Two families with a shared love for Japanese food led to the recent opening of the first Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant at SM Megamall.
“We have always been passionate about food and we believe Yayoi offers authentic, flavorful Japanese cuisine,” said Yvonne Yao, one of Yayoi Philippines’ three managing directors, aside from siblings John and Jacqueline Gobing.
Unlike other Japanese restaurants in the country that have a traditional “shoji screen and tatatmi mat” look, Yayoi is sleek and modern. Upon entry, one sees sturdy wooden tables and benches arranged in a grid. There are several booths that can seat small groups, but the place also welcomes solo diners.
Instead of ordering off a menu, customers scroll through the mounted iPads set at eye level. The menu is ample but manageable, and consists of teishoku (set meals) with rice, pickles and a choice of soup.
Choices include Namban (fried chicken steak in sweet sauce with special Yayoi tartar sauce); Teriyaki Chicken; Niku Yasai Itame (stir-fried vegetables with sliced pork); Mix Toji (breaded pork loin, fried shrimp and sukiyaki beef); Tonkatsu (golden fried pork loin with Yayoi premium sauce).
If you prefer seafood, Yayoi has several teishoku to choose from like Shima Hokke (grilled mackerel); Saba Shio (salt-grilled mackerel; and Hitsumabushi (grilled eel, Nagoya style).
Prices for the set meals range from P395 for the Teriyaki Chicken or the Tonkatsu, to P665 for the Yayoi Gozen (fried chicken, salad, pork cutlet, teriyaki salmon and beef sukiyaki).
Once you’ve chosen and entered your order, you wait for only a few minutes before a tray of food is set in front of you.
“Our families always go to Japan, we love it there. We tried Yayoi in Fukuoka and immediately wanted to bring it to the Philippines,” said Yvonne. “The food was fast, fresh and authentic, plus we liked the iPad ordering system.”
It took a couple of years, however, to convince Plenus Company Limited to partner with the Yaos and Gobings. The Japanese company has been in the food business since 1980 and operates around 3,000 restaurants.
Ten years ago, it opened its first restaurant outside Japan in Thailand.
Since then, Plenus Global has expanded and now operates close to 600 restaurants outside Japan.
At the Yayoi branch at Megamall, all the food is cooked and served piping hot.
“We don’t offer sushi and sashimi, although those items are available in their branches in Japan. Our partners are very particular about the quality of the produce,” Yvonne said.
Most of the items used at Yayoi are imported, from the beef and the prawns to the plates, cups and serving bowls.
The vegetables, eggs, chicken and pork, however, are sourced locally.
Tatsuo Shioi, president of Plenus Co., Ltd., said the decision to open in the Philippines came after seeing some of the city’s shopping malls and markets.
“The country is vibrant and fast-growing, and there are a lot of young people,” he said. “We’re hopeful Yayoi will become popular because of the food, and the fact that our prices are 20 percent lower compared to our branches in Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and the US.”