Keiichi Hirukawa, the new head sushi chef of Nobu restaurant at City of Dreams Manila, wants to have fun with his staff while teaching them the proper way of doing things in the highly revered Nobu kitchen.
“As head sushi chef, I always make sure my staff like what they are doing and this has been my style in the kitchen. I don’t want it like a military kind of setup,” said Hirukawa, who started at Nobu Malibu in California two years ago.
Enjoying the kitchen would help bring out the creative juices of the staff, he said.
Hirukawa creates signature dishes unique to Nobu Manila by melding Filipino ingredients and methods in Nobu-style dishes.
Hirukawa arrived in Manila two months ago and started exploring local produce and ingredients. He has also been eating in various Filipino homes and restaurants with the hope of understanding local flavors.
Wealth of experience
Born in Tokyo, Japan, and raised in Florida, US, Hirukawa has more than 20 years of experience as sushi chef in various US-based Japanese restaurants. With a father as chef and an uncle who manages a Japanese restaurant, he worked his way up from dishwasher to chef/sushi chef in the restaurants he worked for. Before Nobu Malibu, he was sushi chef at The Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya in West Hollywood.
Samplings of Hirukawa’s dishes were presented to the media, including two sushi creations infused with local flavors: Salmon in Coconut Milk and Amazu, a medley of thinly sliced fresh salmon, coconut milk, pineapple bits, ginger, green chili, onion leeks, and a drizzle of amazu. The twist on the sweetened vinegar refreshed the palate while the coconut milk complemented the subtle, buttery taste of the salmon.
The other dish was The Yellowtail Kare-Kare with Karashisumiso Bagoong, thinly sliced fish served with mixed greens wrapped in paper-thin daikon. It came with kare-kare sauce fused with karashi (Japanese yellow mustard) and rice vinegar sauce. The bagoong (shrimp paste) on top of the sashimi provided a welcome spark for the taste buds.
“Eating sushi or sashimi Nobu-style is always with a sauce,” said Hirukawa. “Not just any kind of sauce but a flavorful one. It depends on the food, but we can use dry miso, powdered soy sauce or juices.”
Next course was a combo of Tuna Sisig, Emperor Adobo and Belt Fish with Chimichurri, each served on a bowl of steaming rice. The classic Pinoy tastes of adobo and sisig were given a delicious twist. The adobo sauce was not overpowering but very subtle and light, while the tuna sisig was an over-the-edge version, rich and flavorful with firm chunks of tuna.
The Grilled Umami Chicken with Tomato Salad offered a tender, juicy meat with smoky flavor garnished with sliced tomatoes, shaved red onions and lime dressing.
For dessert, Miso Cappuccino had layers of miso brûlée, candied pecan, homemade vanilla ice cream and cappuccino foam dusted with cinnamon powder.