If I based my choices on what my family or friends recommend, I probably wouldn’t have come across Kitsho, the unassuming Japanese restaurant located inside the recently rebranded Hotel Jen Manila (former Traders Hotel Manila) along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City. The Ermita and Malate area is of course, quite famous for standalone Japanese restaurants which on paper sounds like a good location for another Japanese eatery.
I managed to try Kitsho during a recent stay at Hotel Jen Manila and I must say, this is one undervalued place for Japanese food! Entering Kitsho for the first time, I noticed the interiors were pretty humble – just the standard that one would expect for a Japanese restaurant sans the fancy lighting or artwork. The main thing to focus here is the food, without the other distractions.
As soon as we sat down, Chef Masahiro Mizumoto, the head chef came out and introduced himself to us. We wanted to try the specialties so we left the choosing to him. After explaining to him that we had *no* dietary restrictions, he went back to the kitchen.
The first dish that came out was the Sashimi Moriawase (assorted sashimi, Php 1200) platter. There were 5 types served – salmon, tuna, cuttlefish, red snapper as well as sea urchin. From the appearance alone, it looked very fresh. This was confirmed once the pieces of raw meat entered my mouth. The salmon especially was tender and exuded a lasting flavor – a sign of good sashimi. The sea urchin (uni) also deserved special mention. It’s not very easy to prepare good uni as it spoils easily but the one served to us tasted pungent without being overwhelming.
Next came the Take Nigiri Sushi (Assorted Sushi) (Php 880). This was another favorite of mine. The fillings were especially generous with the maki which allowed the fish taste to stand out rather than be overpowered by the vinegared rice. The unagi was another winner – not too thin just the way I like it.
Cooked dishes came next. What’s a Japanese meal without tempura? We were served a duo of Ebi (Shrimp) Tempura (Php 380) as well as Uni (Sea Urchin) Tempura (Php 330). By this time, the specialty of the house on sea urchin was becoming very clear. I loved how the creaminess of the sea urchin roe drizzled out with every bite through the crunchy crust. For those who are unwilling to eat raw stuff, I heavily recommend the Uni Tempura.
After the fried dishes came the grilled ones. My curiosity got the best of me when a staff member served a plate consisting of a single piece of scallop. Sensing the perplexed look on my face, Chef Masahiro approached us and mentioned how he came up with the idea for Kaibashira Butter Shokuyaki Butter Uni Sauce (Php 480), by soaking Hokkaido scallops in a special blend of butter and grated uni and making a sauce out of it. This provided for a wonderful alternative to the traditional seared scallops which I would have enjoyed more had I not already gotten my fill of uni (sea urchin) earlier.
The second grilled dish proved to be another one of Chef Masahiro’s signature creations. The Salmon Tartaryaki (Php 480) – Chef Masahiro was quick to point out that it was not your typical teriyaki – and indeed, it wasn’t. The cheesy / tartar mixture on top of the salmon made all the difference. It made for a sumptuous dip that I could imagine would work well even with other dishes. Heck, I wouldn’t mind having it on rice!
We ended the meal with a sampling of ramen. With all the ramen craze that’s happening across the region, we thought we’d sample what Kitsho’s offerings were like. Chef Masahiro recommended us to try the Tonkotsu Ramen (Php 380). Honestly, I was not really expecting to eat anymore at this point and hesitatingly scooped for a few strands of noodles and some spoonfuls of soup when our bowl was served to us. But I ended up eating almost half the bowl. The ramen was flavorful and smooth. I don’t know what it was that they put on the soup that made it so addictive but I suspect it was due to the slightly toasted sesame seeds. Highly recommended.
I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience at Kitsho and it immediately became one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Manila. I sure haven’t had such a satisfying Japanese meal in a while, and it’s the best Japanese I’ve had so far in 2015. That being said, the restaurant was pretty quiet during the Saturday night that I visited and I couldn’t quite figure out why. One thing I noticed though was that a sizeable chunk of their clientele that night were Japanese people so that must at least mean something. I sure will be back – next time I will try their wagyu beef!
Value for money: 4.5/5