Whenever my good friends, sisters Myleen and Coleen Huenefeld, invite me to dine out, I hardly pass up the chance. These two ladies love to eat and know good food. The places they recommend always turn out to be a delight.
Over the weekend, we enjoyed Jo Karubi (boneless beef rib meat) at Yokohama Meat Kitchen, a Japanese barbecue restaurant along Jupiter Street in Makati.
The sisters had been wanting to take me there so I could try the meat and the shredded cabbage salad with sesame soy dressing.
The Jo Karubi at Yokohama was marbled enough, but not excessively so. It had a nice bite and flavor to it. Being a bit leaner, it was not that sinful and, as such, you could have more of it. Dipped in their slightly sweet homemade barbecue sauce and laced with a bit of sesame oil and salt, it was satisfying.
We opted to pair the meat with the shredded cabbage salad tossed in sesame dressing. The salad gave a touch of freshness to the rich-tasting rib meat. It also gave our palates a nice play of hot and cold.
Imagine fresh off-the-grill, slightly charred meat with a cold salad that is both sweet and nutty. In between bites, we relished chopsticks full of warm Japanese rice.
Our meal did not have much fanfare but was nonetheless gratifying.
Before we left Yokohama, we planned our next meal at Txanton.
Txanton is named after the first Aboitiz who came to the Philippines in 1898, Paulino Txanton Aboitiz.
It is not a restaurant but a jamonería where one can learn, appreciate and savor the diverse tastes and textures of Spanish ham. Besay Gonzalez, the general manager was there to greet us and talk about their hams.
The Serrano Gran Reserva served at Txanton comes from Duroc, a breed of white pig. It is cured for 18 months. This jamon is mild but usually salty compared to others. Besay says it is ideal with tomato and olive oil.
Jamon Iberico, made from Iberian pigs, is cured for 24 months. The breed has a unique type of marbling, a result of its ability to accumulate fat within the layers of its muscles. It is softer and more flavorful than the Serrano.
Jamon Iberico de Bellota takes a minimum curing period of 36 months. The last four months of the pigs’ nutrition happens while grazing; they eat what is available in their natural environment, including a lot of acorns.
Txanton is the first jamonería in Manila and is the only place that offers jamon de Bellota from the four certified places of origin in Spain—Extremadura, Guijuelo, Huelva and Pedroches.
We started our meal by sampling these four jamón de Bellotas. The Guijuelo from Salamanca is mild and sweet with a hint of saltiness. The mildest of the four, it is usually softer than the rest but not necessarily less salty.
The Extremadura was full-bodied, smooth, slightly salty and the most aromatic. Very refined. The Jabugo, Huelva had an intense flavor with a lingering finish, while the Pedroches, Córdoba was intense, pleasant-tasting and with a long finish.
Txanton’s menu is rather straightforward, a combination of tasting menus for jamon and an assortment of other cured meats such as lomo, chorizo, salchichon and fuet.
An interesting addition is the selection of Spanish olive oils to be enjoyed with bread, garlic and tomatoes. Completing the menu are bocadillos (sandwiches) of ham, salchichon and chorizo, and a short list of other dishes like croquetas de jamon, jamon salad, tortilla Española and our absolute favorite—Salmorejo—a chilled soup made of tomatoes, sherry vinegar, bread, garlic and olive oil.
Each cook would have his own version of this soup, but the rendition of Txanton’s chef Justo Rodrigo Lopez is one of the best!
The jamonería offerings pair beautifully with the impressive collection of over a thousand wines from all over the world.
Txanton is at 2294 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, 2/F, Smithbell Bldg, Makati; tel. 8122040 (loc 112).
Yokohama Meat Kitchen is at 16 Jupiter St., Barangay Bel Air Makati City; tel. 8316546.