Food & Drink

6 Must-Visit Sushi Restaurants in Manila

You won’t get a raw deal at these Japanese places.
IMAGE Jason Mariposa
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The idea of sushi began around 19 centuries ago in Southeast Asia. It was a way to preserve meat—curing it then wrapping it in rice to preserve it. In the 8th Century, the technique made its way to Japan where vinegar was eventually added to the recipe. It was some time in the 1800s when raw fish replaced the fermented, Edo-style, paving the way we understand sushi today.

With sushi having developed into a global phenomenon, it’s grown from street fare to an art form in Japan. We looked into tradition and innovation in our search for the essential sushi and sashimi places in the Metro.

Nobu
Chef Mike de Jesus, who used to work for Nobu Las Vegas, carries the weight of a franchise this huge with such impressive grace. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s eponymous restaurant is known for fusion Peruvian and Japanese cuisine, and if this theme says anything, it’s their predilection for top-notch, fresh ingredients. Mingling with items like ceviche and tiradito on the menu are gorgeous cuts of salmon, small discs of octopus, and tender scallops, among others. You’ll find Tasmanian trout, Japanese mackerel, Alaskan snow crab, Alaskan king crab; ingredients are imported to ensure only the best quality every time and every season.


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The crown jewel is the Bluefin Otoro, beautiful squares cut from the tuna’s belly. They sell it by piece, each one the price of a set meal in other Japanese restaurants and each one a melt-in-your-mouth sensorial experience. A testament to the quality Nobu is committed to? Even the slightly lower-rung Bluefin Chutoro is lovely. Nobu is at G/F Nobu Hotel Manila, City of Dreams, Aseana Boulevard corner Macapagal Avenue, Entertainment City, Parañaque City.

Yurakuen
You could be passing through Roxas Boulevard all your life without noticing Diamond Hotel’s signature Japanese restaurant. Walk past the Lobby Café and through several hallways, and you’ll find the pot of gold at the end of a nondescript rainbow. The restaurant is exquisite, sure, but the whimsy of the clear ceilings, patterned tables, and crystal trees are backed by superior food.

Yurakuen offers everything from Japanese spaghetti (the creamy mentaiko is a must) and homemade black sesame ice cream to Wagyu steak on a hot stone, and, of course, a catalog of sushi and sashimi options. Get the moriawase to indulge in a sample set of tuna maki, sweetish unagi, creamy uni, delicate tamagoyaki. A spread of fish-topped rice has never looked this good. Yurakuen is at Diamond Hotel, Roxas Boulevard corner Dr. J. Quintos Street, Manila.


Chotto Matte/Izakaya Sensu
It’s difficult to tell which part of this two-in-one establishment excites us the most. The gastropub entryway? The excellent Japanese whiskey selection? The highballs? The crispy shrimp that tests our willpower with every peppery paper cone? The actual sit-down restaurant farther in?

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But in the grand scheme of traditional Japanese dining, Raintree’s twofold concept stands out, thanks to the kitchen’s preference for the unconventional. The sashimi assortment is an absolute must—a glossy selection of the day’s freshest catch, which puts together obvious hits like salmon, toro, shrimp, scallops, snapper, and octopus with more irregular options. If you’re lucky, you can get melty surf clams, chewy flounder, and an elusive horse mackerel. The trick, according to co-owner Martin Wisniewski, is to always get the best quality to make these selections at par with the rest.


Those queasy about raw fish would appreciate Chotto Matte’s vegetarian selection. Items like edamame, mango, avocado, ume find themselves rolled in sticky rice and nori—a picture-perfect row for those who crave light but heavenly makiChotto Matte/Izakaya Sensu is at NetPark, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

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Tsukiji
Every respectable Japanese food lover swears by this quiet nook on Arnaiz Avenue. Helmed by the ever consistent Gamboa family, Tsukiji takes its cue from Tokyo's beloved seafood haven—the seafood from the busy market imported fresh then elevated in a luxe Makati address. The head chef is Toshiro Okajima, who's been slicing sashimi and rolling seafood in the restaurant since 1989. There's a certain warmth to how he can usually be found behind the sushi counter, ushering guests in with a shiny display of raw seafood.


With uni from the West Coast, hotate from Canada, prawns from Greenland, hamachi from New Zealand, salmon from Norway, tuna from Gen San, you just can't go wrong with Tsukiji. Tsukiji is at Milkyway Building, 900 Arnaiz Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas Street, San Lorenzo Village, Makati City.

Inagiku
Inagiku draws its culinary strength from 150 years of tradition and technique. As more and more Japanese restaurants mushroom around the Metro, Makati Shangri-La's signature Japanese establishment firmly holds its ground with timeless Japanese favorites. 

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From its beginnings as a tempura restaurant in Asakusa in 1866, Inagiku has evolved to become a default Japanese option all over the world. The sushi and sashimi selection alone is over six pages: apart from the usual raw offerings, imagine nicely torched aburi, glossy nigiri, expertly rolled makis.

 


Currently, the restaurant is under the leadership of manager Yoshio Ishikawa and Executive Chef Wataru Hikawa—the latter has over 28 years of experience. Always respectful to the art of Japanese cuisine, the chef stays true to the rituals of kaiseki, a multi-course Japanese meal that rounds up a variety of tastes, textures, and colors. Only ingredients fresh from Japan are used. Inagiku is at Makati Shangri-La, Makati Avenue corner Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

Minami Saki
Nobody nails aburi better than Chef Kimito Katagiri. The pioneering Japanese chef has been behind the successful kitchens of Yanagi, Ginza, and Inagiku, and now he’s quietly firing up masterpieces at Astoria. While he has a personal preference for unblemished, straightforward nigiri, Chef Kimita can't deny his natural dexterity to create flawless compositions of rice, fish, miso-cheese sauces, and just the light kiss from the torch.

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Steamed salmon crowned with apples and roe; pristine grouper with special soy sauce, ikura, and grapes; yellowtail finished with masago and pears. It is antithetical to the usual lightness of your everyday sushi; each mouthful is an explosion of flavor and texture. Minami Saki has your everyday sake and hamachi sashimi, but trust us: If you’re going for a modern route, make your way to Escriva. Minaki Saki is at Astoria Plaza, 15 Escriva Drive, San Antonio, Pasig City.

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Sasha Lim Uy
Team Editor for Food & Drinks
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