What does a Japanese Coin, a Wooden Toy, Sylvester the Cat and Ramen all have in common?
The answer is GO-EN!
It’s this little Japanese Ramen Shoppe located in the middle of Sgt. Esguerra in Quezon City, whose dishes and unique restaurant has captured the hearts and appetites of Filipinos for three years already.
I can’t believe that I have not heard of this place before, their ramen are so perfectly balanced and well suited for the Filipino palate.
GO-EN made its way to the Philippines in May of 2012 after Tokyo-based Filipino accountant Marilyn Pefianco and partner Texas-born John Geron decided to explore other business horizons outside Japan. They already have a established modelling agency and gourmet food import-export company in the ‘land of the rising sun’ when they decided to open up a new venture here in the Philippines that aims to introduce more Filipinos to all things Japanese like food, toys, hobbies and most especially – food!
The result of this is the GO-EN Japanese Ramen Shoppe!
GO-EN maybe small in size but the design of the interiors is BIG! At first glance, you’ll probably have a hard time imagining that this shop can accommodate up to 40 people at one time but owner John Geron, who was our host when we visited the place said that the variety of seats available in the place allows solo diners and large groups to easily find a spot inside the shop – counter seating, high common tables, regular dining tables and still enough room to roam around.
GO-EN Japanese Ramen Shoppe got its name from a five yen coin (goen), which is the only Japanese coin that doesn’t have a western numeral on it. This coin is considered as a ‘good luck coin’ to all who carries it especially when given as a gift. The GO-EN coin is said to bring good luck in both money and relationships.
More GO-EN photos:
Another unique feature found in the store is the Kendama, a traditional Japanese wooden toy that has a wooden ball with string attached to a handle with three cups and a spike. To play it, one must try to catch the ball with either any of the three cups or the spike. Experts can do a number of tricks and combinations with the Kendama and they even have clubs in Japan and other countries that holds annual competitions.
I have tried playing with it and was able to do up to four combinations with the regular sized Kendama. It’s really an awesome simple toy.
It is not as easy as it looks, it involves perfect eye and hand coordination and playing it with both hands can actually give you a great upper body work-out. It’s that hard! But it is also fun and addicting!
For GO-EN, the Kendama started as a table decor but when restaurant staff and dine-in customers started tinkering with the strange looking centerpieces they began to wonder what it’s for. Today, the staff of GO-EN Japanese Ramen Shoppe are already expert Kendama users and they also teach customers how to play with the toy. The shoppe also sells them and they have a lot of it displayed inside.
Here is a video of John Geron giving us a crash course on Kendama:
There are many types of Kendama inside the store and they even have its modified version called ‘The Pill.’ John also showed us his most expensive Kendama, which is made with solid aluminum and also had us try his biggest and heaviest Kendama.
Marilyn and John adopted a stray kitten that lives by the front door of the shoppe and have grown really fond of him. They called the cat ‘Sylvester’ because of his resemblance with the looney toon cartoon character and considers him as their very own Maneki Neko or ‘welcoming cat’ – which he is actually, because he’s always there at the door greeting GO-EN customers.
I tried playing with him but it was such a rainy afternoon and you know what cats are like when it’s cold – Sylvester was just sooooo lazy that day! hahahaha
They have all sorts of anything Japanese inside the store like masks, Gundam toy dispensers and Manga graphic novels and magazines which are all very interesting but what we came there for was GO-EN’s famous and authentic RAMEN and other dishes!
Before trying out their Ramen, John said that GO-EN absolutely do not tweak their dishes for the Filipino taste but have rather looked for the best Japanese flavors that matches the Filipino palate and brought it here in the Philippines.
“We would not claim to be Real Japanese if we localized the original dishes.” John explained.
First up on the table is their KOGASHI SHOYU (380) – traditional Japanese ramen with a deep smokey shoyu and black peppercorn flavor. A perfect start, not too spicy but extremely flavorful. The soup base is absolutely intoxicating (figuratively speaking).
The next ramen flavor I tasted was their WONTON TOMATO RAMEN DELIGHT. To tell you the truth, I was actually worried about this new dish at first. I was thinking that the tomato soup base might ruin the ramen flavor or make it taste more like spaghetti – but thank goodness that it didn’t! It was very delicious, and this new dish could easily become one of their bestsellers soon!
Next up is their classic CHEESE RAMEN (350). John said that the cheese on top of the ramen should be eaten like in portion as you slowly and carefully dig in to the bowl for noodles and soup and not mixed altogether right away before eating. But of course you can eat it any way you like.
The TANTANMEN (380) on the other hand has a spicy (but not too spicy) sesame broth. For the more adventurous, just add more chili oil or ichimi on your ramen and have a blast.
The other dishes that we’ve tried and worth mentioning are their KARA-AGE (250) or Japanese Fried Chicken, the SAKANADON (Fish Donburi) and its very awesome secret sauce and the KAKIAGEDON (Vegetable Doburi) which is like the Japanese version of the ‘Lumpiang Hubad’ only crunchier.
For dessert, I tried their MACCHA GREEN TEA MOCHI BALLS – a hybrid of their Mochi Ice Cream (80) and Maccha Pudding (90)!
For ambiance, flavor and service – GO-EN Japanese Ramen Shoppe is truly one of the Go-To places in Sgt. Esguerra, Quezon City!
Check out this video for a short tour inside GO-EN Japanese Ramen Shoppe:
GO-EN is located at Jardin de Zenaida, Unit B1, 34 Sgt. Esguerra Ave, Diliman, Quezon City right smack in the middle of ABS-CBN and GMA NETWORK! They’re open from lunch til midnight!