Food & Drink

Japanese Street Food Takes the Spotlight at Ikomai

At Ikomai, traditional street food is given the unexpected twist.
IMAGE PATRICK MARTIRES
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Combining the character of a casual café, the ambience of a comfortable bar, and accessible, yet creative, street-inspired food, Ikomai is a great option for true fans of Japanese cuisine.

One immediately feels at home in the new Salcedo Village eatery that's run by a group of partners with a shared passion for food, drink, and easy living. Manager Taro Hori shares, “We did not want to open a typical Japanese restaurant, but more than that, we wanted to create a place where people can come from all walks of life and meet new people.”


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He and his friend, Ikomai’s chef Hideki Saieki, first introduced their Japanese street food to Manila at the Saturday morning Salcedo market. Encouraged by the strong reception to their offerings, they decided to open a restaurant in the same neighborhood. Taking inspiration from Hideki’s parents, who used to run a small restaurant in Japan that served traditional street food, the two took their typical street food fare from the market and added their own creative twists to reinvent them as new dishes in the restaurant.


The comfortable and soulful space that is Ikomai is located on the ground floor of a new building that houses multiple dining concepts. Upon entering, guests are welcomed by the Tochi dessert counter with its freshly-baked chocolate cookies available in a variety of flavors—among them, the popular double chocolate and macadamia salted caramel. Also available for both take away or at your table are beautifully crafted pastries like the signature layered chocolate symphony and the Bavarian lychee with guava gelee. In the near future, a special afternoon tea service will be offered and will include exclusive tea time offerings by Tochi.

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A long dining counter that practically runs through the length of the restaurant anchors the room while smaller tables are scattered throughout the space. Behind a glass window is the working kitchen where diners may view the chefs in action. At the end of the room is a relaxed outdoor area lined with plants and hanging lights for diners looking for an alfresco experience


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Undoubtedly, Ikomai’s artistic and cultural uniqueness comes from the delicious food it serves. Chef Hideki comes up with the basic key ideas, and restaurant owner and creative director James Antolin works with him to create each dish.


The starting point is usually a typical street food dish, such as kushikatsu, or Japanese deep fried skewers, which the chefs then elevate to a more elegant, restaurant-quality plate. For example, a large plate of kushikatsu skewers includes shrimp, pork, chicken, duck, okra, eggplant, shiso mentai, tsukune, snapper, and salmon with cheese and avocado. Also popular on the menu are the tebasaki—Nagoya-style chicken wings that are available in a choice of sweet or spicy; the house Ikomai tacos wrapped in deep fried seaweed; the tuna poke with avocado; and the Asari Chan, sake-steamed clams. At lunch, special sets include a tochidon of Japanese sashimi rice topped with salmon, tuna, and salmon roe; and a kakunidon of braised pork served with soft boiled egg on top of a bed of rice.

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ACI Group Building, 147 H.V. Dela Costa, Salcedo Village, Makati

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Cristina Zobel Elizalde
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