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

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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

Beautiful Japan and its colorful food

Colorful in the literal sense but also colorful in terms of flavor, presentation, and texture. Japan has one of the best cuisines in the world and the best way to try this is by visiting the country itself.

I was lucky enough to visit the Land of the Rising Sun last month with a group of bloggers and journalists. It was my first time in Japan. And as I said it in previous posts, it is a dream destination for me.

Sakura in Magome
Sakura in Magome

So when my editor texted me (almost two months ago) if I was available to cover a familiarization tour (FAM tour) to Japan, to say that I was excited was an understatement. I was excited to see this beautiful country, which is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. I was excited to experience the country’s world-famous culture, both past and present. I was excited to taste the food—sushi, ramen, sashimi, tempura, udon, katsu, etc.

The destination was Central Japan, yes we toured not just one city but an entire region. Nagoya was our entry point via Jetstar, the organizer of the trip. The Japanese low cost airline started its flights to the Philippines last year and MNL-NGO (Nagoya) is one of its routes.

Nagoya TV Tower and Central Park from Oasis 21 all viewing platform
Nagoya TV Tower and Central Park from Oasis 21 mall viewing platform

Nagoya is home to around 30,000 Filipino residents. It is also the entry point to Japan’s heartland.

Before we get to the food, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the highlights of the trip.

Matsumoto Castle, the oldest castle in Japan
Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s oldest castle

Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, is the oldest castle in Japan, built between 1593 and 1594. Made of wood, stone, and clay, it’s one of Japan’s best symbols of building skill and design. It’s one of the most beautiful castles to photographs, because the Japanese Alps play as its stunning backdrop.

World Heritage site Shirakawa-go
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Gifu Prefecture. The small village is famous for its gassho-zukuri-style thatched roof houses. Situated in a valley up in the mountains, the village is surrounded by hills with lush forests, that is why one of the best seasons to visit is autumn. Wintertime is also best, when snow beautifully covers the thatched roofs.

The famous road of Alpine Route with snow walls on both sides
The famous highland road of Tateyama Alpine Route, flanked by snow walls on both sides

Alpine Route on Tateyama mountain (part of the Japanese Alps) in Toyama Prefecture is one of the most visited spots in Japan and now I can see why. It is famous for the mountain road that is sandwiched between towering snow walls. Located at 2,450 meters above sea level, Tateyama experiences some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world. Workers clear up the highland road of snow every winter but snow still accumulates on each side of the road. Parts of the wall can even reach up to 20 meters high! Best part of the visit was the travel route because of the stunning views left and right like the picture perfect Kurobe Dam. This attraction opens every spring.

Different varieties of begonias
One of several pavilions at Nabana no Sato that houses different varieties of South American begonias.

Nabano no Sato is a garden park at Nagashima Resort. Located in Kuwana in Mie Prefecture, less than an hour away from Nagoya City, the park displays indigenous and imported flora and fauna. The current displays include an exhibition of beautiful begonias of South America; field of tulips; and the Winter Illumination light installation.

Now to the important stuff—the food. As you guys already know, I love Japanese food. So to go the place where it originated was such an amazing experience.

For most of the trip, we were treated to traditional Japanese meals, except on the last day. This means no bowls of ramen or tendon or curry or fluffy cheesecakes or strawberry shortcakes.

Since we were in the countryside, the food were very traditional. I will only mention meals and restaurants that stood out for me, after all, there was a lot of food during the five-day trip.

Magomeya restaurant in Magome
Magomeya’s dining space

First eatery is Magomeya in Magome, Gifu Prefecture. The restaurant is located behind the bus parking space at the foot of the famous Nakasendo Route in Magome. It has a simple and traditional dining space but has an amazing view of the mountains.

The food here are set meals that comes with a bento box of starters, soup, soba noodles, rice, and dessert. In our bento box was a variety of proteins like karaage (Japanese fried chicken), braised fish, and egg omelet. It also has a mix of vegetable pickles and seaweed. The miso soup is like no other miso soup I ever had. It’s filled with ingredients like daikon, carrot, thinly sliced pork, and green onions. The broth is very flavorful and perfectly seasoned (this was so good!).

Magomeya set meal
Magomeya’s delicious set meal

The soba noodles was also a meal on its own. The perfectly cooked buckwheat noodles (chewy but still has a bite) was swimming in a warm dashi broth with a mix of mushrooms and green onions. To finish, a simple not-so-sweet jelly dessert with fresh fruits is the perfect light ending to a delicious meal.

Irori hida beef
Irori’s Hida beef cooked on a ho leaf

Another must-try restaurant is Irori in Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture. The eatery in this heritage village serves Japanese meals in its most traditional form. This includes slices of beef cooked on a ho (local tree) leaf with miso paste, tofu, bean sprouts, and green onions. This was, for me, the best beef dish during the trip! What’s even better is the restaurant uses Hida beef, one of Japan’s high grade cattle meats (in the level of Kobe beef). The set meals also comes with the usual starters like vegetables, smoked fish, tofu, and a bowl of rice.

Dinner setup at Bizenya restaurant in Gujo
Bizenya’s traditional dining setup

Then there’s Bizenya in Gujo City in Gifu Prefecture. The restaurant has a beautiful traditional garden and has a traditional dining setup. The restaurant’s setup lets its diners sit on cushioned legless chairs on the floor, covered with the very comfortable tatami mat. The beautifully presented meal has the usual starters. Note that appetizers vary per restaurant.

Fresh sashimi
Uber fresh sashimi
Tempura
Traditional tempura is served with plain or flavored fine salt

Bizenya served us a variety of starters including extremely fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon, etc.) and steamed sea snail. The restaurant also served mixed tempura. At this point I discovered that tempura is originally served with plain or flavored fine salt and not the sweet ginger-soy dipping sauce we Filipinos are familiar with. The main dish is the beef (Hida, no less) sukiyaki, which we had to cook on the table by ourselves.

Hitsumabushi unagi
Hitsumabushi Bincho’s grilled unagi

The last memorable meal for me was the bowl of unagi at Hitsumabushi Bincho at La Chic mall in Sakae area in Nagoya City. Nagoya is famous for its unagi or freshwater eel. The restaurant chain serves the grilled unagi on a bed of rice and different condiments including dashi broth. This dish can be eaten in three ways—as it is; with nori, green onions, and wasabi; and with dashi broth. Diners can divide the big bowl of unagi and eat it however they like. Personally, I like the nori-green onionswasabi combination.

Traditional Japanese food is what I expected it to be—clean, beautiful, and flavorful. Some dishes may be for an acquired taste but most are overflowing with umami goodness. I will detail what to expect from traditional Japanese meals on my next post. And also watch out for what food souvenirs to buy in Japan.

You can also read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

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

Experience teishoku-style dining

It’s no secret, I love Japanese food. So, every time there’s a new Japanese restaurant opening, I get really excited. The current situation in the local food scene means I get excited a lot. There are so many restaurants putting up shop, including Japanese restaurant chains, that sometimes it’s hard to pick where to dine first.

The newest addition to the market is Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant. Brought in by business partners Yvonne Yao and Jacqueline Gobing, Yayoi is a Japanese resto chain that already has several branches in different parts of the world. It mainly serves teishoku-style (set meal) dining.

sb-namban-teishoku-chicken-steak-with-special-yayoi-tartar-sauce
Namban teishoku (fried chicken steak with tartar sauce), P450

Set meal dining is very popular in Japan because it’s convenient and filling—one meal consists of one main dish, an appetizer, a cup of rice, and a soup. It’s essentially an upgraded value meal, which Filipinos are already used to.

Let me give an example. During the launch of the restaurant, I ordered the hitsumabushi or grilled eel, which I really enjoyed. The meal comes with grilled eel on top of rice and egg, a dashi broth, a kind of tofu appetizer, and Japanese pickles. This dish is special because it comes with an instruction card that advises diners that they can enjoy the meal in three ways. You can divide the grilled eel into several portions and enjoy them differently. One, you can eat it as it is; two, with wasabi and spring onions; and lastly, with the flavorful dashi broth.

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Hitsumabushi (grilled eel), P450

There are several set meals available that Filipinos are already familiar with like the sukiyaki teishoku, ton katsu teishoku, kara age teishoku, teriyaki chicken teishoku, teriyaki salmon teishoku, and many more. Then there’s also the new ones like the namban teishoku—fried chicken steak in sweet and sour sauce and topped with a special tartar sauce. Then there’s the wafu hamburg teishoku, a burger steak with Japanese-style sauce served with freshly grated daikon.

What the restaurant hopes is that they would be known as an authentic teishoku restaurant. According to Yvonne, the food is as authentic as it gets because they did minimal adjustments when it comes to flavors and they use ingredients sourced from Japan.

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Matcha ice cream with mochi cubes and sweet azuki beans

“I have observed that the local concepts and franchises here, the food is already fusion and you don’t get authentic Japanese taste. I understand they have to adjust to the Filipino palate, but that’s not fully introducing authentic Japanese,” Yvone says, Yayoi Philippines managing director. “At Yayoi we adjust according to sweetness or adding more salt. Just little adjustments. We want to make it clear what Japanese food is really about.”

Yayoi, however, do not only serve teishoku but also a la carte meals as well. You can order appetizer separately like a bowl of edamame (steamed young soy beans) and different salads. The Japanese eatery also has a selection of delicious Japanese dessert like mochi, matcha ice cream, ohagi or steamed sticky rice ball covered in sweet azuki beans, among others.

sb-yayois-ipad-ordering-system-01
Yayoi’s iPad ordering system

But probably one of the best features of the restaurant is you get to order your food using an iPad. You can scroll through the menu, pick what you want, and tap to order. Now, that’s very Japanese.

Yayoi, 3rd Floor, Bridgeway, Bldg. B, SM Megamall, Ortigas Center / http://www.yayoi.com.ph / Facebook/YAYOIPhilippines / Instagram @yayoiph

A different kind of Japanese dining experience

To say that Japanese food is a Filipino favorite is an understatement. Japanese food is already a staple here that there are now restaurants specializing on specific dishes, from tempura to ramen to sushi to katsu. People will line up for a hot bowl of rich ramen or a crunchy katsu meal.

ichiba platter
An assortment Japanese eats served during the restaurant’s grand launch.

Japanese food is love.

I, too, love Japanese food. When I was younger, my dad was sent by his company to work in Japan for six months and his love for Japanese food was transferred to us, mostly me, actually. He was the one who taught me how to use chopsticks. And because of the country’s rich culture and amazing food, Japan is on top of my list of countries to visit.

Another Japanese concept opened recently that made me think, are Filipinos slowly transporting Japan here? I mean, if that’s the case, can they they transport the weather, too?

Kidding aside, I love how more and more Japanese things are becoming available here. I wrote about Hattendo last time and now this concept. I heard that there are more Japanese brands and concepts opening in the country soon.

ichiba live seafood
Live seafood

iFoods Group, the company behind other Japanese restaurant concepts Tokyo Cafe and Wafu, recently opened Ichiba: Japanese Market, a restaurant that was inspired by the bustling markets of Japan. Imagine Tsukiji Fish Market, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Kyushu Market, and Hokkaido Market, cramped into one restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant, it’s like getting transported to busy street market complete with traditional Japanese market stall facades.

The eatery, located at the Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, is like a Japanese version of the Filipino “dampa” dining style. Diners can pick from the many live seafood at the restaurant. The restaurant’s live seafood section can hold up to 600 kg of live seafood, from shrimps to lobsters to crabs to various kinds of shellfish. Most of the seafood are sourced directly from Japan while some are from different parts of the Philippines. Customers can ask Ichiba’s highly trained kitchen staff to prepare the seafood to whatever Japanese dish they want.

ichiba takoyaki boys
Cooking octopus takoyaki balls

Ichiba has a ready menu as well, offering classic dishes like sushi, tempura, ramen, and donburi. At the center of the restaurant is yatai stall where busy cooks prepare favorite Japanese street food like takoyaki, yakitori (chicken fillet, chicken gizzard, salmon, pork belly, etc.), among others. You have to try the gyukushi or beef yakitori. These melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef barbecue dish is really good and at less P130, it’s a total steal. The restaurant also has a Asahi Bar for happy hours.

Location: Second floor, Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City
Contact: +63917 732-2176

I gotta filling

Every time I pass by a bakery and smell the inviting aroma of freshly baked bread, it’s hard to resist buying the carbohydrate-filled temptation. Nothing beats bread, fresh out of the oven. Not until Japanese chilled buns arrived on our shores.

Cold bread? Gasp! What do you mean? Such impertinence! How could they do this? No! Why? Get out!

Okay, calm down. Chill (pun intended, hehe). We’ve been eating cold bread ever since cake was invented. And these chilled buns are no ordinary bread because they are filled with creamy filling goodness.

In 1933, Kaoru Morimitsu opened Hattendo in Hiroshima, Japan. Named after a shrine that stood centuries in the historic city of Hiroshima, Hattendo sells soft buns filled with different fillings such as custard, matcha, azuki bean, whipped cream, chocolate, chestnut, and mango.

The shop has been baking and selling buns for more than 80 years! A solid proof of the product’s quality and I guess, deliciousness. The Japanese bakery set up shop and opened in the Philippines last year. All the buns are baked in Japan and shipped to the Philippines.

At the opening of Ichiba Japanese Market restaurant, at the Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, I was able to try these Japanese buns. The small and melt-in-your-mouth buns are bursting with filling. The custard filling is very creamy and not too sweet. I particularly love the mango flavor because it’s like biting into bread filled with mango ice cream. I hope to try all flavors soon.

Hattendo has branches at SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, and Theater Mall Greenhills.

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