It sounds like Harajuku hip-hop, I thought, wondering how this restaurant came up with its name, “Nomama.”
Located on Scout Tuason just off Tomas Morato in Quezon City, the restaurant gives off a very hip vibe—very young, current, in no way ostentatious.
Wood, metal, cement all give off the feel of an artist’s loft. It breathes an austere setting that allows you to be comfortable even if you’re eating alone, with the company of only your iPad or the latest John Grisham novel.
It’s not the kind of Japanese restaurant either that shouts Japanese—no Japanese magazines, no flag with Japanese character hanging outside the door, no rows of shochu, no waitresses who screech “Irishaimasen.”
It’s a place that knows no nationality, has no pretensions—just an artist’s workshop.
The artist is chef Him Uy de Baron and he takes his craft seriously. I get why the word “artisanal” is emphasized. It’s because every plate bussed out is a work of art boasting five, six, seven elements.
And the chef’s influences are not just Japanese—I guess the guy just happens to like ramen. If anyone could claim to be doing Japanese fusion right in this country, it’s (chef) Him!
Take the tuna spring roll. The restaurant should attach its name to this dish—so beautifully done!
Him starts with tuna sashimi, then wraps each piece with a very thin rice paper. For added texture he inserts alfalfa sprouts.
But it doesn’t end there.
On top of each roll is a dollop of aioli sauce for that wake-me-up bite. Then additionally, on the plate, he scatters arugula leaves and edamame seeds, like beading on a plain shirt.
To contrast the bitterness of the arugula, he also scatters small dices of mango. And finally, for the ultimate Asian angle, he glides on the plate as purposeful design a bit of chili sauce.
Now remember, this is interactive art: You, the audience, are supposed to put it all together for that one amazing bite of tuna plus seven elements. Is there a lot going on? Obviously.
Is it confused? Not at all. It is fusion that is fused. If this was fashion, it would be Patricia Field at her best.
After that Japanese-Vietnamese inspired dish, another one that hits the spot is the Japanese-Pinoy starter of kilawin. It is presented as part of a salad, alongside cherry tomatoes. Very fresh, very pretty.
Him also has a Japanese-American dish: the beef tataki with chips, which resembles more a steak tartare than a tataki. It is spicy, biting and pricks you with its flavors.
Even the ramen is fusion-ized. Ironically, it is not the namesake ramen, the Nomama Ramen, that stands out.
Truth be told, while it tastes clean, it is not what stands out in the chef’s list of ramens. Ramen addicts are quick to judge, “Ukokkei pa rin.”
But it seems the chef realizes this. “I never set out to make this place like the best noodle house or make it comparable to restaurants in Japan because that’s just impossible,” said chef Him Uy de Baron, who personally goes around inspecting tables during meal hours.
He was in Japan when the epiphany for Nomama hit him. “I was just appreciating Tsukiji when it hit me that I want to open something back home that would remind me of that experience.” Hence the name “Nomama,” which is Him-speak for “Not your Momma’s cooking.”
Come without expectations because you are not about to have a dish that you are already familiar with—you are here to appreciate something that the Baron has created. An expression of his experiences, his thinking, his heart.
As with art, some creations are not quite there yet. Like the chicken wings ramen which makes you conclude that chicken wings are best nibbled and not noodled.
But the ramen that takes inspiration from Thailand is fantastic. It is called Thai Green Curry Ramen. It truly offers the best of both worlds. The broth is coconut-based and has the Thai-inspired flavors of lemongrass and coriander. It is a unique dish that could very well become the signature dish of this restaurant.
I first reviewed Chef Him Uy de Baron when he was running East Café of Rustans. Even back then he was already espousing Asian fusion. It’s great to see that he’s found a great new home and that his art is back for the world to eat!
Nomama Artisanal Ramen is at G/F, FSS Bldg 2, Scout Tuason and Scout Castor, QC. (Off T. Morato, across the old Max Fried Chicken). No reservations required. Open for lunch and dinner. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Limited parking. Visit facebook.com/nomamaramen.
The author is at facebook.com/margauxsalcedo and twitter.com/margauxsalcedo