I was invited to Ramo Ramen’s Soho back in September. I brought my friend Ray Roberts who is a talented filmmaker and photographer to experience Ramo’s new location and menu. I didn’t want to sit on my own and eat by myself plus I needed to catch up with Ray as I haven’t seen him in a while.
It doesn’t normally take this long for me to write a review but since the lockdown finished and everything opened up, life got so busy all of a sudden! I guess we are all back in business and ready to hustle hard again.
If you haven’t heard of Ramo Ramen, they are a Filipino-Infused Japanese Ramen House. Their first restaurant is in Kentish Town and recently opened their Soho branch. The owners & founders are Omar Shah and Florence Mae Maglanoc who are restauranteurs that founded the Maginhawa Group and started chains of successful restaurants in London including the first Filipino Ice Cream Parlor in UK, Mamasons. Fun Fact: the word Ramo is backwards of Omar! Did you notice that before? Ramo Ramen is also Halal, so there’s something for everyone.
The service – the staff was friendly, pleasant and attentive. It’s also good that they know the dishes on the menu and gave us great suggestions and their personal favourites. One of them told us that they love to order the scallops and pandesal garlic together. He used the pandesal to dip and scoop the juices from scallops with bagoong butter.
We had the following dishes:
Pandesal Garlic Bread
Pinoy Caesar Salad
Roasted Scallops with Bagoong Butter
Wagyu Bistek Donburi
Lobster and Crab Ginataan
The food – I truly enjoyed the food at Ramo Ramen (Camden branch) even before the Soho branch opened. Now, with the Soho branch, I’m even more excited because they have a menu with new dishes and they have embraced a key flavour in Filipino cuisine. They have added ‘Bagoong’ as an ingredient on some of their dishes. Which I applaud them for because not only because ‘bagoong’ or fermented fish or shrimp is one of Filipino cuisine’s flavour profiles, it is also widely used in many Filipino dishes or as a condiment. And condiments are a big part of a Filipino meal. I tried other Filipino fusion dishes from other restaurants before and most of the time they miss out the Filipino flavours in the food. I think that is such an important part, it’s all good and well that it looks pretty but if it lacks Filipino flavours it’s a fail in my book. Ramo Ramen is one of the few Filipino fusion restaurants that works! The Japanese Ramen concept with Filipino flavours really go together.
All the food we ordered were tasty and good but my highlights were the Pandesal Garlic Bread, Roasted Scallops with Bagoong Butter and Wagyu Bistek Donburi. If you’re going to order Scallops make sure you get the Pandesal Garlic Bread too because you need the bread to scoop that delicious bagoong butter & scallop juices! I’m not going to be very picky on the Pandesal, it’s not the same as how I remember it whenever I have it in the Philippines BUT their version is bouncy and soft which I love too. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the bagoong butter is a revelation! I’m so unapologetically Filipino that I somehow gravitated towards the bagoong hahaha!
Their Wagyu Bistek Donburi was also delicious, well presented and there were definitely plenty of thoughts that went into the dish. Bottom line is it tasted like Bistek and you can’t go wrong with that. I’m going to be honest, I can’t comment much on the Wagyu as I’m new to it but I thought it was cooked well. If you don’t know what Bistek is, it’s basically Beef steak in Filipino style. The beef is marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, (sometimes sugar) and black pepper. The steak is cooked first with some onions, then put aside and the sauce is reduced. To finish the dish off, all the components are put together to simmer and when ready it’s served with some jasmine rice.
The other dishes we tried were flavoursome, the Pinoy Caesar Salad was a lovely surprise to see, in the summer I posted a recipe for Bagoong Caesar Salad, so it’s great to see others experimenting with flavours in this way too! Ramo’s version is also tasty, the lettuce was fresh and it’s got a lovely bagoong sauce but I would like a little bit more bagoong in there. Octopus Kinilaw (Kinilaw is similar to Ceviche) was good, the Octopus was cooked well, not over cooked or ruberry and it’s got the right amount for a small dish. However, for me, it needed some more citrus in the dish and possibly some chillies too. I understand that I need to cater to a wider audience and I think there is a way to do that without compromising on the flavours. I mentioned this to them on the day I visited and they gracefully accepted my feedback.
I’m in between places with the Lobster and Crab Ginataan though as I really enjoyed the actual lobster meat, it was already off the shell but it’s served with the shell so it’s easy for the diners to pick the meat without being messy. I thought that was really thoughtful and considerate of them. I on the other hand did not realise this; I picked up my lobster to show on camera and then the meat fell off, making a splash which was so embarrassing! Ray laughed and said “I hope you got that on camera!” HAHA! So I guess the lobster on it’s own is a highlight for me too! When it came to broth, it didn’t really hit the “ginataan spot” for me, don’t get me wrong, it was very tasty and creamy and it can easily be my favourite if it wasn’t labelled as Ginataan. However as a ginataan it lacked the coconut taste to me? So to give you some background the word “gata” refers to the milk of coconut and the word “ginataan” means dishes cooked with coconut milk. I know it’s a fusion restaurant, this is not a criticism, it’s a feedback and Omar & Mae can take it on board or they can continue with what they have already. I hate to be a stickler for the “authentic” point of view but my premise has always been that it’s gotta taste Filipino.
The Drinks – we ordered Red Horse beer while waiting for our food to arrive. There are not many places who serve red horse beer in London, it’s great that we can get hold of them in Soho. We ordered another drink and we asked the waiter Marc to surprise us, he gave us Guava Margarita which was so nice! They have a wide range of cocktails, some beers and sake plus some soft drinks.
The Verdict – Ramo Ramen is a one of a kind restaurant and a gem in London. Maginhawa group has made a real wave, they’ve given a platform for Filipino food to be recognised in London. They have inspired their community to be better, to be proud of their cuisine and to continue cooking Filipino food. Ramo Ramen is a fusion done well, because the restaurant has predominantly Filipino flavours with a Japanese concept it worked really well. The food is delicious, it shows that it was well thought through, the presentation is on point and the restaurant decor has minimal vibes but with a Filipino home feel with a touch of Japanese influence. Omar and Mae have outdone themselves. I’m so proud of them! If you haven’t visited Ramo Ramen before this is your sign to go and check them out.
Thank you Omar, Florence Mae and Team for looking after me and Ray when we came to visit. I will still visit even if you don’t invite me!! LOL!