You always have this one restaurant that you love. They’re pretty great and you want them to stay open, but you also don’t want to share them with everyone else.
Like all great secrets though, they end up discovered somehow – but even then, no one else seems to talk about them. By this time, you finally decide that hey, you might as well be the one to tell everyone. After all, good things deserve to be shared.
This no-longer-a-secret spot is Sushi Ninja, a Japanese restaurant tucked among the clusters of shops in West Gate, Alabang. It’s easy to miss since everyone heads to Town Center or Aguirre Avenue in BF Homes to eat when they’re in the south, but if you’ve got time or just happen to drop by, head over to this place for a meal that’s worth the travel.
Owned by Matt Floro Tanjuakio, who learned the art of sushi-making at the California Sushi Academy in LA, this modern Japanese restaurant features warehouse-style interiors with neutral colors and overhead wooden lamp crates, creating a laidback yet minimalist Japanese vibe.
The menu is quite extensive with varieties of both traditional and modern Japanese food, which frankly can be a very risky move since most people are sticklers for the traditional. So far, the risk seems to have paid off because a lot of people come by the restaurant even off-hours.
To best way to get initiated is the Spicy Tuna Salad (P300). It seems standard in any menu, but this one, is a favorite for good reason. Slices of supple, fresh tuna, mixed with mayo and chili, are piled in layers in a ceramic bowl and finished with crunchy tempura flakes for texture and spring onions. It’s simple, fresh and absolutely delicious.
Mixed Poke (P350), Sushi Ninja’s take on the Hawaiian classic dish poke (pronounced poh-kay), is a tower of soy-marinated tuna and salmon chunks, with seaweed, sesame and spring onions in between each layer. The fish is fresh, the taste is straightforward, though it’s a touch soy sauce won’t hurt for those who like a little bit more salt. Also, best for sharing.
Now, let’s talk sushi.
The Covarrubias (P370) is one that deserves special mention. Inspired by Spain, the sushi rolls are packed with crunchy chunks of chorizo in the middle, staining parts of the rice with chorizo oil. The top is sprinkled with spring onions, black sesame seeds and a dot of garlic mayo.
Fairly new on the menu is the Pucela Maki (P370), also a tribute to Spain, particularly Pucela, which is a nickname of Villadolid, where Matt’s girlfriend is from. It features ham, cream cheese, Gouda and garlic mayon and topped with crunchy shoestring potatoes. A little challenging to eat, but the combination of crunch, cheese, and ham is just amazing.
The signature dish of the restaurant is the toshi, which is inspired by Matt’s teacher Chef Toshi Suguira. It’s a deep fried ball of sushi with different toppings. One of the best ones is Okinawa Toshi (P360), a deep-fried sushi with cream cheese on the inside, topped with torched salmon and fish roe with a hint of truffle oil.
For those craving a bit more variety, the Sashimi Platter Special might be the best choice. It’s a generous set of slices of tuna, mackerel, uni, salmon, eel, crab, and tamago (sweet egg) sashimi.
Noodles are also part of Sushi Ninja’s menu. There’s Sukiyaki (P800), which might seem steep in price, but the melt-in-your mouth strips of beef justify it completely. Vermicelli noodles are immersed along with carrots, enoki mushrooms, tofu, spring onions, and an egg yolk in a savory-sweet broth that deserves an applauding slurp in every spoonful. Perfect for the coming rainy days.
The Mentaiko Udon (P480) is a curiously odd dish upon first look, but just like the rest of the dishes at the restaurant, is hardly mediocre or forgettable. The noodles are tossed with mentaiko or Pollock roe and bonito flakes, which are almost lost in the noodles because of color but are just as easily recognizable because of their smoky taste. This might get overwhelming if eaten alone, so it’s better shared.
Now, heading to the south might seem a little too much effort for Japanese food, but for the determined Japanese food enthusiasts, this might be worth a try. Best drop by on a weekday or off hours on the weekend.
Or you can just wait for their next branch to open – which might just be in Makati or BGC.
Photos by Jess Jacutan and Ian Benetua
Westgate Center, Filinvest, Alabang, 1780 Muntinlupa City
+63917-837-8744 (02) 556-7706
Monday to Sunday (11:30 am to 10 pm)