Stepping into Soru Izakaya feels like stepping into a world that is part new-age manga and part old-world Japan. This carefully-concocted mixture is reflected in every aspect – from its tasteful layout to the mouthwatering food. Eating here is an experience you won’t find anywhere else, no matter how hard you search. This is also why you’ll find yourself coming back again and again until you become a regular.
The interiors are the first thing that will catch your eye about the place: unconventional materials like stickers and bright paints depicting conventional images, such as The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. The thoughtful blend of mixed media marries the concept of traditional with modern, which is something that this restaurant tries to (and succeeds at) doing as a whole.
(Related: Postcards from Japan)
Winslow Co, a partner-owner of Soru, tells us that they wanted to breathe new life into the Japanese scene in Manila. For far too long now, we’ve been seeing too much of the same thing: traditional wooden decorations, traditional plates of sashimi, traditional servings of tea… While there’s nothing wrong with traditional (and Little Tokyo will always hold a place in my heart), looking for a little innovation isn’t quite the abhorrence that people make it out to be.
Soru Izakaya endeavours to bring out a new side to the Asian cuisine we all know and love. They artfully blend flavours and pair components that previously wouldn’t have been attempted. Some of it is more subtle than others, as shown by their refreshing offer of drinks.
While their Kyuri Green Iced Tea, Soru Lemonade and House Blend Red Iced Tea (P85) may not seem like anything too radical, you’ll only need a sip to see how it differs from others. These drinks have a fresher, lighter, more real taste, unlike those you’ll see in other Japanese chains.
There’s a joke now that to turn anything ‘modern’, all you need to do is a heap on a generous helping of cheese; and Soru’s stunning set of starters certainly capitalises on that (but in the best way possible, of course). The Tori Karage (P180), in particular, is a standout with the most tender chicken I’ve tasted covered with a torched mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheese.
It was almost as addicting as their Nori Tempura (P360), perfectly fried pieces of tiger prawn dusted in Nori powder and crispier than any tempura I’ve ever had (here or in Japan!).
Soru even tries their hand at their own version of a Poke Bowl (P265), replacing rice with a fresh salad and let me tell you: that lettuce instead of your usual carb of choice makes a world of difference. It probably also has something to do with the Tuna and Salmon sashimi they make good use of, which you can (and should) order on its own.
The Shake (P380) is specially ordered to ensure freshness and quality.
Of course, their Maki is what they’ve come to be known for with photos of their colourful dragons and eruptive volcanoes dotting various social media platforms. Bite into one to actually taste it, though, and you will never understand how some people don’t just tear into the meal.
My personal favorite, the Oh Umi Maki (P390), is an overload of shrimp tempura, salmon cubes, and salmon and tempura flakes blanketed with Soru’s special sauce (which I would love to bottle and take home) then drizzled in teriyaki sauce and truffle mayo. However, be sure to save space for, well, everything else (or just make some time for second or third trip) because they are all strong contenders in their own right.
If you had to choose just one thing, like head under a gun barrel ‘had to’, Soru’s selection of Aburi is where you should direct your eyes towards. The Shake Belly Aburi (P220) will literally melt in your mouth with the fattiest slab of salmon belly you can imagine. If uni is more your thing, they have that, too — or karroke, or nori tempura, or even kani!
They say save the best for last and Soru’s choices for dessert far from disappoint. Their Matcha Cheesecake (P220) should have a degree in the art of subtlety, with the earthy flavouring injected in just the right amount as to not overwhelm. The Coffee Jelly Parfait (180) steals the show with the idyllic harmony of bitter coffee jelly, sweet vanilla ice cream, salty cheese bars, crunchy cereal and some pistachio to lighten it all up.
However, if your after-dinner treat is more of an after dinner drink, Soru’s mixologists are happy to be of service. The Wasabi Kamikazee (P260) is not as scary as you might think, beautifully placing wasabi and nori at the centre of a vodka-based concoction. If you’re still trepidatious about that, go for the Blue Geisha (P240) instead which blends grapefruit, lemon and blueberry with gin.
Of course, you can never go wrong with Sake, and Soru even has Sake Nights (Php 49/shot and Php 149/carafe) from 10pm-12mn with a live DJ on Fridays. Sapporo Saturdays let you have your choice of Sapporo for just Php99 if that’s more your cup of tea — er, beer.
Soru Izakaya has been widely hailed by the Instagram crowd for its #aesthetics, from the walls to its plating, but they want to be more than that, and they are. You might walk in and take a quick snap of their artwork, or come so you can post their dragon sushi on your feed but you’ll stay because of the great food, the welcoming atmosphere and honestly, the cheap prices. Soru isn’t just a one-hit wonder with their “crazy” designs, they’re here to stay; hopefully for a long, long time.
So what’re you waiting for? Which dish are you ordering first?
140 Maginhawa Street, Barangay Sikatuna, Diliman, Quezon City
Open from 11am-11pm (Sunday to Thursday) and from 11am-2am (Friday and Saturday)