It’s exactly a year since the Philippines was locked down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and life has indeed returned to normal. The government initially declared the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila where I am based back in March 2020. This was eventually downgraded to the less strict general community quarantine (GCQ) in June of the same year. Fortunately, Manila is still in GCQ status up to now.
The more relaxed measures meant that I can go out of the house, but with health precautions. Masks, face shields and rubbing alcohol are still indispensable items. Strict adherence to social distancing and contact tracing procedures remain key to addressing the pandemic. At least, until everyone gets the long-awaited COVID-19 jab.
I also frequented a number of Japanese restaurants during those instances that I managed to leave the house. Pandemic or not, Japanese cuisine is still a personal favorite of mine. But this time, I opted for washoku or traditional dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun. Here are three restaurants I visited in the past few months.
I’ve featured Tendon Kohaku at Vertis North Mall a number of times in this blog that it already merits a standalone review. But unfortunately, my visits to the place tend to be sparse – so it would take me a long time before I could do that. I tried out two favorites during one instance there: The Vegetable Tendon and Shrimp Tendon.
The Shrimp Tendon is pretty straightforward: Five pieces of shrimp tempura on a bed of rice, with tendon sauce drizzled on top. The tempura pieces are juicy and plump, with the batter doing a good job of holding it together despite the sauce. Meanwhile, the Vegetable Tendon has more variety with its assorted vegetable tempura. Some of the notable vegetables used include enokitake and shiitake mushrooms, young corn, eggplant, sweet potato, bell pepper, and asparagus. It would have almost worked had the tempura pieces absorbed less oil.
Oki Oki is a common dining spot for people who visit Trinoma Mall because of its convenient location. This is the second time I dined there and when I do, it’s always with my family. The place is known for its affordable Japanese food at budget-friendly prices. During a weekend trip to the mall, I ordered this Katsudon while my mom opted for Manten Ramen.
The Katsudon was good, but not really exceptional enough that I would try it again. It tasted sweet despite the excess soy sauce which blackened the pork cutlet. The haphazard plating and serving merited some deductions. Japanese food is typically served in lacquer ware or ceramic plates, not stainless steel bowls. I can’t really say much about the Manten Ramen as my mom enjoyed it — but it was good based on what she told me.
Yayoi is a relatively new restaurant, replacing the former MyThai Kitchen at Eastwood Mall. The joint specializes in teishoku (set meals) and bento boxes, at surprisingly pocket-friendly prices! Yayoi definitely prepared for the new normal by sticking to various health protocols such as digital menus, temperature checks and contact tracing. I ordered the Chicken Katsu Toji Jyu and the Wafu Katsu Jyu during my inaugural trip to the place.
The cutlets for both dishes were properly fried, with the meat inside remaining moist. The Chicken Katsu was leagues better than the one from Oki Oki, with the right balance of sweet and salty rounded off with the scrambled egg. I found the Wafu Katsu Jyu unique: It came with rice topped with nori (dried seaweed) shavings and a small dollop of wasabi (Japanese horseradish). Maybe a combination of a sushi roll and a katsu rice bowl, perhaps? The only comment I have is that the rice wasn’t enough – but I guess light eaters would appreciate the reduced serving.
That’s it for this triptych! How about you, what Japanese dishes are you craving right now? Share it in the comments section!
Until the next post, bon appetit and stay safe!