We celebrated D’s 30th birthday last year in Kyoto.. Not in Japan, but in Makati. KyōTo is a hidden Japanese restaurant along Palanca Street in Legazpi Village, Makati. We’ve been frequenting a few bars in Palanca during my time in the corporate world, but never did I imagine that one day, I will go back to the area not for some bar chows and drinks, but to dine at this very fine Japanese restaurant.
I was initially hesitant to push through with our reservation since 1. I don’t eat raw fish or sashimi (except spicy tuna) 2. The price of the kaseiki menu was waaaay beyond our average dining budget.
D really wanted to dine here ever since it opened, but was looking for an excuse to justify the big dining splurge. Finally, his 30th birthday seemed like the perfect occasion to take me out on a fancy dinner.
Upon arriving, we were immediately led to the Kappo– a 10-seater open-kitchen bar area where Chef Ryohei Kawamoto was busy preparing the menu for the night. A staff handed the kaiseki menu that listed down all the dishes that will be served to us that night.
is an elaborate multi-course Japanese dining experience with menu that depends on the availability of seasonal ingredients. It exhibits the culinary techniques and skill of a chef who puts in a lot of effort and thought in creating the menu.
In Kyo-To, Chef Ryo uses only the freshest ingredients to create every dish on the menu. Most ingredients are imported from the different regions of Japan, to showcase the natural and rich flavors of their country. At the same time, Chef Ryo visits local markets early in the morning to source fresh and local produce.
We started off with a mixed sashimi platter- Toro
(tuna belly), Hirame
(white fish), Shiro Ebi
(baby white shrimp), Uni
(sea urchin), Salmon and Hotate
I mentioned earlier that I don’t eat sashimi. We already told KyoTo upon our reservation and asked for an alternative dish. They told us they can substitute the sashimi platter with some tempura. Personally though, I felt that having fresh sashimi over fried items has more value for money and was just the best way to go.
I decided to stick with the original course, and it was the perfect decision. Everything was so good! I had a bad experience with uni before, and swore never to eat it again. This time, I tried a small portion from the generous heaping of uni and surprisingly liked it! It was nothing like the uni I’ve had before. This was sweet and tasted so fresh out of the sea. My favorite from the platter was the Shiro Ebi or baby white shrimps. I’ve never had anything like it before. It was so sweet, I cannot believe it was all natural.
The toro and scallops were also spectacular. They were very different from the regular toro or hotate we normally eat in Japanese restaurants. I couldn’t find a fault with the salmon and fish sashimi either. Basically everything on this plate was just divine! Coming from someone who have never liked sashimi, I was surprisingly blown away.
(“steamed”) is a traditional Japanese steamed broth filled with seasonal ingredients like seafood and vegetables, then served in a teapot. KyoTo’s dobin mushi was light and tasty with generous servings of unagi, mushrooms, veggies.
Next to be served was the Hokkaido Crab with cucumber and vinegar jelly. The hairy crab from Japan was very fresh and fleshy. While it may not be as sweet as the local crabs we have here, the vinegar jelly added a unique level of flavor to the dish.
The Grilled Hirame was nothing spectacular, but it was good. The Japanese flounder imported from Kagoshima south of Japan was very white, moist, and flaky, and was cooked to perfection.
A tempura-fried mushroom may sound plain and boring, but Chef Ryo’s Matsutake Fry was far from that. Deep-fried matsutake mushrooms fresh from Aomori served with lemon and curry shio- I never knew something so simple can actually taste so good. That curry shio dip definitely made a big difference.
For the next course, we had the Grilled Kinki. I honestly didn’t have any idea what a kinki fish was. When I saw it being grilled, I thought it was just a normal red snapper. I said to myself, “for the price we are about to pay, this better be fresh and grilled perfectly considering we are just sharing one fish.”
Apparently, kinki is a rockfish that is considered a gastronomical luxury in Japan. Fresh from Akita northern Japan, it was grilled over charcoal to bring out its natural flavors. The meat was surprisingly moist and fatty, this photo doesn’t do it justice.
White waiting for the final course, Chef Ryo whipped out this bonus dish for us to try:
Anago salt-water eel- it was light and sweet, with soft and delicate texture that almost melts in your mouth.
Finally, KyoTo’s high quality Grilled Wagyu with Japanese rice was served. Judging from the photo, you can see how the meat was perfectly cooked with that moist and pinkish center. The beef was very tender and went well with the fragrant Japanese white rice.
Dessert for the day was Monaka– a Japanese dessert of crispy wafer sandwich filled with mochi balls, adzuki bean, and vanilla ice cream. It was a very interesting dessert with lots of textures and flavors.
Since we were celebrating D’s birthday, KyoTo gave us a complimentary chocolate lava cake to indulge in. Thank you KyoTo for the kind gesture and surprise!
We really had a wonderful time at Kyo-To Restaurant. Everything was perfect from food, down to the service. The staff were really knowledgeable about the dishes presented to us, and were always attentive to our needs. Chef Ryo truly is an amazing chef! With his passion and skills, no wonder he was the former private chef of the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines.
At a dinner rate of Php5,200++ per head, I normally would say that this is just a one-time dinner experience for me. I never thought I would say this, but I’m very willing to go back, and dine at Kyo-To again even for that price. Hopefully soon!
KyoTo Japanese Restaurant
G/F Coyiuto House, 119 C. Palanca Street, Legazpi Village, Makati
Call ahead for reservations: 805-7743