Japanese flavors take center stage at this trio of new restaurants in the Philippine capital.
By Scott James Roxas
Taking its name from the Japanese expression mechakuchaumai (“absurdly delicious”), Mecha Uma is the latest venture by chef Bruce Ricketts, whose first Manila restaurant, Sensei Sushi, signaled the arrival of a young master. His fans have followed him to this minimalist space in Fort Bonifacio, where he blendslocal organic produce with seasonal Japanese ingredients in regularly changing blackboard specials and an omakase (chef’s choice) menu that recently included such standouts as Hokkaido sea urchin with grilled oyster and monkfish liver, and tuna with coconut, foie gras mousse, and roasted pineapple sandwiched between tuile wafers (RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 25th St., Fort Bonifacio, Taguig; 63-2/801-2770).
Anchoring celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s first hotel foray outside the United States, the latest Nobu restaurant is making waves amid stunning views of Manila Bay. Sleek wood-and-marble interiors accented with floral motifs provide the backdrop to Matsuhisa’s acclaimed Peruvian-influenced Japanese dishes, including signatures like black cod with miso. But this new location also serves items that are rarely available at other Nobus, such as pork belly with spicy miso and a fragrant seafood paella. The chef’s private-label sakes and wines are also on offer to complete meals, which are best enjoyed on the alfresco dining terrace next to the reflecting pool (Nobu Hotel,cnr. Aseana Blvd. and Macapagal Ave., Tambo, Parañaque; 63-2/691-2882).
With a vibe that suggests both laid-back bar and art gallery, this izakaya-inspired newcomer is the second restaurant by twentysomething Filipino couple Thea De Rivera and Gab Bustos, who named the place for their anniversary date. Young as they are, these two are making a mark on the Manila dining scene with rave-worthy food and interiors. The Japanese-Korean menu features stellar items such as the raw tuna salad and the blowtorched salmon with sea urchin, caviar, panko, ponzu, and sea salt. The portions are intentionally small to allow diners to self-curate their own degustation, which seems to work quite well for the young urbanites that keep the place full even on a Monday night (7635 Guijo St., San Antonio, Makati; 63-915/663-2823).
This article originally appeared in the April/May print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Manila On The Menu”)