Filipinos' current obsession with Korean BBQ is not surprising. As is, barbecue has long been a crowd favorite and most Korean BBQ restaurants offer unlimited yet affordable options, so diners can get their fill without breaking the bank.
That's why people are willing to line up for hours for some smoky pork and kimchi.
But if smoky and charred bite-sized slices of pork belly can make anybody's mouth water, imagine slices of marbled Japanese A5 Wagyu beef sizzling away on a grill. The melt-in-your-mouth pieces of meat are simply seasoned with salt and pepper, respecting that succulent beefy flavor.
That's what's yakiniku or Japanese barbecue is all about. Beef takes center stage on a Japanese grill and this new restaurant in Alabang is giving yakiniku a much-deserved spotlight.
Homare Japanese Restaurant and Grill is the newest restaurant to open south of Metro Manila. It is The Bellevue Manila hotel's latest dining outlet offering authentic Japanese flavors including grilled wagyu.
“There's a proliferation of eat-all-you-can samgyeopsal, but we want to introduce something a step above the rest, by offering yakiniku in a more premium environment and premium offering of higher quality meat and seafood,” explained The Bellevue Manila managing director Patrick Chan.
Yakiniku which translates to “grilled meat” is a popular cuisine in Japan. It is believed that yakiniku is derived from Korean cuisine that is why it has similarities with Korean BBQ.
Like Korean BBQ restaurants, the yakiniku tables have charcoal grills in the middle while exhaust pipe ducts hang above to suck out the fumes. Homare uses copper exhaust pipes that blend into the modern Japanese zen design of the space.
The restaurant offers A5 Wagyu, US Prime, and Australian beef. The yakiniku comes in sets like a combination of different meats, vegetables, rice, and several sides.
“The sauces are quite different, although we also have Korean items because we developed a taste here [in the country]. Even in Japan, the popular yakiniku places would serve kimchi. Since we have a Korean-trained cook in the hotel, we also provide japchae, kimchi options, and Korean pancake as part of the possible appetizers you can order in Homare,” Chan said.
However, Homare is not exclusively a yakiniku place because it's a full-blown Japanese restaurant. It offers traditional and authentic eats like sushi, tempura, teppanyaki, and many more.
“We wanted to maintain that it's a full-blown Japanese restaurant. We're not a ramen house. There's so many Japanese concepts and they're all great. But we have the whole set of Japanese favorites that ranges from the sushi and sashimi to tempura to donburi to teppanyaki and now with yakiniku,” he shared.
The Belleveue Manila actually took over Hatsune and re-branded it as Homare. The brand was a tenant until it was acquired by the hotel. The team revised the menu slightly, adding yakiniku, as well as doing minor interior renovations.
And while most of the meats are imported from different countries, the restaurant serves fresh seafood that is sourced locally like tuna that comes from General Santos. But the essential Japanese ingredients are still imported from Japan to keep the whole dining experience as authentic as possible.
The restaurant's advantage actually comes from its diners. One of the hotel's top corporate clients are Japanese businessmen and Homare mainly serve these customers aside from the local market.
“Like any Japanese restaurant, I think the quality of the product itself is the key. For example we pride ourselves for having the best and freshest raw fish, nothing is frozen,” Chan said.
“We're based here in the south and we've always catered to the local market, which is Alabang, particularly to our in-house Japanese clientele. It's our way of getting feedback also because we do have a lot of Japanese guests to get how authentic it is, how good it is. That's how we update our menu, get new suppliers, to cater to that authentic Japanese taste,” he added.
The restaurant likewise serves Japanese alcoholic drinks like beer and cocktails. Homare created special cocktails using Japanese spirits like the Roku Japanese Gin Tonic, Sake Fashioned Bitters, and Shochu Cucumber Margarita.