What happens when you combine Japanese with Filipino cuisine?
If you had mentioned this combination in the past, I would immediately say, “No dice.” I love good old oily Pinoy food and authentic, neat and delicious Japanese dishes. But combined, I don’t know.
I am also not a fan of fusion cuisine. I do enjoy it once in a while, but given a choice between authentic cooking or fusion cuisine, I would much rather have the authentic one, the way the locals eat it. For a restaurant owner to say “We cooked it to suit the local palate” is one of the biggest turn-offs for me. Though if it has to do with the level of spiciness, then that’s acceptable.
Another turn-off for me is a restaurant sign that claims to specialize in two or more cuisines. More often than not, it’s a letdown. Yes, I hope to be proven wrong someday.
Recently, I got a text from one of the people I envy. Elaine is a full-fledged jogger. I envy her because she eats whatever she wants, no holds barred. Her text was about a new dining place that specializes in combining Japanese with Pinoy cuisine. My thought bubble: “Not too promising.”
It’s a good thing I keep these thoughts to myself, because—what a surprise—Manila Maki is a restaurant that does well in combining popular Japanese dishes with many Pinoy ingredients. It works!
I was amazed at the creativity put in by owner Deanne Panlilio Montoya. Sometimes I wish I could just enter the brain of people like her to see how these ideas pop up. Very interesting.
I started with a Spicy Tuna Salad—fresh tuna sashimi tossed with some Japanese mayo dressing, taba ng talangka, crunchy tempura flakes, hot chili and nori strips. If this was any indication of the dishes to follow, then I was in for a winner meal again.
Then came the other dishes, like the Tinapa Maki—tinapa kani with fresh mango, kesong puti, sushi rice, tobiko and topped with pinoy teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayo. My gosh, this works!
The other rolls served were the Manila Maki and the Laguna Roll—crispy salmon belly with kesong puti, bacon bits with spicy salmon, all rolled in sushi rice; and Tuna Maki—prawn tempura with kani salad rolled in Japanese rice and panko bread crumbs and topped with taba ng talangka.
I noticed all the flavors and textures in all the dishes—sour, sweet, creamy, crunchy, etc. The Talong Teriyaki was also delicious. You could almost taste the burnt taste of the talong.
The Longgaiyoza was made of Cabanatuan longganisa and leeks dumplings, steamed then fried and served with spicy soy vinegar.
There was Aligue Yakisoba or pancit and Bistekdon, Adobo Don and Chicken Adobo Don; Sabahidon or bangus belly (instead of the eel) topped over rice with egg and drizzled with teriyaki sauce; and Aligue Chahan or fried rice.
I loved the combinations. There are a lot more interesting dishes on the menu, though I felt the desserts needed work a bit more.
That was a delicious meal. I didn’t think the combinations would work, but I was wrong, so check them out!
Manila Maki is at G/L, Elizabeth’s Place Condominum at H.V. De la Costa St., Salcedo Village in Makati; tel. 8227319. For catering, call The Urban Feast at 7107563 or 8892066.
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