A little pricey, but you get what you pay for | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

BEEF sukiyaki

In truth, no one really remembers, or cares, that the weird music geek who sits in a corner of the office had been raving about that band since, like, two years ago, long before they had a hit single that’s now everyone’s ringtone. This is the point at which the music geek really goes off the deep end and only listens to indie bands that refuse to sign to a label and only distribute their music via USB stick.


That imaginary music geek would find solace, if he should seek it, in my company, because really, since when has food become so cool, so hip and so mainstream?


I recently saw a list of the 10 Hottest Women in Food, and I knew that we the fusty old guard were done for. Highly attractive young women waxing lyrical about chocolate and ice cream? Even I would ditch the history of fermentation in the Middle Ages to hear them talk about their craft or advocacies.


These gorgeous people can do more to change the landscape of food in this country and raise awareness for food ethics and sustainability than legions of scholars banging away at their keyboards.


Food suddenly being cool doesn’t just mean an explosion in newly opened restaurants and the elevation of the “restaurateur” from its service-class stigma to hip lifestyle tag (it’s what “interior decorator” was 10 years ago). It’s an entire ecosystem of cool kids and old hacks as well as wannabes photographing, writing, blogging, and listicling about food.


And annoying as it may be to the geeks who got into it before it became popular, it’s impossible to deny that it’s a good thing and has raised the bar all around.


Pack donkey


In the old days, I would have to travel and send home boxes full of absurdly expensive books from specialist booksellers, and then fill my suitcase with exotic honeys, spices, herbs and teas, like the pack donkey of a Silk Road trader. These days, not only do I not have to, but I don’t want to: I’d rather explore the Pangasinan sea salts, or the chocolates from Davao, or honey from Palawan, or any of the local produce that has now become (a little) more accessible.


(I remember in earlier days trying to take unpasteurized Palawan honey home; it exploded like Nickelodeon green goo all over the airplane.)


Despite the best efforts of local suppliers, most of these items won’t be available at Puregold or Shopwise or even Rustan’s Supermarket. Instead, there is a whisper network that involves Facebook, texts, e-mail, money drops, and culminates in a pickup point, usually a nondescript gate in Dasmariñas or Urdaneta Village.


The other problem with this immense ecosystem that has grown up around the food business is that despite all the apps and blogs and reviews, it’s difficult to know where to go on a Saturday night for a good meal, because there is now too much information rather than too little.




My wife and I usually try and set aside time for one date night a week, and use the opportunity to try out new restaurants. But how wonderful it is when serendipity steps in and a good restaurant catches one off-guard.


I had been studiously avoiding the somewhat overwrought, at least from the outside, Japanese restaurant that went up beside the Gloriamaris tower block in Greenhills. High ceiling with recessed pinlights, tables ensconced within black pods like alien eggs: No, maybe not. And all the reviews constantly harped about how expensive it was.


So it was something of a surprise when my parents, who are fairly parsimonious, suggested it for their wedding anniversary, even if you do celebrate 46 years together only once.


It isn’t expensive; though it is pricey. The prices are average Makati upscale dining prices, even if it happens to be in Greenhills, which might be the problem. But they’re not exorbitant. And after absorbing the eccentric vision of the interior designer, it’s actually a fairly conducive place to sit and eat that isn’t too noisy.


My parents had the Omakase menu (but with lots of substitutions for my father’s health), while my wife and I had our predictable selection of sushi

and sashimi, an uni shooter (in sake), and sukiyaki.


Beautifully presented


The order confused the waitstaff that they simply brought all the food to the table in one go, and we tucked in. Even the “modern” maki rolls were made with real sushi rice, properly soured, generously packed; the fish that was available was plump and fresh; and the beef was nicely seared and beautifully presented.


Even the “Kit-Kat” chocolate dessert, which came rather than the usually anticlimactic fruits on a mount of cracked ice, was crunchy and gooey, a mix of sophisticated and childlike. The details were unexpected and not too precious, like the sukiyaki sauce being poured out of a well-chosen pot.


For the same amount of money in Makati, you will find yourself at a hole-in-the-wall with drunken Yakuza members, an incomprehensible menu and an indecipherable bill. Wafu might be less authentic, but they serve Japanese food that we like in language we understand and a setting we like; a bit like Ogetsu (at SM Aura) or Sugi in the old days.


Spend your money here, rather than, say, some uppity overwrought restaurant, and your palate will be well-rewarded.


Wafu is at Greenhills Shopping Center; tel. 5703242

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