10 Ronin

Apr 08, 2017

In my youth (I know, I know, that was ages ago), there was always one or two very popular hang-out place for young professionals or even students in an area, a place where one will be sure to find familiar faces, a place where one is familiar with the security guard and the service staff, perhaps even the owners. If you're heading home after slugging it out in sales and marketing or even corporate intramurals and would like to hang out in a familiar place where you would surely be welcome to share a table, that hang-out place is easily a second home. There is always one somewhere, and you'll be the lucky one if you can discover it and share it with friends and family. Offhand I can remember during my DJ days in my teens there were such places asTaboy 5 Litros, Los Indios Bravos and Gray November, all in the Ermita area - they all served affordable ice cold beer and great comfort food. While during my ABS-CBN days working for TV sales right before the declaration of Martial Law, there were two in the Bohol street area-Country Chef and NOW restaurant.

Decades ago, I had my share of these discoveries, but all of them have since folded up and given way to newer ones. Check out one of these.

10 Ronin is a new restaurant/hang out place that merits checking. If you're curious about the name, a "ronin" is a drifter or wanderer, he who is a samurai without a lord or master during the feudal period between 1185 and 1868 of Japan. And yes,10 Ronin is actually a Japanese restaurant in Montojo St. in Makati, but the young owners want to say that they have thoughtfully given it a Pinoy twist.

The young owners are all professionals: one is a medical doctor, two are architects, two are restaurateurs, three are human resource specialists and two are media practitioners. Actually, there are five owners, but since they count their spouses as owners too, they are the 10 Ronins. They are samurais without masters, Dr. Pau Arenas, an ER physician and one of the owners, explained, because they have no masters: all of them are equal masters sharing all the responsibilities of owning and operating a full restaurant.

They chose to adopt the Japanese cuisine because all of them have been to Japan and have been impressed not only with the food but with the culture as well, the polite service that they get whenever they find themselves in the country. And thus was 10 Ronin born.

The architects, Mr. and Mrs. Vince Juanta initiated the concept and with seasoned restaurateurs Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Pidlaoan on board, it was a go for this group of ten. It is still a soft opening for the restaurant because they are still perfecting their kitchen systems and their menu, but they are already open to the public, albeit on a shortened operating time that includes only dinner up to midnight for now, but they're open 7 days a week. That's the perfect time for hanging out actually.

Chef Mark Custodio , one of the owners, graciously brought out a good spread for the B&L roving crew to sample. These are the lucky ones who always get to check out a new discovery's best sellers-perks of the job.

First on the list is their Gyudon which Japanese food lovers will surely be familiar with. This one features tender sukiyaki -cut US beef belly braised in tapa sauce. That's what they mean by the Pinoy twist. Indeed, which Pinoy can resist tender and delectable tapa, served the Japanese way?

And speaking of Pinoy twist, they have transformed the ubiquitous sisig which can be found in any popular hang-out place into a taco. The Ronin Sisig Tacos feature Nori wrappers and the sisig is garnished with salsa, onion leeks and chilli threads.

Most of us are familiar with Agedashi in the Japanese menu, but Chef Mark came up with his own version of it-- the Pinoy twist is his take on the popular street food we know as tokwa't baboy. The tofu and pig's ears are deep-friend for that crunch and served in a light vinegar/onion sauce.

And then they have their own Yakitori series that also feature popular Pinoy street food. They have the Yakitori Isaw which, as everyone knows, is chicken intestine, and they have the Pig's ears. These are served crunchy as well but with a yakitori sauce. There is another one in the Yakitori series that is actually alien to me but may be familiar to you. Chef Martin says this is the Yakitori Dugo, a common street food loved by many but which I am unfamiliar with. Chef Martin says it goes by the popular name of Beta Max, but it still does not ring a bell. Anyway, as the name implies, it is actually pig's blood, coagulated and solid and served with a delectable yakitori sauce. And for their premium Yakitori item, they have wagyu beef cubes lightly seasoned with salt and pepper just to bring out the taste of the premium beef, Chef Martin said. Then the dish is bathed in yakitori sauce. I think I know which one to order when I come visiting.

And what menu will be complete without Fried Chicken on it? The Chef had a stroke of genius with this item: the Ronin UFC Fried Chicken. The chicken is marinated in the all-too-Pinoy UFC banana ketchup before it is deep friend and then served with salted egg sauce, topped with Nori powder and bonito flakes. This time, the Filipino food comes out with a Japanese twist!

10 Ronin has not yet come out with a full menu, but they couldn't call themselves a Japanese restaurant without having ramen in the menu. The Pinoy twist? Among their best- selling ramen is the Tinola Ramen featuring a ginger-based broth which reeks of the comforting aroma and flavour of the Pinoy tinola and served with Japanese noodles. The Chef said that the chicken is miso-rubbed for that Japanese twist, but the broth is rich and filling, and very delectable as well.

By the time you drop in on 10 Ronin, they may have added a few more interesting items in their menu, but the above should perk your interest and tickle your imagination enough to try them out on your next hang-out with friends in the Makati area. Check them out at 4357 Montojo St., Brgy. Sta. Cruz in Makati City, very near Circuit.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments & inquiries (email) sunshine.television@yahoo.com


About the Author

Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.

At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network's AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart's middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN's DZYL and DZQL.

From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.

In the early 70's, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).

In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports' living legend Pocholo Ramirez.

After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN's Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable's Channel 13.

The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport's hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.

In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry's latest technological developments.

In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star's business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.

Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.

Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)