When In Manila and the patrons of a Japanese restaurant are conversing in Nihongo, you know you’re in for a treat!
Nihonkai Tsukiji is the only Japanese restaurant among the stores that line up the strip of Tuscany Private Estates in Upper McKinley Hill, Taguig City. Cherry blossom trees greet you as you enter the quaint restaurant. At the counter, you’ll see Chef Norihiko Sato who hails from Akita, Japan and has worked on his craft for 34 years.
The first floor is a cozy space that sits 20 people, while the second floor has traditional Japanese dining rooms with retractable barriers for larger groups.
During our visit, three tables were occupied by Japanese expatriates enjoying their lunch. According to the manager Ms. Camille Cerezo, Japanese nationals frequent the restaurant despite its inconspicuous location.
We started our meal with an appetizer consisting of tuna and salmon sashimi, yasai salmon salad, and tuna with tartar sauce. Nihonkai Tsukiji’s thick sashimi cuts are akin to Izakaya Kikufuji. The Four Kinds Sashimi Appetizer was introduced by Chef Norihiko after he took over the kitchen duties from Chef Mitsuishi Akira.
We also tried their Alaskan Roll and Tonkotsu Ramen. The maki is a combination of salmon, kani, and cream cheese with a crunchy deep-fried shell. The ramen had lovely chashu, though I felt that the stock was not thick enough and the noodles did not stand out. For someone who has written about Japanese restaurants for When In Manila since 2012, I have to qualify that there are better maki and ramen offerings elsewhere. On the other hand, both items are justifiable given their price.
What locals and expats go for in Nihonkai Tsukiji are their bento boxes, particularly the super affordable Makunochi Set, which consists of breaded pork tonkatsu, tuna and salmon sashimi, grilled salmon, and agedashi tofu. If there’s one thing I learned during our visit, it’s that Chef Norihiko and his crew know how to grill fish very well. Take for example their Grilled Salmon Head. At 295 pesos, it might not seem much. But this fish head was grilled to perfection; moist and tender, its flavor retains the milky taste of fresh salmon (that’s why we love sashimi!) complemented by a smokiness that makes you wish they served the other half as well.
With the Makunochi Bento, you get to sample the restaurant’s grill craft; plus a chop of pork tonkatsu, four thick slices of tuna and salmon sashimi, agedashi tofu, tamago, rice, and miso soup for only 450 pesos. Again, I’m not going to compare Nihonkai’s tonkatsu with specialty tonkatsu places. (Understand that 450 pesos at Yabu only affords you the tonkatsu – let’s not even count the rice, soup, and coleslaw because that’s not what you should be there for.)
The point is, if I’m looking for a set to satisfy my cooked and raw Japanese cravings in just one set, I’d be very happy to enjoy a Makunochi Bento all by myself!
Bldg 1, Tuscany Estate, McKinley Hills, BGC
+63998 232 4164