When Tsuta first opened its doors in Manila, everyone and their mothers were lining up to get a taste of it because of its Michelin-starred status. But I’m always cautious about hype, so I waited for the first wave of curious souls to try Tsuta and give feedback about the place. As expected, the reviews were mixed. Despite that, I’ve always been curious about what my own thoughts would be.
Even though the brand is attached to Michelin stars, I wasn’t expecting this one to be an exact replica of the Japanese restaurant that captured those stars. Experience has taught me that franchises are very very rarely exactly the same as the original, and so my expectations were realistic. I wasn’t expecting to get blown away, but I did expect to have a good time. At the very least, I expected some good quality ramen.
I’m really glad I don’t have this urge to be one of the first to try some new place, because when my brother and I dropped by Tsuta on a Saturday afternoon for a late lunch, there were no lines in sight. In fact, there were only a handful of people inside the restaurant. I don’t know if it was the late hour, but I was just happy that I get to have my ramen in peace.
The restaurant isn’t too small or too big, I think. It can easily seat 40 people but any more would already be too crowded. I like the warm feeling the interior gives. The wooden accents give both a modern and traditional ambiance to the restaurant. I also really like the fact that you can have a peek while they make their noodles in-house. The noodles at Tsuta are literally as fresh as it gets!
We sat at the bar area, in full view of all the action that goes into the preparation of the ramen. This is the sort of stuff I like to see, so needless to say this was a good start to my Tsuta Manila experience.
Their menu is pretty straightforward. They call their noodle bowls soba instead of ramen. From what I learned, none of their noodle bowls use tonkotsu broth and instead use stock boiled from kombu, fish, and chicken. I suppose you can say it’s healthier. It’s also rather pricey, probably because their whole concept revolves around adding truffle oil or other mushroom oils to their broth.
Their most basic soba bowl costs Php 390, but it comes with just one slice of char siu apart from the basic toppings. You pay extra for add-ons, but because I just do not eat ramen without egg, I caved and got their Ajitama option. (Honestly, most ramen places in Japan do it this way. You pay extra for any add-ons aside from the single slice of char siu that comes with your basic ramen bowl.) Anyway, let’s get on with my thoughts!
Ajitama Miso Soba (Php 450)
I know that the specialty of Tsuta is their shoyu-based soba with black truffle, but I decided to go for their miso option since it’s my favorite broth base. The bowl looked incredible with all its toppings arranged neatly on top of the noodles. How can your mouth not water at the parade of colors? You get red onions, corn, bean sprouts, watercress, some hot sauce, and the flavored egg.
Before anything else, I took a sip of the broth. It certainly isn’t like any of the miso ramen versions I’ve tried before. It probably has to do with the porcini mushroom oil added in. It has strong flavor that isn’t overwhelming, with an undercurrent of umami and a touch of saltiness. Once you mix the hot sauce into the broth it also becomes spicy. I like spicy.
I really like the quality of the fresh whole grain noodles they use here at Tsuta. Normally I order my ramen noodles extra hard because I enjoy that bite, and these thin soba noodles had a nice bite thanks to the special combination of whole wheat and whole grain flours they use to make it. It holds the flavors of the broth in its strands very nicely. The chashu was just normal for me though.
But the star of this dish was actually the aji tamago. HANDS DOWN, the most sublime soft-boiled egg I have ever eaten. I would come back to Tsuta just for this egg! I don’t know if I just got lucky or what, but everything about it was PERFECTION.
The egg whites had a slightly salty flavor that brought out the sweetness of the bright runny yolk even more. Di pa din ako maka-get over haha! Apparently they carefully select their eggs from a local free-range farm, and all I can say is GOOD JOB to the farm, whichever it is!
Sang La Ajitama Ramen (Php 450)
This was my brother’s choice. I had a sip of the broth and liked it because it was spicy, with a delightful peanuty undertone. The crispy pork bits remind me a bit of sisig.
This one was definitely more flavorful than my miso soba, but Jason tells me it becomes quite salty as you get to the bottom of the bowl. He couldn’t bring himself to drink the broth after he finished off his ramen and all the bits of pork. But he also agreed that the egg was fantastic. 😀
Pan-fried Gyoza (Php 220)
When you order gyoza, you have the option to have it steamed or pan-fried. Because we’re suckers for the crunchy bottoms, we of course ordered pan-fried. We were almost done with our soba bowls by the time this came out. I’m not sure why it took so long.
Good thing it was a pretty tasty gyoza. It has a juicy filling that actually pops in your mouth. I like that the wrapper was not too thin or too thick. It’s good with soy sauce, but eating it with the chili brings it to a whole other level. I enjoyed this.
Reading through the reviews of people who have eaten here, I could understand where the negative comments were coming from. Beyond sounding snobbish, I believe they were simply anticipating to be brought to the heavens where they can touch Michelin stars, eating here at Tsuta. And so when it didn’t happen, it was wholly disappointing. This is what hype does. It’s really a double-edged sword.
Their Ajitama Miso Soba has a long way to go to dethrone my favorite Miso Ramen from Sapporo, but it wasn’t bad. It’s so expensive you’ll find yourself polishing it off anyway.
While I don’t think this place will be my go-to ramen spot from here on out, I have a bit of curiosity over their Shoyu and Shio bowls. The price is definitely up there compared to other ramen chains in Manila that serve good ramen too so to me that’s a deterrent as well. It’s not a place I’d go running over when I’m craving for a bowl, especially since the hype it created does not meet the actual experience. But so far I can say this place serves the best aji tamago. That influenced my score a lot because I love ramen eggs. In any case, when you’re in the mood for a noodle bowl that doesn’t quite taste like your traditional ramen, then I think you should give Tsuta a try at least once. If you live far from BGC, I can’t say it’s super worth the trip.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way and I received no compensation for writing this review. All opinions stated above are my own.