Japanese food with a modern twist

Filipinos love Japanese food. I love Japanese food. For this reason alone why Japanese restaurants flourish in the country—from cheap ramen in Malate to big fast food chains to posh hotel dining. I mean, this cuisine has become comfort food to Filipinos.

So to keep it interesting, one Japanese restaurant in the heart of Ortigas challenges the norm. Yes, they do offer Japanese classics from a platter of sashimi to crunchy tempura, but it offers modern dishes that would interest the ever curious Filipino palate. Minami Saki by Astoria serves up Japanese food with a modern twist.

aburi sushi
Aburi Sushi, lightly torched sushi drenched in the special aburi sauce

Headed by the very experienced executive chef Kimito Katagiri, Minami Saki levels up the playing field by creating modern dishes out of the traditional dishes. For example, one of its widely popular dishes is the Aburi Sushi. What’s different about this sushi is it uses the chef’s secret aburi sauce and the each sushi is lightly torched. Yep, like the sugar on top of crème brulee, the perfectly cut seafood is heated up by a kitchen torch. Each fish—tuna, hamachi, eel, salmon, and lapu-lapu—lay on carefully shaped rice, then each piece is topped with artificially colored fly fish roe and a small piece of fruit. This dish is popular for a reason because it is really good.

“A lot of the dishes that we have has chef Katagiri’s aburi sauce. Nobody knows what’s in that sauce except the chef. A lot of people speculate, but we don’t know and I think that makes it special,” explains Astoria Plaza Digital Marketing and Business Development executive Jacqueline Ng.

Nobody knows about the aburi sauce, only the chef knows the recipe. It’s a closely guarded secret.

us scallops
US Scallops with Tamago Sauce

Another standout dish for me was the US Scallops with Tamago Sauce. When you look at it it looks like a pile of goo but looks can be deceiving. That pile of mush is a plate of tender scallops, delicately sauteed, and topped with an amazing Japanese-style egg yolk sauce. This is really good.

The Usuyaki Steak with Mushrooms is a must try, too. The thin slices of beef is pounded to make it super tender then grilled. Various mushrooms are also grilled and then wrapped by the thin pieces of beef. The Cha Soba is something clean and crisp best to end the meal.

The only thing I didn’t like is Kaki Papaya Yaki or fresh Japanese oysters on a bed of ripe papaya brushed with miso and the special aburi sauce. I’m not fan of oysters so this is something I won’t eat again.

But what the restaurant is also proud of is its “theatrical desserts.”

“What we’ve been doing is really pushing the envelope in terms of researching dessert trends all over the globe. In terms of Japanese, dining, you got the modern and traditional. When it comes to dessert we want it theatrical. At the end, you leave with an impression that you won’t forget,” Jacqueline says.

coffee jelly
Coffee Jelly

Its Coffee Jelly for example, a bowl of jiggly coffee jelly is served with a glass kettle filled with mist/smoke. The mist overflows down the bowl of jelly making it look like it came out of a laboratory. The coffee jelly is also served with its homemade vanilla ice cream.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle story here.

Minami Saki is located at the ground floor of Astoria Plaza Ortigas, 15 J. Escriva Drive, Ortigas, Pasig City / +632 687 1111 / Facebook/minamisakibyastoria

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