The gyudon is a humble, simple dish famous for being the meal of choice for many Japanese salarymen. It’s a quick-to-eat, budget-friendly but very satisfying staple basically made of thinly sliced beef cooked in a sweet sauce involving dashi, soy sauce and mirin, and then the beef is made to sit on a bed of steamed rice.
In the case of the newly launched Ginza Gyu, however, 'basic' and 'humble' and 'simple' aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when presented with their beef bowls. You’re more likely to think: rich, bountiful, and Instagram-friendly. The slices are generous, the scent inviting, and the fat quite the attention-grabber. The guys behind the business call them “luxurious beef bowls,” living up to the image of the place it’s named after: Tokyo’s ground zero for luxury shopping, Ginza, which also happens to be the address of many Michelin-starred restaurants in the Japan capital.
The guys behind Ginza Gyu call themselves “Japan regulars”—as if the name they chose for their food concept isn’t already telling. But their story really started in Shanghai.
Rich Sanz and fiancee Maxine Marcelino, and Mikael Jiang and fiancee Queen Lee all met in the world’s largest city while living and pursuing their careers. “When the pandemic started in China early this year, all four of us temporarily stayed in Manila to wait out the pandemic but we found ourselves stuck here,” says Maxine, the company CFO.
And so the enterprising foursome thought of opening a food business centered around the idea of the gyudon. After all, apart from their shared love of many things Japan—the bullet trains, the cherry blossoms, Tokyo’s neon lights—three of the four owners have backgrounds that are connected to food. Rich is founder and CEO of the FoodAsia Group which owns and operates kiosks, small cafes, and restaurants in the Philippines and Middle East. Maxine was the F&B Marketing Manager of one of Shanghai’s top brass restaurant groups. And Queen was a BS Nutrition and Dietetics graduate before she decided to shift to medicine. Mike, who is Swedish-Chinese, the only non-Pinoy in the quartet, meanwhile, is an e-commerce consultant and sought-after cryptocurrency expert previously based in Sweden, US, UK, and China.
The group's chef partner is Kevin Villarica, one of the talented chefs of the very inventive Hapag MNL. Rich and Maxine met Kevin while dining at the newly-opened Hapag last year. “It so happened Chef Kevin was there and personally attended to us and we really enjoyed their innovative take on traditional Filipino food," recalls Maxine. A friendship followed, dinners in various restaurants, until early this year they asked him to be on board.
In Ginza Gyu, beef fans can choose from three cuts of Wagyu, as well as choice tenderloin and braised or grilled thin-sliced US beef. For non-beef eaters, there’s Kurobotadon (braised thin-sliced pork) and an 8-hour Kurobota Chashu, Ebi Katsu (black tiger prawns), and Grilled Salmon. All bowls come with Japanese staples like Ajitsuke and Nori tamago, soy and dashi mirin glaze, house-made Gari, shiitake mushrooms, wasabi salt and Sasanishiki Gohan or Chahan, all hand-made by Chef Kevin.
Asked what her favorite is of the offerings, the CFO says it's the wagyu steak bowl which uses a wagyu sirloin cut. "It has the perfect amount of fat and it’s tender without losing that crucial beef 'bite' that I love. Because it’s such a nice cut of beef, you only need some wasabi salt to season."
To order Ginza Gyu, visit @ginzagyuph on Instagram. Soon on FoodPanda, GrabFood, and LalaFood, or visit them on the Ground Floor of Techzone Building, 213 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, San Antonio Village, Makati (contact number - 09162351403) starting 5 November 2020.