G/F The Podium, 18 ADB Avenue, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City
Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Sunday
(SPOT.ph) Much like the Japanese, we Filipinos like to unwind with some good food and drinks after a long hard day’s work. In fact, we’ve become pretty familiar with their izakaya culture wherein we casually chill out at a bar for some after-work drinks. One of the newest hangout spots in town is Nagi Izakaya, and yup, it’s from the same group that brought us Ramen Nagi.
Also read: 10 Best Japanese Food Spots on GrabFood + Foodpanda
Ramen Nagi’s new spinoff Japanese restaurant is bound to be your go-to whenever the umami hankerings hit:
The world-famous ramen franchise may have originated in Tokyo, but this particular izakaya is a local original concept that opened just last May. You can’t miss it since it’s strategically located at the main driveway of The Podium—with glass floor-to-ceiling windows that allows you to see through the whole establishment even from afar. You’ll see its cement walls, wooden furnishings, a steel staircase—simple industrial interiors that bring together the elements of wood, glass, and leather to create a classic minimalist look. It’s quite spacious since it can accommodate around 70 to 80 diners from its 9-seater bar area to its mezzanine, as well as its outdoor dining space.
“All of our menu options start from otsumami [which] means small plates,” shares Isabella Canlas, Marketing Officer for Ramen Nagi & Nagi Izakaya. Think Spanish tapas bar, but a Japanese version of it, and that’s what this place is all about. Its extensive menu features traditional Japanese fare like yakitori, tempura, maki, donburi, and of course, ramen, which you can enjoy with a glass of highball or two. “Our bar menu for our signature cocktails is in collaboration with LIT Manila and we combine it with our house specialties." The bases of their drinks, she explains, are all Japanese spirits—and everything here is meant to be enjoyed with food. "We can recommend pairings.”
Maybe you’ll come here for the ramen, but you’ll most likely end up ordering more than what you came for. Of course the OG Butao King by Ramen Nagi is ever present on the menu, but we highly suggest that you pick from the any of the premium offerings that are only available here. Whether you start your meal or end your drinking session with ramen, we won’t judge!
You'll be pleasantly surprised with the Premium Red Chashu King (P650) that looks as if it could reach the top of the Scoville Scale thanks to the broth’s intense red hue. But looks can be deceiving as its spice level is quite tolerable—unless you intentionally bite into the whole Szechuan peppers. It’s perfect for the rainy season since the hot tonkotsu broth warms you up in an instant, and the thick slab of flame-seared rolled braised belly would make you want to hibernate after. You’ll love the contrast of the tender grilled pork with the creamy broth that’s topped with spicy leeks, takana (pickled mustard leaf), minced pork, and red sauce.
One standout dish in particular is the Black Tsukemen King (P650). For those who haven’t encountered tsukemen yet, it’s like deconstructed ramen since its ingredients are served separately. This, however, is not your ordinary tsukemen. It has cold, thick black noodles that get their striking color from squid ink. In a separate bowl is a rich and smoky fish-flavored broth where you can dip the noodles before slurping. From there you can just use your chopsticks to nibble on tamago (ramen egg), onion leeks, soy pork belly and nori (seaweed), and let it all mingle in your mouth.
In case you’re in the mood for rice, you can’t go wrong with any of their donburi. Their Pork Katsudon (P500) is a notch above the rest since it’s made with kurobuta pork that’s breaded and fried to a crisp. Kurobuta, which translates to “black pig”, is akin to the Wagyu of pork and it’s known for its high degree of marbling that makes it exceptionally tender. The pork here is cooked with their homemade special sauce that seeps through the fluffy rice; true enough, it’s so tender that you don’t need a knife to slice through it. The addition of scrambled egg, onion and leeks give it more flavor—and what’s more, it’s served with miso soup on the side. It’s a complete meal in itself.
Another must-try rice meal is Hamburg Curry (P500) where the star of the show is a big piece of juicy, flame-grilled Bolzico beef burger patty. It’s balanced on top of white rice that’s then topped with scrambled egg, garnished with green onions, and doused with homemade Japanese curry sauce. The beef is tasty on its own especially since that grilled flavor shines through, but it’s the thick, umami-rich curry that gives it oomph. Mind you, it’s less spicy and sweeter than the hot Indian-style curry, so it’s definitely more palatable—even kids would enjoy this meal.
You’ll find other classics that are good for sharing here like the Ebi Tempura Maki (P420) that’s like a work of art on a plate. This sushi roll is wrapped in nori that’s then fried and topped with their seared aburi sauce, seasonal fruits, and teriyaki glaze. Inside the roll are chunks of prawn and cucumber—and at the ends you'll find fried prawn tails that make for a pretty plate, especially with the bursts of color from the fruit garnish. The mild prawn flavor pairs perfectly with the sweetness of papaya, cherry, or whatever featured fruit there is. For non-raw food fans, this one’s for you.
If fish is more your thing, then try the Aburi Salmon Maki (P450). Inside this rolled sushi rice are kani sticks, mango, and cucumber, but it’s the freshly sliced salmon and flame-seared aburi sauce that make it extra special. It’s also drizzled with teriyaki sauce to breathe additional umami the creamy mix of salmon and mayo.
While there, pair your dish with your choice of libation. Hey, it’s an izakaya, after all! Nagi Izakaya has a bevy of beverages—take your pick from different Japanese beers, sake, highballs, chuhai, and of course, their signature cocktails. Their Classic Highball (P350) is a simple but no-fail mix of Kakubin whisky, soda water, and lemon wedge. Alternatively, try the Tokimeki Hai (P350), which has similar elements plus blackcurrant for a tinge of sweetness and tartness.
As for their signature cocktails, the Perfect Rox (P385) is a snazzy concoction of gin, basil, lemon juice and egg-white foam that’s garnished with a slice of dehydrated lemon for zest. The Sake Smash (P385), on the other hand, also delivers refreshing sips with its cool blend of sake, cucumber, basil, lemon juice, and Midori melon-flavored liqueur.
Coffee lovers, take note: there’s also Fujiyama Mama (P385) that combines coffee and alcohol so it’s like hitting two birds with one stone! It’s a mélange of whisky, coconut, honey water, milk foam, and a shot of espresso that you have to pour over as you please. And for those who prefer to stay of the straight (read: non-alcoholic) side they have a few mocktails that include the mango-based Sunshower (P250). Watch out for Happy Hour promos soon, too.
Some of the small plates you can enjoy with your tipples are the Edamame (P190), or young soybeans that can be served cold classic or spicy; the Chicken Yakitori (P120) that’s grilled with leeks; and the Bacon Wrapped Enoki (P150) where the flavors of the cured pork are absorbed by the mushrooms. For most of the grilled items, you can choose to have it seasoned simply with salt and pepper (shio), or given a deeply umami glaze (tare).
A more substantial option that you can share with companions as well is their Ebi Tempura (P380/3pcs; P620/5pcs)—and Nagi Izakaya executes this classic real well. They deep-fry black tiger prawns in a light batter until crispy, and plate it with mixed tempura veggies for variety. The prawns are quite good-sized so you can just get one and save space for other dishes—or dessert.
For a casual sweet ending, they’ve got three kinds of homemade gelato—all of which would transport you back to the Land of the Rising Sun. One of the quintessential flavors is Matcha (P220) and they make their own using Grade-A Japanese matcha that gives it a good balance of earthiness, sweetness, and a subtle bitterness. They also have Black Sesame (P220) featuring black sesame seeds that are roasted to bring out deeper, nuttier flavor. Finally, there’s gelato flavored with Wasabi (P220)—which you’d think is spicy but surprisingly isn’t overpowering. It’s more like a palate cleanser, in fact, and it works as a meal-ender or as a way of transitioning in between dishes.
That’s the great thing about Nagi Izakaya: you can play around and do you own food and drink pairings whether you’re there for lunch, dinner, daytime drinks, or after-office hours—making it an all-rounder you can count on for an umami ride anytime.
Photos by Hans Fausto
We are now on Quento! Download the app and enjoy more articles and videos from SPOT.ph and other Summit Media websites.