The news of a restaurant, especially what seems like a fancy one, opening in the middle of a pandemic is a bit of a head-scratcher. So we had to ask the guys behind Wagyu Studio the three-letter question: Why? And where does one get the confidence to make such a move?
“Honestly, we weren’t confident at all,” says LA Clavano, managing partner for the new restaurant at The Finance Center, BGC. “When the lockdown began, any plans we had to open earlier this year were shot. And after all the time, money and effort we had already put into this restaurant, we really did not have a choice. We had to adapt and keep moving forward. This was our baby and we could not wait around for another year.”
You can say they also strongly believe in the concept they’re offering: a modern, cutting-edge steakhouse focused on the Japanese beef that’s rich, flavorful and marbled with fat.
Manila steakhouses tend to stick to an American aesthetic: dark wood and leather interiors, serving grilled American prime beef basted in butter and aromatics with vegetable sides heavily incorporated with butter and cream. In Wagyu Studio guests will be served delicate sashimi carved from a cut of a tenderloin, or tender slices of beef cooked lightly over a table grill with a whole lot of difference.
“We are going to turn the concept of the steakhouse on its head,” says Clavano. “Our brand is a contradiction: exceptional dining that pays reverence to high quality ingredients but served with a heavy dose of modern Japanese cool.”
In the same way that a serious sushi restaurant takes simple slices of fish and transforms them into a new, revelatory encounter, Wagyu Studio promises to make diners see wagyu in a whole new light. Visitors can opt to experience the 28-seater Yakiniku Lounge where they can select the best beef the restaurant has to offer, cooking the meat for themselves at their tables. There is also the 22-seater Live Kitchen, discreetly located behind a closed door. Here, guests are served a multi-course tasting menu that includes the restaurant’s signature dishes, like the decadent wagyu beef sando.
Asked where they source their meat, Clavano says the establishment has been very lucky to work with “an amazing farmer from Kobe who has been known for raising champion Kobe wagyu for many years.” Clavano takes pride in the relationship they have with their supplier. “We now get our beef directly from him. This gives us exclusive access to his award-winning Kobe beef.”
The chef behind Wagyu Studio is Yoji Kitayama. He started his career in 1999 working in a Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam, and spent the next 19 years working at luxury hotels like the Hotel Okura Amsterdam, Grand Hyatt Tokyo, JW Marriott Bangkok, VIE Hotel Bangkok, Sorae Saigon, and Rosewood Hotel Phnom Penh.
At Wagyu Studio, his goal is to create dishes that people understand, using the best ingredients available to him. Kitayama is relishing the experience of being in this new environment, doing what he does best. “People are going to have fun,” he promises.
It’s not easy to open a business in this economic climate but it’s not like the guys behind Wagyu Studio are the only ones out there facing the unknown—everyone else is. “We knew we had to give it a shot because we believed in what we could offer the dining public,” adds Clavano. “After months of quarantine, we figured that people still wanted to live life. Our partners and I wanted to make a space that was not only safe but also special. We want our guests to experience something they’ve never had in the Philippines.”
[Wagyu Studio is located at Unit 201B 1/F The Finance Centre, 9th Avenue corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City. Contact 612.8426.5351 Mobile: 63.917.180.0657. Business hours: Live Kitchen, dinner, 7PM to 10PM; Yakiniku Side, Dinner, 6PM to 10PM. Open from Tuesday to Sundays. Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays]