Wagyu Challenge Entices Former Japanese Embassy Chef
When the stint of an ambassador on foreign soil ends, it is customary for the entire household to go through a complete overhaul. For Go Okura, the chef of the outgoing Japanese ambassador, this proved to be a dilemma. He was having a grand time in the Philippines and was not ready to go home at all. Luckily, Wagyu BGC, the restaurant/meat shop in Forbestown, was looking to expand its menu and on the lookout for a competent chef to take the helm. Co-owner Taka Hayano, who is a regular supplier to the embassy, happily took him in.
A few months later, after rigorous research and development, Go was ready to unveil his classic Japanese dishes, with some modern touches thrown into the mix for good measure. Hosted by co-owner Clar Chia-Sy, the 12-course omakase dinner for a select set of friends was a showcase of the chef's excellent grasp of traditional cooking techniques and youthful creativity. The menu, although meat-heavy as expected, also included seafood dishes which are a welcome addition to their regular diners.
New chef Go Okura
To properly launch a luxurious kaiseki, he served a moriawase or sampler of appetizers: okra tofu, Nanbanzuke (marinated deep fried fish), marinated crab. While the okra is understandably an acquired taste, the briny uni and delicate soy make it all the more palatable. Both the fish and crab were nicely seasoned and prepped our tastebuds for the dishes to come.
Moriawase sampler, consisting of okra tofu, Nanbanzuke or deep-fried marinated fish, marinated crab
The first of many meat dishes was the Japanese style Kobe beef pot-au-feu—a clear yet highly-flavorful beef broth conjured from hours of boiling lean wagyu neck. The server urged us to pour a bit of broth into the little bowl the pot came with, and sip cautiously yet quickly. We were rewarded with a densely-meaty soup with a surprising smokiness that could have only come from roasted bones. That little extra effort surely paid off.
Japanese-style Kobe beef pot-au-feu
While Wagyu BGC's sushi chef has always served wagyu nigiri and maki, fresh seafood will be readily available such as fresh salmon, hamachi, and tuna sashimi.
Fresh sashimi for the day
One of the highlights of the evening was the bold, rich, yet fresh wagyu yukke—seasoned strips of raw wagyu beef topped with egg yolk. The meat was served cold making this oddly refreshing, while the creamy yolk added to the luxuriousness of the dish.
Wagyu Yukke, seasoned raw wagyu beef topped with an egg yolk
For those who need to have fresh greens with their meat, the Kobe beef cold salad wrap is an option. Even without the pricey beef, the ponzu geleé atop the crisp cucumber and carrots would have been delightful on its own.
Kobe beef cold salad wrap with Ponzu gelee
This was a fitting preparation for a couple of fried dishes that followed. First, a delicately seasoned fried lapulapu fillet and asparagus, which perhaps would have benefited from a thicker, saltier sauce. However, the mixed tempura of thick prawns and vegetables was topnotch—cooked simply but executed perfectly.
Fried lapulapu asparagus
Fans of unagi would be familiar with uzaku—an light dish of marinated eel and a pickled cucumber salad. Wagyu BGC's version was a classic interpretation and devoid of distractions. Every component worked well, on its own and with each other.
Uzaku or eel and cucumber salad
Despite the new myriad of options, it's almost sacrilege to step into Wagyu BGC and not have seared beef cooked over a stone grill. We were spoiled with a couple of slabs each of Kobe chuck roll, almost white from the intense marbling of fat interspersed with juicy beef. No sinewy tissue to fight through, just pillow-soft decadence, bite after bite.
Slabs of Kobe beef on the grill
For those with room left in their stomachs, Go still had some spicy salmon roll and miso soup, but these were mostly longer needed. However, it's good to know that when you do hanker for either, Go's version of the former is substantial and creamy with large chunks of salmon as opposed to the usual unrecognizable mush you find in some establishments.
Spicy salmon roll
The good chef also sent out more dishes to try, such as the wagyu niku maki and a sweetish sisig, which if I had some room left, would have been great with some plain rice. Something worth a side trip for another time, definitely. Same goes for the luscious housemade mango ice cream with the alluring aroma of the fresh fruit.
Most dishes are already available ala carte, but if you call ahead, Go will be happy to prepare an omakase meal for even an intimate dinner for two. "This is really just a taste of what chef Go can do," Clar explains. "That's the spirit of omakase—the dishes really depend on his mood and what is available." An expert Japanese chef and endless possibilities—now that's cause for excitement indeed.