Whoever thought the back alleys of the business district of Ortigas would be home to some posh Japanese cuisine? Hailing from the dirty South, the towering building of the Astoria Hotel came as a surprise after being lost walking through some obscure places that Google Maps recommended for me. Despite the feeling of being utterly unfamiliar with the locale, though, it was comforting in some way – a popular canteen was stationed adjacent to the Astoria and a few steps further down, a Korean chicken house served cold beer. That’s all the introduction I needed to the neighborhood.
More than a transient residence, though, the Astoria housed one of the most underrated Japanese restaurants in all of Metro Manila. This was a place that dished out Aburi Sushi like it was second nature: Minami Saki. God bless Japan.
Helmed by Executive Chef Kimito Katagiri (of Ginza and Inagiku fame), Minami Saki features a refreshing take on the beloved Japanese fare. Literally translated into “South bloom”, the relatively Southern restaurant is set for gastronomic growth as it does more than present authentic Japanese cooking. In fact, with the depth of flavors and meticulous layering of elements, it is bent on modernizing and elevating the cuisine.
Five types of sushi – salmon, tuna, hamachi, unagi and lapu-lapu – are blanketed with Chef Katagiri’s secret aburi sauce, torched and then garnished with flying fish roe and fruit. A magical menagerie in your mouth: fresh fish, creamy sauce and an added depth of flavor with the torch-searing technique.
A large roll is stuffed with ebi tempura then drizzled with the chef’s special aburi sauce, torched, then garnished generously with flying fish roe and fruits. Also a delight on the palate, especially for those who believe bigger is better.
Perfect to balance out the richness of the aburi sauce; morsels of salmon, tuna, lapu-lapu, squid and mackerel are arranged alongside crisp shredded veggies and wakame for an added taste of the sea. Rest assured: the sashimi here is juicy and fresh.
Kaki Papaya Yaki
The very unlikely combination of grilled fruit and oyster blend through the aburi sauce that is then torched to optimize the dining experience. The creaminess, however not overpowering, is the perfect fusion for sweet and salty notes along with a variety of textures.
US Scallop Tamago Sauce
A thick blend of buttery sweet egg sauce blanketed over a hefty amount of large-sized scallops are a dream come true to any tamago and seafood lover (moi). Gigantic scallops are cooked perfectly with a bit of searing on the surface while retaining a tender juicy quality throughout the meal.
Maguro Pepper Steak
Seared tuna lovers will enjoy this dish. A mountain of diced tuna is presented to you topped with a peppery sauce that gives off a subdued spiciness. Just enough to cut through the richness of the tamago sauce from the last dish. Best enjoyed hot.
A Japanese staple, Minami Saki’s soba noodles are infused with green tea so you have an excuse to overload on carbs. Served with condiments, the chill is refreshing on the palate.
For carnivores, Chef Katagiri’s steak is wrapped around a bundle of shiitake, inoji and shimeji mushrooms. The delicate texture and innate savour of the mushrooms in contrast to the meat makes a mouthwatering duo.
I kid you not when I say this is the most legit coffee jelly I have ever tasted in my entire youth. Made from real brewed coffee, the jelly has all the right flavors of the roast without the racy bitterness. The experience is heightened with some flair: nitro-inspired in its endeavors to impress, the dessert comes with a beaker where a small scoop of in-house ice cream (vanilla or salted caramel) sits atop as it spews cold smoke unto the jelly. Now that’s a beautifully delicious conclusion to any meal.
Minami Saki deserves all the publicity it can get. With food this good, it feels like a treasure hunt to have stumbled upon this gem in plain sight. And we’re really glad we walked into this unassuming restaurant that offers more than just innovative Japanese cuisine, its service and ambience are likened to a compressed version of many five-star worthy hotels. It’s easy to see why this place is always almost full even on the dead hours of the day.
Minami Saki by Astoria
G/F Astoria Plaza, 15 J. Escriva Drive, Ortigas Business District
(02) 6871111 loc. 8164/ 8165