Last chance to sample Australian grassfed beef specials at Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, and more

Last June, the Australian Embassy launched its Australian Grassfed on the Menu campaign. They partnered with several restaurants in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao to create special beef dishes that would only be available for the two-month period of the promotion. And it will end on Aug. 30.

What’s so special about these dishes?

Well, for one, they use only high-grade Australian grassfed beef, which is said to be “healthier” than other cattle meat. Ninety-seven percent of Australian cattle are grown, free range. This means that cows freely graze on fields and mainly eat grass. Some Australian farms even allot one hectare per cow.

This type of beef is not actually new to the Philippines because it holds the lion share of beef imports to the country. According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), 40 percent of all imported beef are from Australia. These products mainly go to fast food chains, hotels, and restaurants.

The promo, however, would like to highlight the beef at its best form, serving it like what Filipinos are used to when it comes to premium meat. While most of us are likely to eat more Australian beef than others, it doesn’t have the same brand recall like USDA Prime or Japanese Wagyu.

The Aussie embassy started this promo two years ago. They held special food trails for the media to try out the different dishes. I attended the first one, which is probably the best food crawl I have ever participated in. Because you know, beef. Fast forward to 2017 to another food trail.

They held the food trail for more than a week, covering participating restaurants in Metro Manila. I attended the last trail that listed five restaurants—Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, Papa Didi’s, Chef Jessie Grill, and Epicurious. It’s basically eating beef from morning to sundown. I mean, best day ever, right?

Like a food crawl veteran (LOL), I was able to power through the whole day of eating beef. I’ve learned how to pace myself and my limits. Like what we usually do at buffet restaurants. And I must say—again—that it was another amazing food crawl.

Here are the five restaurants and the dishes to try:

DEAN & DELUCA, Rockwell, Makati City

SB Roast beef marmalade on crostini topped with pickles (Dean & Deluca)

Roast Beef Marmalade (Sweet, pulled pork-like shredded roasted beef on crunchy crostini topped with pickles.)

SB Braised beef ragu (Dean & Deluca)

Braised Beef Ragu (Slow cooked beef shank ragu ala Milanese with papardelle pasta and tendon puff. Very hearty!)

SB Ribe eye steak with bonne marrow butter annd served with tabbouleh salad (Dean & Deluca)

Ribe Eye Steak (Cooked to your liking, of course, but topped with flaky sea salt, bone marrow butterm and served with tabbouleh salad to balance things out.)

SB Roasted beef short ribs

Roasted Beef Short Ribs (Super tender roasted beef short ribs served with red rice, green shallot kimchi, and jalapeño puree.)

SB Beef hash

Natural Beef Hash (Heirloom potatoes, bell peppers, onion, topped with two poached eggs, slowly braised beef chunks, chopped tomato, basil pesto, and Parmesan cheese.)

22 PRIME, Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Steak and tomato salad (22 Prime)

Steak and Tomato Salad (Grilled sake marinated skirt steak with heirloom tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. My kind of salad.)

SB Oven braised short ribs with seaweed potato puree and wilted garlic spinach (22 Prime)

Oven Braised Short Ribs (Another super tender slow cooked boneless short ribs with seaweed potato purée and wilted garlic spinach)

SB Sous vide striploin with mushroom ragout, asparagus, poached egg, and sambal hollandaise sauce (22 Prime)

Sous Vide Striploin (Served with roasted potatoes, mushroom ragout, asparagus, and sambal hollandaise sauce)

PAPA DIDDI’S, Sapphire Bloc, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Pancit Batil Patung

Pancit Batil Patung (Fresh linguini noodles cooked in beef stock then topped with poached egg, cabbage, onions, and carrots, served with extra stoup, fresh onions, chili, and soy sauce on the side)

SB Pappa Diddi's fusion burger with ube buns

Papa Diddi’s Fusion Burger (Beef patty with banana blossom patty, pineapple ring, sunny side up egg, pickles, lettuce, kesong puti, and honey mustard sauce with your choice of ube, malunggay, or pandan bun)

CHEF JESSIE GRILL, The Grove by Rockwell, Brgy. Ugong, Pasig City

SB Charcoal grilled oyster blade with fries and mesclun greens (Chef Jessie Grill)

Oyster Blade Steak (Cooked in a charcoal grill oven, it is served in mustard sauce with mesclun greens and french fries on the side)

SB Charcoal grilled beef striploin with grilled leeks and potato wedges (Chef Jessie Grill)

Striploin Steak (Served with grilled leeks, potatoes, and gravy)

SB Slow roast beef cheeks served with poutine and sauteed spinach (Chef Jessie Grill)

Slow Roast Beef Cheeks (Served with poutine and sautéed spinach)

EPICURIOUS, Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City

SB Beef fajitas with salsa and sour cream (Epicurious)

Beef Fajitas (Beef strips sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and young corn served with soft tortillas, salsa, and sour cream)

SB Fettuccine beef stroganoff (Epicurious)

Fettucine Stroganoff (Fettucine pasta in creamy beef and mushroom sauce served with garlic bread)

SB Roast beef with mushroom sauce

Roast Beef with Mushroom Sauce (Roast beef served with roasted vegetables and enoki mushroom, rice, and mushroom gravy)

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Find the complete list of restaurants on Facebook/Australia in the Philippines / Twitter @AusAmbPH / #TrueAussieBeefPH

Genki Sushi opens new branch and adds new items on its menu

Popular for its sushi delivery system, Genki Sushi is quickly becoming a favorite among sushi-loving Filipinos. And I see why.

The Japanese restaurant chain recently opened its fourth branch at SM Aura Premier in Bonifacio Global City, proving that they are doing good business in the country. Managed locally by the Mother Spice Group, Genki Sushi is one of its brands that is growing significantly.

Mother Spice Group also operates Mango Tree, Mango Tree Bistro, and Cocina Peruvia.

SB Genki Sushi's Kousoku Express Train System delivers food straight to your table
Genki Sushi’s Kousoku Express Train System delivers food straight to your table. On board is one of the resto’s newest dishes, coconut shrimps.

Genki Sushi was founded in Japan in 1968 by Japanese sushi chef Fumio Saito, who created the concept of kaiten sushi, where sushi is served by conveyor belt. Today, the chain has grown exponentially, with branches across the globe.

The novelty of its service is what’s keeping people coming back to the restaurant. The eatery employs the Kousoku Express Train System or its toy-like train delivery system. Inspired by the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train), the tracks run from the kitchen to the tables.

SB Crispy salmon skin strips
Crispy salmon skin strips

Customers order via tablet computers and the food is delivered by a small train. It’s very entertaining to watch, especially to kids…like me.

But probably the resto’s main selling point is its food. Genki Sushi serves quality food, from sushi to donburi to desserts.

According to Genki Sushi Philippines brand manager DJ Atienza, the local franchise gets a visit from the mother ship quarterly. They ensure the quality of the products and the service of the restaurant. Most of the ingredients the local shops get are from Japan, too.

SB Trio of gunkanmaki sushi
A trio of gunkanmaki sushi (kanikama salad, spicy tuna, and tuna salad)

“Even the sauces are from Japan to make it consistent like the shoyu (soy sauce) and also the pickled ginger and green tea. We are not allowed to use local ingredients unless they approve it,” he said.

Along with the opening of the new branch, the sushi resto also launched new items on its menu.

These new dishes include: coconut shrimps (like shrimp tempura but with panko bread crumbs and coconut flakes), kushi-age (small basket of fried seafood and vegetables), crispy salmon skin strips, caramel mochi, and vanilla and strawberry mille crepes.

They are also now offering sushi plates of three. Regular orders usually have two pieces in a plate but now, people can order three different sushi in one plate. They offer a trio of salmon nigiri sushi (regular salmon, seared with pollock roe, and seared with black pepper) and a trio of gunkanmaki sushi (spicy tuna, tuna salad, and kanikama salad).

SB Caramel mochi
Caramel mochi with creme brulee-like torched sugar

And if you haven’t tried its Japanese cheesecake, you should. It’s not the fluffy cotton cheesecake kind but a soft delicate, light, and not-so-sweet cheesecake which I think is the perfect ending to a sushi meal.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Facebook/GenkiSuhsiPhilippines and Instagram @genkisushiph

Recipe: Fried Soft-shell Crab with Tartar Sauce

So someone gave me a box of soft-shell crab, specifically mud crabs from Indonesia. Soft-shell crab are basically crabs that just molted or crawled out of its old shell. Like what happens to snakes and some bugs. I’m not sure if these crustaceans are farmed or fishermen catch them by waiting for molting season (is there such a thing?) or fishermen caught them by chance. Anyway, I didn’t know how to cook this type of crab but I discovered the most common way is just to fry it.

The crabs that I got were not yet cleaned so I researched how-to’s and it was quite easy (you can Google it but I’ll explain it below, no pictures though). This recipe is simple and I accompanied it with a tartar sauce, which is always perfect for seafood.

Ingredients

500 g soft-shell crab (5 to 6 pcs.)
1 cup of flour
1 lemon
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper

Tartar sauce

½ cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. chopped chives

Procedure

1. Clean the crabs. You can actually ask your fishmonger to do this. First, using kitchen shears cut off the face of the crab. Then lift the side of the top shell and remove the gills (the pointy things with bristles). Do this on both sides. Then flip the crab and on its underside or abdomen, remove the triangular shell cover completely. And you’re done!
2. Make the tartar sauce. Mix all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Pat the crabs with a cloth or paper towel, but don’t wipe it completely dry. Then season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, season the flour lightly and spread on a plate. While doing this, heat oil in a pan. You can do a deep fry method or shallow fry. What I used was the shallow frying method.
4. Dredge crabs with flour. Let the crab sit for a couple of minutes before putting in oil.
5. Fry the crabs, cook each side for 2 to 3 minutes. It’s important that you do not overcook the crabs. You want them crispy on the outside, tender and juicy in the inside. Also when frying, do not overcrowd the pan.
6. Place on paper towels after removing from pan then serve immediately. Squeeze lemon on crab before serving. Serve tartar sauce on the side. Eat them with a side of salad or seafood soup. Enjoy!

Serves 2 to 3

All-seafood feast

After watching chef Gordon Ramsay decry the use of frozen food on television so many times, I came to a conclusion that frozen food is bad, especially frozen meat. But not after cooking premium frozen seafood that I realized that it’s not bad at all.

While it is true that fresh is still the best thing to use, frozen is a good alternative nonetheless. That is if the brand you’re buying has done the process right.

The right process means that the meat is frozen immediately after slaughtering or harvesting the animal. Freezing the meat at its freshest is the best way to do it. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, freezing “does not destroy the nutrients,” the meat actually retains it in the freezing process. Also, the packaging helps, too, in maintaining quality.

SB King crab with hollandaise sauce on a crunchy brioche bread
King crab flakes with hollandaise sauce on a cr

Recently, Mida Food, one of the country’s top distributors of frozen premium seafood celebrated its 20th anniversary in a delicious fashion. It held an all-seafood lunch for a select group of guests at Gallery Vask, which is also a client.

Mida Food started as a trading company but eventually delved into frozen seafood distribution, starting with tuna off cuts like tuna jaw and tail. Today, the ISO-certified company, has more than 300 store keeping units (SKUs) in its line from fresh Norwegian salmon to pre-cooked New Zealand mussels to frozen Indonesian soft shell crab.

SB Aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro
Aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro

According to Mida Food president and CEO Enrique Valles, they have 1,000 base customers and delivers to 150 clients daily, moving eight to 10 tons of products every day. Their clients range from hotels to high end restaurants to fast food chains. Some of its customers include Tokyo Tokyo, Shakley’s, North Park, andWendy’s, just to name a few.

During the luncheon, chef Chele Gonzalez prepared a five-course meal using Mida’s products.

Before the lunch started, two types canapes were passed around. First was the simple pan seared hamachi on bread. The second one was king crab flakes with hollandaise sauce on a crunchy brioche bread. These were accompanied by Spanish Cava and sparkling rosé wine.

SB Grilled tiger prawns with starberry and watermelon gazpacho
Grilled tiger prawns with strawberry and watermelon gazpacho

Beginning the lunch proper is a small bowl of aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro. The tuna was finely diced and mixed with onions and cilantro topped with a dollop of creamy mashed avocado.

The next course was the beautiful plate of grilled tiger prawns with strawberry and watermelon gazpacho. The refreshing cold soup was complemented by different textures of chicharon-like crumbs and crispy iberico ham chips.

This was followed by the pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy iberico ham. The fish was flaky and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

SB Pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy iberico ham chips
Pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy Iberico ham

Then the last main course was my favorite. It was a seafood risotto with squid ink topped with lobster meat, seared scallops, Parmesan cheese tuiles, and asparagus ribbons (top photo). A spoonful with all components was a play on texture and flavors—the creamy and buttery risotto, tender seafood meat, and salty cheese tuiles.

Another favorite was the dessert and the only non-seafood dish (duh). The “different textures of calamansi” was the perfect ending to the seafood lunch. Different calamansi flavored desserts in a messy but beautiful pile—mousse, crumbled cake, cookie crumbs, and creamy ice cream.

Mida has attributed its success to the growing food industry, with the numerous restaurants opening shop and with Filipinos looking for more seafood options. Enrique said that they plan to put up their own retail store in the future but meanwhile, its retail brand Pacific Bay frozen seafood is available at supermarkets and its salmon bar is open at Markeplace by Rustan’s.

SB Different textures of calamansi
Different textures of calamansi

“Pacific Bay is a very important part of Mida Food, which is our retail brand available at all supermarkets. At some point we want to explore a brick and mortar retail store sort of like Santi’s but for seafood, like a high end fishmonger,” Enrique said.

www.midafood.com

Recipe: Thai-style Mussels

When I attended Mida Food’s 20th anniversary luncheon, each guest were given a bag full of frozen seafood—scallops, bacalao, softshell crab, prawns, and mussels—as a giveaway. The distributor of premium fresh and frozen seafood is known for its quality frozen products through its retail brand Pacific Bay. I immediately thought of various recipes for the seafood. I wanted to do something different for the mussels. It’s a pound of good shellfish, important from New Zealand, which was also already pre-cooked. I browsed the web and found Jamie Oliver’s Thai-style recipe. It looked simple and easy so I tried it and tweaked it a bit.

Ingredients

1 kg. mussels
1 1/2 cups fresh coconut cream
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 stalk lemon grass
1 tsp. cilantro stalks
2 pcs. bird’s eye chili (or Thai chili), chopped
1 pc. lime
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Procedure

1. Clean mussels or ask your fishmonger to do this for you. Steam or boil them for about 5 minutes until they open up. Discard any mussel that remained closed. Set aside about a cup of the water you used to cook the mussels.
2. Prep the lemon grass and cilantro. Pound the white part of the stalk until it cracks and opens up. Cut stalk into one-inch pieces. Then, separate the leaves of the cilantro from the stalks. Chop the stalks into small pieces.
3. In a pot, saute garlic and onions in vegetable oil for about 2 minutes, then add lemon grass and cilantro stalks and saute for another 2 minutes. Add coconut cream and water. Wait until it boils.
4. When boiling, add fish sauce and chili. Stir and taste, add salt if necessary. Add more chili if you want it extra spicy. Then add cooked mussels, stir and let simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes.
5. Turn off heat and squeeze lime over the mussels and mix. Serve in a bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. Enjoy!

Serves 2 to 3

Myron’s: Steak perfected

 

I love steak. I like it medium and seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper. I like it with a side of roasted vegetables and rice or potatoes. Sauces are optional because you don’t need a sauce with a good steak.

I remember eating my first wagyu (or some kind of high grade Japanese beef) at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati years back and it was so good. Every bite was like heaven in my mouth.

Then one of the first steak houses I ever dined in was Myron’s Steak, Ribs and Seafood at Power Plant mall in Rockwell. This was 10 years ago (I think) and the steak house was pretty new then but they served good steak.

Since then, I have consumed many more steaks—bad, okay, good, great—but those two first experiences for me are the most memorable and delicious.

SB Cappuccino of mushroom soup
Cappucino of Mushroom

A little over a week ago, I was able to go back to Myron’s after many years. The restaurant has a new home, at the 6th floor of The Ascott Residences in Makati, moving from Greenbelt 5. The restaurant now serves as the property’s breakfast restaurant and they basically operate Ascott’s food and beverage (F&B) needs.

This is a big challenge for owners Ramon and Monica Eugenio considering that they started in food business at a small stall at Salcedo’s weekend market. Both experienced chefs, the couple started selling their Angus roast beef at Salcedo market in 2005. A year later, they had an opportunity to open their first restaurant at Power Plant mall. The couple partnered with friend and kitchen colleague Melanio Resuma to kick start the steak house.

SB Fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese
Fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese

After 11 years of operations, the restaurant has grown significantly and turned into a company running several restaurants including The Flying Pan, Franco’s, and Miguelito’s.

“As you can see it’s a bigger opportunity for us. I think it’s the biggest challenge for Monique and I. We started at the Saturday market and then after 10 years we were able to move from a stall in Salcedo to running the F&B department of one of the major players in Makati,” Ramon said.

One of the factors why Myron’s have lasted this long is because of a loyal following. Another is simply because they make good food.

For starters, the restaurant offers a variety of appetizers but the must tries are the caesar salad that’s freshly made beside your table and the delicious cappuccino of mushroom. It’s a mushroom soup that is creamy and foamy, giving that distinct cappuccino texture. The fresh mushroom flavors are there, not the kind you get in a can. It’s also adorably served in a coffee cup with a thin bread stick on the side.

SB Tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce
Tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce

If you’re a pasta lover, try the fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese. Yes, I know, blue cheese is notoriously pungent but this dish has no moldy aroma, whatsoever. It’s a surprisingly light pasta for a creamy dish and the grilled chicken complements it very well.

For people trying to stay away from carbs and want to eat “healthy,” try the tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce. I love seafood so this dish pleased me a lot, gastronomically speaking. The huge grilled tiger prawn has perfect charred sides and the scallops beautifully seared—both protein are very tender and well seasoned. The roasted pumpkin adds a smoky sweetness to the dish. All of the components are tied together by a creamy and delicate scallion sauce.

For the main event, Myron’s signature steak was served, called The President. It’s a US ribeye cooked medium and was served already sliced. It has a pink Himalayan salt topping and served with a side of steamed French beans. The sear was perfect and the seasoning was on point. I get why this steak is popular dish. This is best eaten with Myron’s rice, which is like fried rice but using steak drippings.

SB The President ribeye steak
‘The President’ ribeye steak

Although this was not the steak that I ate back then, it still brought back memories. Also, The President doesn’t need any sauce because it’s perfect as it is.

We ended the meal with an intricately plated chocolate cake. Ramon said that their pastry chef was formerly from Mandarin Oriental so the execution was very hotel-y. It was nice but I would have preferred the bread pudding.

The steak house is the living legacy of the man behind the name. Monica’s dad, Myron Papa is a big part of the concept when they envisioned the restaurant over a decade ago. The couple described the late stockbroker as someone who loved to entertain and feed people.

“He loved to entertain people with only the best food and wine,” recalled Monica. “When it came to get-togethers at home, he was very conscious about the quality of food being served, and very generous with the servings. You go home happy and well fed after a date with Myron.”

SB The Marianito
Marianito cocktail

This father’s day, Myron’s will celebrate with an addition to its bar menu. A new signature cocktail will be launched on June 18. Called the Marianito, it’s a classic Spanish cocktail made of vermouth, gin, campari, and angostura bitters.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Myron’s, 6th floor The Ascott Residences, Makati City / +632 755 8898 / reservations@myronsph.com / Facebook and Instagram @myrons_ph

Cebu’s UNO restaurant puts the spotlight on Filipino fare

When you ask me what my comfort food is, I would quickly respond Filipino food. As someone who grew up eating good Filipino fare at home, my love affair with local cuisine will last forever. Pizza got nothing on kare-kare.

The best thing about my mom and dad’s cooking (yes, they both cook) is they still do it the traditional way. Yes, no shortcuts. Why? Well, first, the flavors are different when using convenience products. Secondly, it’s healthier because you know exactly what you’re putting in your food.

Paella negra and arrox con pollo
UNO restaurant’s paella negra and arroz con pollo

My parents would use actual sampaloc in sinigang, boiling the sour fruit and pressing the juices through a sieve. I think my they have never used instant mix especially in kare-kare. They would use freshly ground peanuts from the market and use giniling na bigas (finely ground rice) as thickener.

Lucky for my siblings and I, we grew up tasting the real deal.

Cooking Filipino food the traditional way is also an advocacy of celebrity chef couple Roland and Jackie Laudico. Both chefs champion Pinoy food, promoting local cuisine through their restaurants and festivals here and overseas.

“The number one problem with Filipino cuisine is convenience products, all that instant cr**. We do not only advocate Filipino food, we promote the traditional way of preparing Filipino food,” explained chef Roland who is also known as chef Lau. He said this during a sit down interview with the media during the launch of their collaboration with UNO restaurant of Waterfront Cebu.

UNO restaurant interiors
Waterfront Hotel’s flagship restaurant, UNO

Last month, the chef tandem launched a Filipino food feast in partnership with the Waterfront group of hotels. Called “UNO’s Modern Filipino Taste: A Filipino Feast for All Senses,” the hotel’s buffet restaurant features a special menu by the Laudicos for a limited time, which started last week and will run until Aug. 31 of this year.

The two chefs added more than 40 dishes to the existing Filipino buffet menu. The dishes range from the traditional to modern to the Laudico’s personal spin to local dishes. The special menu is available at the hotel chain’s Cebu branches, Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino (Lahug) and Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino (Mactan).

Ngohiong cones
Ngohiong is a lumpia-like Cebuano dish and chef Lau turns it into bite-sized crunchy cones

“It is really with great passion and love that we always try to promote Filipino cuisine. It is such an honor for us to be able to do it at the country’s only Filipino-owned hotel chain. We are really happy to work with the Waterfornt group,” chef Jackie said.

Owned by the Gatchalian family, Waterfront hotels operate in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu), and Mindano (Davao). The local hotel chain is known for having PAGCOR casinos and even Duty Free shops at their hotels.

Lechon baka
Lechon baka

More than 60 dishes would greet diners at the hotel’s flagship restaurant. One of the main attraction of the buffet is a row of various lechon, after all, a Cebuano buffet is not complete without lechon.

Chef Lau’s take on the classic roast pig is adding a local flavor. He used basil-like local herb sangig along with the traditional aromatics used in lechon. The lechon line is also composed of baka (cow), goat, and his version of spicy “bellychon.”

Spicy bellychon2
Spicy bellychon

Also included in the lineup are classic dishes like pork humba, paella negra, and local dish balbacua. Chef Lau also put a modern spin on local favorites like the pinaupong nilasing na manok (beer can chicken cooked in a clay pot), inasal siomai, sinigang bites (crispy kangkong with bangus mousse), ngohiong cones (fried spring roll-like Cebuano dish), and many more.

Oh, did I mention there’s bacon bagnet? Yup, that exists in this buffet.

Suman panna cotta
Suman panna cotta

Chef Jackie on the other hand took care of the dessert, as usual. She made classic cakes and pastries and also modern Filipino desserts like queso de bola cheesecake, suman pana cotta, and molten tableya cake.

“We started doing Filipino food 18 years ago. We really wanted Filipino food to be respected globally, not just here and that’s happening. Finally, it’s happening, it should have happened many, many years ago,” chef Lau said.

Molten tableya cake
Molten tableya cake that uses Davao chocolate

“We’ve been doing Filipino food ever since hoping that we could inspire other chefs to do it and we’re very very happy that a lot are doing it now,” he added.

The couple is also bringing the festival in Davao this August and continue to experiment with Filipino food.

Please check out my story on ABS-CBN Life here.

For more information visit: www.waterfronthotels.com.ph

7 things to expect from traditional Japanese meals

My tummy will be forever thankful to Japan for giving the world sushi, tempura, ramen, katsu, and other glorious eats. Japanese food is a favorite around the world because the cuisine is considered umami-rich, healthy, and basically an art form. The Japanese take their food seriously.

When I say the Japanese take their food seriously, I mean seriously. Presentation alone, I think the Japanese are the best at presenting and plating their food. Even the vessels the food are on are also works of art—beautiful ceramic plates, bowls, and cups are often handmade by master craftsmen. And for chefs, some take years just to master one dish. Japanese master chefs are not called masters for nothing.

I discovered in Japan that what we eat today at local Japanese restaurants is far from the traditional meals. Yes, tempura, ramen, sushi, etc. are common dishes in the Land of the Rising Sun, but you haven’t truly eaten Japanese food until you try the traditional meals.

So, for people traveling to Japan for the first time and really want to try authentic Japanese fare, I will give you a list of what to expect from them.

Traditional Japanese setup
The beautiful dining setup at Bizenya restaurant in Goju

1. Traditional dining setup

You might already know this but traditional Japanese restaurants don’t have regular tables and chairs. Instead, a table that is low and close to the floor and pillows or legless chairs to sit on. Don’t worry because sitting on tatami mats is very comfortable even without pillows.

And a reminder, shoes are not allowed inside traditional restaurants. Eateries usually have shelves or shoe racks at the entrance and sometimes they provide guests with slip-ons so you can walk around the restaurant. But the dining area is still off limits to any kind of footwear.

Ready
Cold appetizers would be waiting for you on the table.

2. The food is ready on the table

The starters are already ready on the table before you even enter the restaurant especially if you or your tour guide reserved and ordered ahead of time. A typical Japanese meal starts with several amuse bouche or small portions of appetizers (mostly cold) like salad, pickles, vegetables, tamago (egg) omelet, grilled fish, sashimi, just to name a few.

Mini squid specialty
Toyama’s mini squid delicacy

3. Delicacies and exotic dishes

Speaking of appetizers, depending on where you are in Japan, there are certain specialties to try. When we were in Toyama, Toyama Prefecture, the city’s specialty is a type of tiny squid native to Toyama Bay. This squid is steamed or boiled then served cold with some kind of sour sauce. It’s very briny (not salty) but very fishy. I did not like this one that much.

Another are these small white fish sashimi in Goju. It is mixed in with herbs and pickles. Again, it was too fishy for me. These dishes are for people with an acquired taste.

There are however more delicious things than dishes I didn’t like. I loved the grilled fish, salad, seaweed pickles (or something), blanched green vegetable with crushed peanuts, egg omelet slices, various pickled vegetables, among others.

Cooking your main dish
Hot dish on the table

4. Cook your own main dish

At every restaurant we dined in, we always cooked the main dish on the table. A small pot or pan is usually situated on the side of your starter plate. What’s inside is raw fish or meat in a broth or sauce with whatever ingredients the dish may accompany. The pot is usually on top of a small ceramic or metal “stove” with some kind of burner the size of a small candle. The meat are usually sliced thinly for quick cooking.

This actually was quite a nice experience because we were able to cook the meat according to our liking. My favorite was the Hida beef dish at Irori restaurant in the heritage village Shirakawa-go. Slices of beef, tofu cubes, chopped scallions, bean sprouts (not sure but it may be soy bean sprouts), and miso paste on a bed of dry but soaked in oil ho leaf. It was so good. Hida beef is a kind of high grade cattle meat like Kobe.

Various starters
Small but several portions

5. A meal is composed of several courses

Most of the restaurants we dined in are very fine dining-esque. The dishes come in courses. After the appetizers and while waiting for your main dish to cook, several dishes would come one after another like a plate of sashimi then a bowl of soba noodles then a bowl of miso soup then a bowl of rice then the dessert.

You would think that the meals have small portions but there are several dishes—six to seven courses! You’ll get full but you won’t get that bloated feeling.

rice
A Japanese meal is not complete without rice.

6. Rice comes in late

Like Chinese lauriat, rice arrives towards the end of the meal, usually served with a bowl of miso soup. The rice bowl comes before the dessert. Just be prepared because during our first meals, we were surprised when the rice was served last after we already downed the main dishes. Though some restaurants serve noodles instead of rice and sometimes both.

But like good Filipinos we are, we usually order the rice in advance so we can eat it with the main dish. You can ask politely and they will oblige. But in a non-traditional setting, rice is usually served along with all the dishes.

tempura
Mixed tempura served with fine wasabi salt

7. It gets really authentic

Japanese cuisine outside Japan is already modified one way or another. We were served tempura in two meals and both times, no dipping sauce was served with it. Gasp! We are used to the sweet, soy, and gingery sauce of tempura served here in the Philippines. Traditionally, however, termpura is only served with a small plate of fine salt. Sometimes, the salt are flavored with various herbs and other spices.

When in Japan, expect real wasabi and not the bright green kind that comes in a tube. The real wasabi has a lighter green color, is more moist, and has bits and pieces of the root. The spice doesn’t linger and smoother compared to the fake ones.

So there you go! If you’re traveling to Japan, make sure to try some traditional fare. You’ll really discover how the Japanese really take their food seriously.

Jetstar offers low fares to Nagoya and flies four times weekly from Manila / www.jetstar.com