Homemade ramen and soba, fresh ‘hamachi,’ cornstarched ‘karaage’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

You can’t go wrong with a cuisine that has evolved through 2,000 years. If anyone has truly mastered the culinary arts—fancy as the French may be—I’d have to place my bet on the Japanese, who have mastered the art not only of cooking but also of developing ingredients from their source, taking freshness and flavor to a different level.

At Mangetsu, a recent addition to the row of restaurants on Jupiter Street in Makati, there is a commitment to this philosophy. The sushi bar, managed by chef/owner Masamoto Ishikawa, boasts fresh catch of the day. An order of hamachi (yellowtail) is proof—the highlight of your sashimi experience. The uni sashimi is also a delight, served in a little bowl, rather than laid out on a plate, with nori and cucumber on the side for you to wrap. (Ask for extra nori.)

Ramen and soba are also homemade, another proof of commitment to freshness (although it would be sacrilege for any ramen house to have it otherwise). Ukokkei fans will remain loyal to it but Mangetsu’s ramen can compete as a top-of-mind alternative.

Distinct flavors

The pork in the ramen and some salads also has that “clean” taste. However, if you have tried the Kurobuta tonkatsu at Yabu, whose melt-in-your mouth texture and distinct pork flavors are incredibly memorable, skip the tonkatsu here. Instead, to satisfy your craving for fried foods, order the karaage or fried chicken, a specialty of the house.

Karaage is distinct for a few reasons. It uses cornstarch instead of flour to make the chicken skin crispy. Its marinade has ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sugar. And instead of dipping the finished product in ketchup, it is served with a piece of calamansi and a variety of salts. If you love karaage, this is where you can get your fix.

The place is perfect for business lunch or for dutch dinner with friends. The prices are very reasonable for a Makati-based Japanese restaurant. For lunch, a bento box of roughly P500 already offers rice, two kinds of sashimi, miso soup and salad that can feed two. Most servings can be shared by a pair.

A lot of the mains are at the price range of just P350—good price points belied by rather pricey interiors, its wood for the walls and tables all imported from Japan, just like the sake. The design is spacious, clean, the ambiance relaxed and very oriental.

Each dish is exquisitely served. Perfect para sa mayaman na may Epoxy ang bulsa! (Loose translation: the rich diner who’s a tightwad)

Rush hour

Service is rather inconsistent. The servers are still not that knowledgeable about Japanese food. Hopefully, this will improve in time.

The restaurant claims to be a “Japanese fusion” restaurant, offering unique items such as Camembert Cheese Tempura and Tofu Cheese Gratin. But these may not taste as good as they sound. Proof that it really doesn’t make sense to toy with a 2,000-year-old cuisine, no matter how small the world has become.

But for the straight-up Japanese food items on the menu, Mangetsu is reliable. Best proof—Japanese expats patronize the place.

Aside from its long shochu list, it must be because the cooking here reminds them of home.

Mangetsu, 38 Jupiter St. (near corner of Paseo de Roxas), Bel Air Village, Makati. Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner, 5:30-10.30 p.m. Reservations recommended. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible only until the ground floor, limited parking.

Yabu: House of Katsu, 2/F, SM Megamall; tel. 5763900. Open during mall hours; no reservations required. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Ukokkei Ramen Ron, G/F, Tesoro Building, 822 A. Arnaiz Ave (Pasay Road), Makati. No reservations. Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30pm; Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. See www.margauxlicious.com.

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