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.
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