Japanese is my favorite international cuisine. I love the simplicity and neatness of its presentation, the subtle flavors of each dish, the textures and the quality of its ingredients.
Diners in Metro Manila used to be exposed only to a handful of Japanese restaurants. Kimpura was one. It was there where I first tasted prawn tempura, teppanyaki steaks and sashimi.
When tuna sashimi was first laid before me, I was sure I wouldn’t like it. Good thing I kept these thoughts to myself; I would have been too embarrassed to admit today that I went gaga over it.
The Japanese have this weird way of discovering great taste in raw food. I trust their taste so much that anything they recommend, I should try.
For example, chef Ozamu of Katono at Makati Cinema Square (tel. nos. 4079387 and 0918-9456246) served me raw shrimps with dipping sauce. It was so simple but what a revelation. It was sweet, succulent and just delicious.
Don’t toss the heads
The secret? The shrimps have to be fresh. How would one even know that one of the best parts of the Hamachi is the head of the shrimp? Grilled, dipped in light soy sauce and having a mildly burnt taste, it is perfect with steaming hot Japanese rice.
We have caught on. I didn’t even realize that in the south, we have an exporter of first-class tuna to Japan.
Doing our culinary show “Foodprints,” I saw an export-quality grade “A” tuna cut before my very eyes—it went straight to my plate and then to my mouth. This had to be the best-tasting tuna sashimi I had ever experienced. Just a slight dab of Kikkoman, ayos! This can be found at Marina Restaurant in Davao City. A must-go!
There are a lot of Japanese restaurants in Manila—almost all good by past standards, but not up there by present quality levels.
One that has stood the test of time is Sugi. I guess having many dishes not found in other Japanese menus makes it unique. It is still an old dependable. I love the food.
One of the owners of Sugi has set up his own dining place. Stockbroker Moony Lim grew up appreciating fine Japanese food here and in Japan. He has a passion for this delicate cuisine. He also loves to share his finds.
Out of this desire, the restaurant Moony-San was born. I feel blessed to have dined there.
I started with Emperor soup—a light, flavorful, clear broth with terrific taste. It’s a perfect example of the simplicity of Japanese cuisine. I loved it.
Then came the crispy kani pomelo salad. The textures, the flavors and the balance of saltiness, sweetness and sourness were refreshing.
The sushi and sashimi came after. A mixed platter of fresh sashimi had tuna, Hamachi, salmon, spicy salmon and spicy tuna. The freshness was what made this dish really work.
Decadent foie gras
Beside the sashimi were the maki dishes. I loved the dragon maki but ones I will never forget were the foie gras sushi, foie gras maki and foie gras T maki.
The foie gras is broiled over charcoal, drizzled with light teriyaki sauce and turned into rice topping, or wrapped in cone. I was so happy at this point that I didn’t realize the meal would go up a notch.
Then came the platter with mixed veggies. But my attention was not there. It was in the four cubes of perfectly cooked, medium rare Japanese beef beside it. I knew this was a specialty of the house. It was saved for last.
When I took the first bite, I knew I had to share the experience. “Melts in your mouth”—this cliché was coined for this experience. The meat was flavorful, it was like biting into soft tofu.
I also enjoyed the Saikoro Steak. With a Jaku fried rice, it was perfect.
The meal reaffirmed that Japanese is, indeed, my favorite cuisine.
Moony San Fine Japanese Cuisine is at Cedar Exec. Bldg., 1006 Arnaiz St. (formerly Pasay Road), Makati City. Call tel. nos. 4787550, 5634440 or 0922-5391790.
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