. Granted I enjoyed some more than others, but overall I liked the maki selection a lot. Add to that the rather affordable pricetag, it’s no wonder Ooma have such a winning formula. It continues to be packed despite being around for a while now!
Maybe on my next visit I’ll get to try all the unavailable stuff.
Full disclosure: This post is not sponsored in any way and opinions are 100% mine alone.
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