Having lived in the Philippines my entire life, I would think I have sampled some of the best that Japanese restaurants here have to offer already. Yet, as the beauty of life goes, surprises happen. The Shinsen experience could be described as such – a wonderful surprise.
When I first learned that Shinsen was composed of an all-Filipino ensemble, I had some apprehensions. Two naive notions I had: 1) Can’t great Japanese food only be cooked by Japanese chefs? 2) Where will non-Japanese chefs get the best and freshest ingredients?
My apprehensions disappeared as quickly as it came when we entered the restaurant. It felt cozy with an apparent touch of quirkiness and art – attributes I allude to things Japanese. We especially liked the toys on display – oh that new Gundam! You could tell that they wanted to give their customers a glimpse of a little bit of everything that you can find in Japan.
We had the chance to go around as we came right when they opened. I like how everything in the restaurant feels well thought of. The wall was decorated with art work painted by Fine Arts students from UP. The wall had members of the staff and management drawn against the backdrop of famous Japan tourist spots. We loved the umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, too.
We were told that, initially, the space they had was only half of the current one but within just 5 months of opening, they already decided that there was enough demand to get the rest of the space available.
When the food came, my heart did a happy dance. The food looked so good. The servers took time to give stories to the dishes served – they said they also try out the dishes themselves so they can describe it to their customers and recommend with confidence.
We also like the fact that the plates used paid tribute to Japanese – later on, we found out that the plates did come from Japan.
The food looked good and they tasted good. The salmon, one of their bestsellers, was so fresh. The way it slid into my mouth and how tender it was was memorable. They didn’t want to divulge where exactly they source their salmon but they did say it comes fresh from Norway. It is delivered whole and fresh.
The work starts in their kitchen, not in the market. All the other dishes were delicious, too. Picking favorites or highlights was challenging because they all were in the running. But if we really have to pick, we all especially loved the salmon, the okonomiyaki, the sukiyaki, the Australian Rib Eye Steak and the Japanese Pannacotta. The uni was also unforgettable – and my husband isn’t even a fan but he really liked this one.
Okonomiyaki for P298 – Japanese pancake with cabbage, egg, shrimp, squid, and sliced bacon
The Okonomiyaki was packed. It wasn’t just egg or starch, it was packed and you could tell that the chef did not want to sell his customers short.
Sukiyaki (Large) – P598 (Good for 4-5 people)
The Sukiyaki bowl was soothing to the soul. We were told that some customers look for it when they have a bad day and we can understand why. The flavor is rich but not too strong and the ingredients all mix perfectly together. I can see myself ordering this especially during the rainy season.
Australian Rib Eye Steak – P798
The tender beef cooked misono style was so soft – the meat slid down and melted in our mouth. It was very delicious!
Japanese Pannacotta – P108
The Japanese Pannacotta was heavenly, especially with the Polvoron-like powder drizzled on top of it. Even non-sweet-tooth people like us loved it. We ate it slowly to savor it and prolong the pleasure of consuming it.
Of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to order something Matcha. Fortunately, they just added Matcha milkshake to their offerings. Needless to say, as with all the dishes we had, the Matcha milkshake did not disappoint, especially with that Matcha Kit-Kat bar on top.
Matcha milkshake – P178
The Shinsen experience is, as their name’s meaning goes, fresh. It was refreshing to have a perception shattered – that a Japanese restaurant could get Japanese food right even if the people behind it are not Japanese. It also goes to show how talented Filipinos are when given the right avenue to explore and nurture their skills. The ingredients were nothing short of fresh. The presentation was a fresh, welcome sight as well. The customer service was also a treat.
This is definitely worth going back to and I look forward to trying out other things on the menu.
Shinsen Sushi Bar and Restaurant
Contact Nos: 09778551105 / 02-6646331