If you like Japanese food and are sick of all the fast food chains that leave you dizzy from all the MSG in the food, going to Little Tokyo is guaranteed to give you your fill of authentic Japanese cuisine. Some of the places come with a hefty price tag, but I was happy to see that there are still some places that serve the good stuff, at a good price.
"It's inside a grocery!"
When D's mom said that Hoka Hoka was inside a Japanese grocery, I thought, "Wow! It can't get any more 'hole-in-the-wall' than that!"
Upon entering, you are greeted by the sight of a restaurant within a restaurant (Can you say metafiction?) and a grocery on the right. Yes, there are two restaurants. One is Hoka Hoka Bento Ramen Shop, and the other part with the black lacquered chairs is another restaurant altogether (I failed to get its name, can anyone tell me what it is?). The good thing is that the place is always filled with Japanese nationals, so you can be sure that it's legit.
Just like an authentic Japanese restaurant, the diners have a selection of manga (comics) and Japanese newspapers to go through while waiting for their food, but I prefered to check out the grocery while waiting.
D's sister C ordered the Gyuyakiniku Teishoku (P207) because she liked the way the words sounded spoken aloud. Sometimes it helps to have a menu that doesn't have direct translations - you'll end up surprising yourself in the process. It turns out that her order was a huge meal on its own - sauteed beef with Japanese white spaghetti (a culturalized iteration of Carbonara, maybe?), shredded cabbage, rice, soup, steamed cabbage and a bowl of beef, potatoes and mushroom appetizers! Teishoku does mean "set meal," after all.
As you can probably tell by now, D loves his ramen. So it was no surprise to me that he went for the shoyu-based Chashumen (P196). Here we have your typical soy sauce-based ramen with four pieces of chashu floating leisurely on top. The servings were predictably large, and D couldn't even finish his order! It wasn't a game-changing bowl of ramen, though. I think you can get more bang for your buck ordering other items on the menu.
When in doubt, order lots of Gyoza (P84). There's something comforting about dipping these pan-fried pork dumplings into a bowl of soy sauce and Japanese vinegar, with a dash of chili oil glimmering on the surface. The dumplings were served to us fresh and hot, and each individual piece is stuffed with lots of pork and green onions, and we all agreed that these were fluffy little dumplings were delicious, and worth ordering thrice.
D's mom and her friend ordered a very large bowl of Miso Ramen (P196) to share. Out of all of the ramen dishes we ordered, I think this one was the best. First of all, it was in a bigger bowl than the other kinds, chock-full of vegetables and pork bits. I think that it tasted a little too much like miso paste, and the pork broth hadn't been simmering long enough for it to capture the flavor completely, though. On the flipside, this order came pretty quickly!
The Shakeshioyaki Teishoku (P218) is quite literally, a mouthful. D's mom's friend had this set meal, which came with a bowl of immaculate-looking steamed tofu topped with freshly cut leeks and wispy bonito flakes. I think that Hoka Hoka does grilled food really well, as the salmon fillet was fresh and juicy, grilled to perfection. Naturally, this dish was sulit, and was very much worth it.
Oh, Tonkotsu Ramen (P185). What high hopes I had for you! After hearing from so many sources that the original pork bone broth is supposed to be mind-blowing, I'm afraid you let me down pretty hard. First of all, these are the things that Tonkotsu ramen is supposed to have:
- A milky white broth (check.)
- A gelatinous consistency from the dissolved pork bones and ligaments (none,)
- A creamy consistency from the pork fat (none,).
What I was left with was a murky mami clone I could have easily gotten at an open 24 hours Chinese restaurant instead. So much for that. Suffice it to say that I don't recommend it at all. I guess I'll have to shell out more money for a more authentic tasting Tonkotsu ramen.
If you happen to be in the Makati Cinema Square area and are looking for good, cheap Japanese food, then Hoka Hoka is someplace you should definitely go. Barring the Tonkotsu ramen, the gyoza, other kinds of ramen as well as the set meals are definitely worth the trip. And if you get bored, you can cross the street and explore Makati Cinema Square afterward!
Hoka Hoka is located at 2277 Fernando Street cor. Chino Roces, Makati.
It is beside Fuji Spa, which is beside Seryna, and right across Makati Cinema Square.
02 893 2163