Yesterday, I successfully convinced my wife, Tina with our four-year-old son, Gabby, to come with me and experience a quaint area that I wanted to visit ever since I’ve read about it from random blogs. Since we all are self-proclaimed foodies, there was no effort on my part to be so compelling that the little compound of small restaurants owned by Japanese chefs is really a must-see and a must-try.
At half hour past 3 in the afternoon, Gabby and I went to Gateway Mall to meet Tina from work. After she arrived, we didn’t waste a minute and headed straight to Makati City. The place was along Chino Roces, formerly Pasong Tamo and near Amorsolo Street. It has two entrances – one facing Plaza Fair/Makati Cinema Square (yes, they are still on operation, business must have been good, LOL !) and the other gate was at the other side of the street I failed to recall. I was so happy that we went here…
On way there, my son curiously asked me if we need to fly airplane to reach Little Tokyo. :) For people like us who haven’t been to Japan, this place is a nice find until one day that we get to tour and experience the ’real thing’.
My heart rate became slightly rapid when I saw the flame red torii or that traditional Japanese gate. Needless to say, I was unobtrusively excited. Even Gabby was eager to be there because it was totally different from our usual Glorietta-Greenbelt-Landmark-Glorietta-SM-routine that we usually do when we’re in Makati.
Little Tokyo in Makati is adjacent to so many Japanese restaurants, a spa and two exclusively Japanese groceries. As soon as we walked through it, I was never surprised to see the small compound with a welcoming beautiful zen garden and an ambiance that brought us a slice of a city in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It was a fresh experience to dine where ambiance is not only authentic but impressive.
There are seats and tables for al fresco dining from each restaurant. But we preferred to eat inside and cross our legs in front of a Japanese table.
We tried two restaurants. Yes, we dined there yesterday afternoon not once but twice :) Our first stop was HANA…
Hana was the first resto at Little Tokyo that greeted us. The waitresses clad in white blouses and black pants were courteous, even offered us the small VIP room at the end of the small Jap nook without an extra charge. The small room had a flat screen TV on the wall, air condition unit, an exhaust fan, a table good for less than 10 people I guess and so I tried crossing my legs and sat on this…
I like the print of this throw pillow or whatever they call it in Japan.
Now, here are the yummies we ordered….
Gabby was the first one to received his order. It was RAMUNE, PhP 60. It’s flavored finely shaved ice that reminded me of snow cone :) It’s available in melon, peach, lemon, orange, strawberry, grape flavors and you may opt to add milk to it but our little boy wanted it plain. Gabby had his Ramune as the same color with his shirt and mind you, it was not wasabi flavor but bubble gum; it’s OK and wasn’t irritatingly sweet. Gabby was happy with Ramune.
SUKIYAKI PLATE, PhP 250
I’ve tasted the best Sukiyaki, IMO, from Umu -the Japanese restaurant in DUSIT THANI HOTEL’s FAMILY SUNDAY BRUNCH that we’ve tried few months ago but Hana’s SUKIYAKI PLATE was not disappointing. It was only unique from the usual Japanese soup served with the beef stock already mixed with ingredients all in one bowl. Hana’s version was deliciously different having it on a dish instead of a bowl, with all other common ingredients – thinly sliced beef , 2 generous cubes of tofu, mushroom, and was topped with nori strips (sushi wrapper cut into pieces). The beef slices were so tender, and the tofu was so delicious it actually tasted soya milk! (I know tofu is the sieved particle of soya milk but Hana’s tofu in its Sukiyaki has the softest consistency somewhat like a soft delectable gelatin). The dish came with the sukiyaki broth in a separate bowl and a small bowl of rice that Tina and I shared. (We we’re saving space at our stomachs for other Jap goodies from the adjacent must-try resto ).
Another first in our Japanese dining experience at Little Tokyo was eating TAKOYAKI or octopus dumplings.
Based on my blog hopping weeks before we went there, Hana is noted for their TAKOYAKI so we didn’t pass the chance to try it ourselves. Takoyaki costs PhP 100 per plate of six, served 30 minutes upon order. It’s cooked at an iron Takoyaki pan or pancake puffs pan by a Japanese chef just outside Hana’s door.
It’s soft outside with mushier consistency inside. Each ball of Takoyaki has a tiny piece of octopus and its filling has gingery taste but far from overpowering. It was sprinkled with mayonnaise and Takoyaki sauce. It was fresh to my palate but wasn’t unpleasant.
Hana and the other restos in Little Tokyo share public toilets within their compound. The toilet for males was screaming for much-needed renovation but it was clean inside. Service in Hana was fair; the staff were courteous and attentive, but most food on the menu was a bit pricey. And this is a general observation between Hana and Kagura (the two restos there that we sampled). To be logical about it, diners are not only paying for the food but the ambiance and authenticity of the place. It may not be a high-end Japanese dining place, but rest assure that it’s far from the Jap food in malls and fast foods that lack that Little Tokyo experience.
HANA is at Little Tokyo 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City.
My next post will be about our first experience of eating OKONOMIYAKI or Japanese pancake from KAGURA, also at Little Tokyo (the next door resto to Hana). :)
(singing mode…) I’m turning Japanese, I really think so…
—————-> to be continued