Back when I was a young working student in Paris, I was left to run my mother’s restaurant, Aux Iles Philippines (The Philippine Islands) in the City of Lights. She was needed in New York to oversee the opening of another restaurant, Maharlika, and in Manila for the opening of Au Bon Vivant.
Nervous and inexperienced, I asked mom what I would do. She said, “If it tastes good to you, serve it.”
I realized that seemingly simple tip was loaded with responsibility. This is why I have a never-ending job of improving the standards of my taste buds.
This is why I eat everywhere and try anything. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I think it is still the best job in the world!
In the past, it was easy to satisfy my palate. For Chinese cuisine, Kowloon House was such a treat. For Italian fare, Monk’s Inn or Italian Village. For Japanese, some restaurant in Cubao.
Soon, places like Kimpura House, Sugi, the many Japanese restaurants in hotels, and many others opened. My standards and expectations started going up.
And then a dream invitation from Fuji TV to promote unknown places in Japan came my way: where to go and what to eat.
Today, I base my comparisons on Japanese food to the ones I’ve tried in the streets of Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Saga and Hokkaido.
Until last week, there were three restaurants on my list serving authentic, delicious, fresh Japanese food in Manila: Tsukiji of the Gamboa family, Hanakazu in BF Homes Parañaque, and Marufuku in Ortigas Center.
I’ve added one more to the list, a place I discovered: Ogawa Traditional Japanese Restaurant. It’s like finding all delicious Japanese specialties under one roof.
‘Hamachi,’ ‘tebasaki,’ maki
I started with Hamachi Sashimi. Wow! I was told that the fish is flown in regularly from Japan. I also had the Tokujo Sushi Platter that had tuna belly, sweet shrimp, eel, yellow tail, salmon, tuna, mackerel, ark shell, wild yellow tail and tuna maki. Outstanding!
Skewered Butabara (pork) and Tebasaki (chicken wings) were grilled to crispiness with a hint of salt. The distance of charcoal and meat is key to perfecting this dish. Yum!
Another winner was the Gyuniku Asparamaki, fresh asparagus spears wrapped in thinly sliced beef flavored with soy.
The selection of maki included Crazy Maki with prawn tempura, crab stick, omelet and cucumber, and Lobster Maki. The Dragon Roll was made with lobster tempura, omelet, cucumber all wrapped in nori and topped with grilled unagi and mangoes. Sweet, savory, crunchy, soft and creamy.
The prawn tempura is one of the best in Manila—huge, flaky, crunchy and tasty.
In any foreign restaurant I go to, I am particular about having a chef from that country manning the kitchen. Ogawa has a Japanese chef who has been given free rein to create anything he likes. Artists like these have to be given creative freedom, and he does it well.
Ogawa Traditional Japanese Restaurant floored me. I have not stopped talking about it since my visit. My taste buds have gone a long way since mom gave me that tip.
Ogawa Traditional Japanese Restaurant, The Fort Strip, 5th Ave., Bonifacio Global City. Call 8864994.
For the Hokkaido food tour on July 9 to 14, I have chosen the places to eat and visit. It will be a laid-back trip with eating and shopping.
Interested? E-mail me at