MANILA -- Despite Filipinos love for Japanese food and the numerous restaurants available in the country, Pinoy diners have barely scratched the surface of one of the world's most popular cuisines. There's more to Japanese cuisine than tempura, ramen, and sushi.
For instance, Japanese robatayaki is a method of cooking similar to barbecue. Various meats and vegetables are cooked over charcoal. Robatayaki restaurants are very popular in Japan and they mainly served kushiyaki or grilled skewered meats and vegetables.
Yakitori is a type of kushiyaki and it refers only to grilled skewered chicken.
One robatayaki restaurant in Manila is Enbu, located at Okada Manila. Probably one of the most striking restaurants in the metro — interior wise — it uses premium ingredients in their kushiyaki. Choose from tiger prawns, wagyu beef, Iberian pork, tuna, and more.
“The idea of the robatayaki restaurant started during the planning stages of Okada. Japanese cuisine is popular among Filipinos but we want to be different. Robatayaki is very popular in Japan we want to bring that here as part of our offering,” explained Okada's senior brand marketing manager Epie Santos.
Enbu has been open at Okada for quite some time but closed down in April 2019 for renovations. It reopened in November 2019.
Situated along the integrated resort's Crystal Corridor, the restaurant has one of the best view of Okada's famous fountain. It's most striking feature are the red lanterns that adorn the ceiling. A total of 2,160 lanterns, in fact. The lanterns are also synchronized to The Fountain's dancing lights and sounds show.
“In Japan we use lantern during festival season. We want this restaurant to have a festival feel,” Enbu's chef de cuisine Yoshihiro Sugiyama.
The dining space is divided into three kushiyaki stations. The guests sit on bar-like tables that wrap around the grill where chefs do the cooking. There's also a regular dining set-up and a private robatayaki room.
Right now, the restaurant is offering unlimited kushiyaki for P1,200 as a promotion after reopening, which is available until March 31.
What's unique about the Enbu's kushiyaki is chef Sugiyama keeps everything authentic and uses the best ingredients possible. For example, the pork they use is Spanish Iberian and the seafood comes in fresh from Japan. Some ingredients are sourced locally as well.
“We're using the Iberian pork. So very sweet and very tender,” chef said when asked what was the bestseller.
Small cuts of Iberian pork belly is skewered by a bamboo stick and cooked over a combination of charcoal and gas grill. Other kushiyaki items included in the unlimited offer are: king oyster mushroom, zucchini, chicken thing and leaks, chicken wings, minced chicken, pork and kimchi, pork shiitake, pork sausage, squid, and tuna, among others. The more premium items like wagyu beef and prawns are available separately, a la carte.
The unlimited promo also comes with unlimited rice and miso soup.
And to keep everything traditional, the way the staff serve kushiyaki is also authentic. Using a long handled wooden paddle (similar to a pizza peel), the staff serves the cooked kushiyaki to each guest. The skewers are served with three kinds of sauces: yakitori, ponzu (Japanese citrus juice), and garlic soy sauce.
Aside from kushiyaki, the restaurant also offers an assortment of Japanese dishes Filipinos are very familiar with like sushi, wagyu steak, and tempura, just to name a few. Chef Sugiyama also plans to offer ramen in the future.
“We also have sushi but in the future I will make ramen for a limited time,” he said.