Nobu Matsuhisa’s cuisine comes to Manila (GMA News Online)

White fish dry miso

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last March 30, 2015)

A man garbed in a white chef’s coat, blue jeans, and sneakers sat unassumingly at one of the dining tables at the elegant Nobu Manila. I had to do a double-take to confirm that it was really Chef Nobu Matsuhisa in the flesh.

I recognized him from the glimpses I would get of this celebrity chef from international food television shows that I am fond of watching. I expected to see an intimating man—maybe dressed in full chef’s uniform complete with a toque, but was pleasantly surprised to meet an approachable fellow who even joked about the infamous Filipino time.

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Restaurant review Kessaku’s symphony of Japanese flavors (GMA News Online)

Salmon sashimi

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 8, 2014)

My eyes were drawn to the slices of pink-hued raw fish that were beautifully garnished with lettuce leaves, green sprouts, a lemon wedge and a dollop of wasabi. It was my ultimate favorite sashimi. I just had to grab a pair of chopsticks and get a bite of the fresh salmon sashimi offered by Kessaku.
“This is one of our bestsellers,” according to Yums Aggabao, one of the owners of this Japanese restaurant in Alabang. “People really come here for this.”
I now know why. Its vibrant color alone was a giveaway of the freshness of the fish. It was juicy, it had a creamy texture, and a clean taste—like it was just caught from the sea. Aggabao mentioned that they get it from a supplier who ships it from Norway chilled in an ice chest. My taste buds could tell that the sake sashimi was truly superior grade salmon.
I was actually happy with the sashimi alone but I just had to sample the other specialties of the restaurant, which opened late October 2013. It has been almost a year since its opening and it continues to dish up delicious Japanese cuisine to the south crowd.

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Seven Corners: A merry mix of Japanese and other international cuisines (GMA News Online)

Miso ramen

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last April 8, 2014)

There’s no excuse not to satisfy your Japanese food cravings, not with the proliferation of katsu and ramen places in the metro. But there’s more to this particular Asian cuisine than those two popular dishes. If I were mad hungry for Japanese food, I would rather go to a classy buffet place like Seven Corners in Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria.

The restaurant is so named because it has seven interactive cooking stations that feature international cuisines like American, Indian, and Japanese. Its thematic buffet spread highlights specialties such as US rib eye, tandoori chicken, and suckling pig. I regret that I wasn’t able to try these because I was too engrossed in sampling the culinary masterpieces of Chef Seiji Kamura, the guest chef of Seven Corners for the whole month of April.

Welcome the master chef

I learned that Chef Kamura trained in France before pursuing a career as a chef in Japan. He has been in the culinary industry for over 25 years now and has co-authored three cookbooks on both Japanese and French cuisine.

His culinary knowledge was put on display when he demonstrated how he creates his bestselling sushi roll. He makes sure to use top-grade Japanese rice that is seasoned with vinegar, which he spreads on top of a nori (seaweed) wrapper and fills with sliced cucumber, mangoes, and kani (crab), before he rolls it in a perfect cylindrical shape. After which, he deftly slices the sushi roll into bite-sized pieces and garnishes it with either fish roe or fried kani strips.

While doing the demonstration, he explained the importance of using a very good knife in making sushi. He even shared that the chefs in Japan would allot around 30 minutes to sharpen their knives before cooking in their respective restaurants. In fact, Chef Kamura has his own knife set that he brings with him wherever work takes him.

The chef made it look so easy to create sushi, and when one of the diners volunteered to create his own version, I realized that it wasn’t easy at all after seeing the volunteer hack the sushi instead of skillfully slicing it like what the chef did. I suppose it takes years of practice to master the skill and the chef’s sushi creations are a testament to that.

As Chef Kamura taught the volunteer the correct way to slice and present the sushi on a plate, he mentioned that Japan is beautiful at this time of the year since the cherry blossoms are in bloom. But since I wasn’t planning on visiting the Far East anytime soon, I settled with traveling to Japan through my taste buds.

Japanese food feast for the palate

For our appetizers, we were given a small serving of Crispy Kani Maki and Spicy Salmon. I liked the texture of the crispy maki, but I enjoyed the spicy salmon more since I like a little bit of heat.

Then to warm our bellies, we were served a bowl of Miso Ramen where the flavorful broth was the highlight of the dish.

But the main star of the luncheon was the Beef Roll and Wagyu Fried Rice that came with grilled shiitake mushroom in teriyaki sauce. My plate had two beef rolls—one was stuffed with asparagus slices and the other with mushrooms.

Both were delectable, but what I found truly satisfying was the Wagyu rice, which had marbled beef bits that were oh-so-tasty. I’m not big on rice but I almost finished the heaping bowl in front of me.

To complete our meal, the chef presented us his special Fried Vanilla Ice Cream that was served with mango and chocolate sauces. Imagine a scoop of ice cream that is covered with chiffon cake, coated in batter, and then deep-fried.

It was an unexpected combination but I enjoyed the contrast of textures in my mouth—the hot crispy cake and the cold creamy filling. I believe this dessert would be best shared with someone—it was so rich—both in taste and in calories!

Foodies could sample these sensational culinary creations by the chef, as well as other dishes like crispy kani pomelo salad, Japanese curry rice, glazed tuna, sukiyaki, chicken teriyaki, and soba.

For those who prefer a la carte orders, Seven Corners has a list of innovative selections, as well as fine wine choices.