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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

entry arrow9:42 PM | Food Roundup Dumaguete 2016: J Restaurant

I am an accidental foodie: I used to write a food column for a local paper and have written extensively about the Dumaguete food scene for national magazines and newspapers -- until I decided to discontinue the enterprise about four years ago. Still, people I know who visit Dumaguete keep asking me about the best places to go to eat, and I've found I no longer quite know the scene. A lot can change in half a decade. So I've decided to try a new approach this year and go about sampling the local food culture once more and document everything online in the course of twelve months. The city has grown and expanded enough in the years since 2011, and a significant part of what's happening food-wise has become unfamiliar to me. Consider this a personal adventure.

It is by no means a place to marvel at, or to unwind and claim comfort in. The tables and chairs are tight, for one thing, which is understandable for a place occupying what used to be the garage of the old Medina sugar house. The tarpaulin sign outside — “New Open / Japanese Restaurant” — does not exactly excite the grammatically fastidious. (“Perhaps it’s a transliteration of ‘Bagong Bukas’?” a friend of mine helpfully suggested. EDIT: “New open” [ニューオープン] is actually a popular Japanese phrase.) The name of the place itself — billed only as “J,” as in “Japanese” — indeed does have instant recall, but a lazy one that has no claim to imagination. And going in, I had wished very much to be greeted by a high-pitched “Irashaimase!” just to complete the illusion, but that was also a no-go. And yet, in the final estimation, I liked very much this new ramen place in Dumaguete, situated along the Rizal Boulevard in the shadows of Honeycomb. J felt very much like one of those ramen shops I used to frequent in in Musashisakai, in Tokyo, when I used to live there. That recall of “authenticity” — a dangerous word — was enough to banish away my minor quibbles regarding the place. Plus there was this: I had been hankering for ramen for many months now, and couldn’t get my fix anywhere. Certainly not in Mifune, where my one-time search for the dish was squashed by a surprisingly rude waitress that made me walk out. And certainly not in Kiyosuke, where charm seems more paramount and the menu alas is lacking. (Is Wakagi still around? I really have no idea.) J’s menu, on quick glance, offers four distinct kinds of food: sushi, tempura, ramen, and something the menu spells out as “don kach,” but I have a feeling is really katsudon. We started with gyoza, Japanese dumplings filled with ground meat and vegetables and wrapped in a thin dough — which certainly made for a good appetiser. It paved the way for a generous bowl of the chashu pork ramen (“chashoyu ramen” on the menu), good for two (at P500), which transported me quickly to old Kyoto memories. (They also have four other varieties of ramen, ranging from P350 to P400.) The sushi on the menu is strictly platter-based (at P400), and includes eight pieces of assorted ingredients, each one a delight. Definitely not cheap, but the meal was worth it. On the way home, I settled with the plain joy of knowing there was finally a ramen place to go to, and that it was good. We ordered at 7:45 PM. Order received at 8:00 PM.


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