Having bought fantastic deals from popular online site Deal Grocer in the past, I resolved to look into things and places that I have never been to, instead of making a trip to somewhere I've already been, or even frequent. (Though that "resolve" is just for now, it's not really written in stone.)
Prior to the deal I'm about to post now, I also purchased another offer from Deal Grocer. Unfortunately, the merchant offering it through the site made a mistake - I think quite honestly, and not intentionally - about how much to charge Arthur and me when we availed it, and it differed from the terms stated in the fine print of the deal mechanics. I wrote Deal Grocer about it, and they immediately apologized on the merchant's behalf, giving me a refund as a sign of goodwill.
On top of that, they gave me a complimentary coupon for one of their current deals (at the time I wrote them), which involved a restaurant I have never been to, although when I saw the pictures in the ad, it looked oddly familiar to me. The offer was being given by Kaiseki, a Japanese restaurant located in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.
I immediately looked up and researched about the restaurant, and in most of the reviews, blogposts and articles I came across about it, it seemed to be a haunt of people who can best be described as purists when it comes to Japanese cuisine. While it is a concept I frown upon in the area of genetic breeding (Hitler being its staunchest champion), it is something I look forward to almost as much as I also look forward to fusion in cuisines. (It's nice - and informative - to know a particular fused dish' lineage.)
As soon as we parked, it hit me why it looked so familiar: our company held an event last year at the bar that was close to it, and I had to go back and forth to the car to get some paraphernalia and I would cross Kaiseki about 5 times that night.
As the weather was scorching hot, we almost ran towards the restaurant and were both enveloped by a sense of calm as soon as we entered it, mostly because of the cold airconditioned area, but also because of the quaint set up that greets you.
As with most Deal Grocer offers, we had to call and make a reservation, so we knew we had a table ready when we got there. As soon as we sat down, Arthur noticed the table setup and drew my attention to it. The "placemat" was shaped like a black fan, and true to Japanese decor, was very minimal.
The "fan" turned out to be something only "for display", as the waitress returned to take them away and asked for our Deal Grocer coupons. She also served us the appetizers.
The "typical" Japanese appetizer I was used to in my childhood when we ate in Kimpura, some veggies in a treatment I'm still not sure of, and sweetened dried fish.
Arthur opted for the iced tea to quench his thirst.
I was immediately drawn to the watermelon shake, and am happy to say that on these hot days, if ever you're in Kaiseki, this shake is a must: cool, lightly sweet and utterly refreshing, the complete opposite of the heat and conditions outside of the restaurant.
We waited for about 10 minutes after our drinks arrived before the food made its way to us.
The Deal Grocer offer was Unlimited Ebi Tempura and Tenderloin Teppanyaki. As the name implies, you could order as much of these two items as long as you still have space, because it had a No Leftover policy, which I fully support as a way for people to only get what they can consume and not be greedy. It also came with Unlimited Rice, which has, in my mind, become synonymous with Mang Inasal.
Our food came in a bento box, which Arthur liked, and said that we should also get some as part of our dining ware.
In the reviews I read, the Tempura was given high marks all around, so when I saw the shrimps in my bento box, the first thought I had was "they aren't that big". Big mistake in thinking that, happily. But I was also drawn instantly by the smell of the Tenderloin, which I knew, even just from sight and smell, would be ravishingly delicious.
The meat was so tender, it had a nice texture and solidness to it when you placed it in your mouth, but as soon as your saliva and teeth do their work, they offer very minimal resistance and gladly lose their "shape", revealing a rich, earthy aroma that well-prepared meats emit instantly. It was not salty, at all - which I experienced at another Japanese restaurant, as if the teppanyaki was doused with sodium - and despite it being beef (read: heavy) it managed to exude a feeling of airiness and lightness, which was no small feat.
The tempura deceived me, and in a pleasant way. This is the Tempura that my mom would gladly pay for: it was "filled" with shrimp. That may sound strange, but more than two decades ago (or probably less than that), a restaurant named Saisaki introduced their Eat-All-You-Can Tempura concept, and we trooped to the restaurant.
Lo and behold, my mom was displeased with her first bite of the dish, and she picked on the shrimp (hinimay in the vernacular) and revealed to us that it was about 90% flour and batter, and the "shrimp" was only a fourth of an entire whole. She didn't even bother taking another bite.
The Tempura by Kaiseki was a universe apart: It was all shrimp, with just the outer covering of the batter to give it that familiar Tempura look. Even the batter was light, I was tempted to ask if they had injected it with something because when I go to Japanese restaurants, Tempura is one thing I don't really get because of previous experiences of having them fill you up right away, taking away the joy of sampling other items. Kaiseki's version does not do this at all, in fact, it does the opposite.
The shrimp was perfectly done, and the batter did not have the smell of having being fried in oil that was used over and over again, it tasted "clean". For the first time in many, many years, I was again liking Ebi Tempura.
The dish came with the usual vegetable siding of bean sprouts, which I also have come to associate with the Japanese restaurants here in Manila. There wasn't really anything too remarkable with this.
The rice that came with it was sticky enough to hold on its own when picked up by a pair of chopsticks, and was lightly fragrant and just the right amount of heat when it was served. It was the perfect backdrop to place against the Ebi Tempura and Tenderloin Teppanyaki to showcase the flavors of those two items.
I have to say that this was a very pleasant experience, because aside from the excellent food, the service of the staff was great as well: they were attentive when called, they were mindful of when you were about to finish your serving and would immediately ask the chef to cook another batch, they weren't pushy or overly attentive to the point of cloying.
Kaiseki is a quaint little gem in The Fort. It's no wonder those that are adamant about having "pure" Japanese cuisine rave about this place, because it serves the popular, basic Japanese fare, but does it in a spectacular way. If you're hankering for a taste of Japan, head over here and you - and your tastebuds - are assured of getting the royal Japanese treatment.
I would like to thank Deal Grocer for introducing this fine place to us.
Kaiseki Japanese Cuisine
The Fort Pointe, Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City, Metro Manila