Japonesa Restaurant Review: A Japanese-Peruvian Dining Experience In Manila | CoolJapan

Japanese-Peruvian restaurant Japonesa finally opens its doors to daytime diners craving for delectable fusion cuisine. The Poblacion-based restaurant is the third establishment under F&B group Notorious Concepts and is the brainchild of CEO James Thomas and nikkei head chef Luis Higa. Chef Luis is a Japanese national who lived nearly half his life in Peru.

Japonesa’s exterior.

Japonesa’s exterior.

The ambience

Upon entering Japonesa, we were welcomed with a bright and elegant atmosphere combining Eastern and Western aesthetics. The wooden elements used in most of the furnishing, as well as the woodblock-inspired pattern in the main bar, reflect the Japanese touches. Meanwhile, Peruvian inspirations are seen through the wavy geometric patterns in the flooring and some of the decor scattered strategically all over the venue. The overall atmosphere is cosy and the lighting is very Instagram-friendly.

Japonesa’s interior combines Japanese and Peruvian elements much like its menu.

Japonesa’s interior combines Japanese and Peruvian elements much like its menu.

The menu

Japonesa’s menu has a wide array of selections, ranging from bite-sized eats like skewers, sushi, and sashimi to reasonable portions of tapas and mains. They also have vegan, pescetarian, and vegetarian options.

For us, a visit to any Japanese (or Japanese-fusion) restaurant is never complete without sampling some sushi, so we decided to first try their Unagi (PHP420 for two pieces). The saltwater eel almost melts in the mouth with its cooked-to-perfection texture and the rice-to-unagi ratio was perfect for a single big bite. The slice of avocado on top also added a contrasting but surprisingly pleasing addition to the dish.

Japonesa Unagi sushi and Eringi yakitori.

Unagi sushi and Eringi yakitori.

Next, we tried the Eringi (PHP200 for two sticks) which are grilled king oyster mushrooms. This surprisingly turned out to be one of our favourites, with its smokey and mildly sweet taste and chewy texture. It’s not exactly the most mind-blowing dish there is, but it’s definitely great to pair with Japonesa’s cocktails (more on this later).

Japonesa Sake Tartare.

Sake Tartare.

We also got the Sake Tartare (PHP550) for our tapas, which includes salmon, avocado, and sweet potato chips. It’s an interesting combination, with the salmon and the avocado’s silky and buttery texture complementing each other nicely and the potato chips adding a different flavour and texture profile to the combo.

Moving on to our mains, we got the Maguro Gremolata (PHP700) and the Lengua Katsu (PHP950).

Japonesa Maguro Gremolata.

Maguro Gremolata.

The Maguro Gremolata is a big serving of seared tuna belly, salsa, and gremolata, an Italian condiment made from fresh parsley, lemon, and garlic. The salsa and gremolata added juiciness and the perfect amount of acidity to the tuna which results in an amazing burst of flavour at every bite.

Japonesa Lengua Katsu.

Lengua Katsu.

Meanwhile, the Lengua Katsu, which is a Japanese twist to the Filipino favourite beef tongue, is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Complete with creamy potatoes on the side, this dish is perfect for those craving something meaty and savoury.

The cocktails

To complete our meal, of course, we had to try Japonesa’s cocktail menu too. We had a hard time choosing which ones to get given their extensive selection, so we asked for their house recommendations and received the Watermelon Hai-Ball (PHP380) and the Sakura (PHP400).

The Watermelon Hai-Ball combines sake, watermelon, and elderflower, which makes for a light and refreshing drink. This makes it a good choice even for day diners.

Japonesa Watermelon Hai-Ball and Sakura cocktails

Left - Watermelon Hai-Ball and Sakura cocktails with the Unagi sushi and Eringi yakitori. Right - Sakura cocktail up-close.

The Instagrammable Sakura, on the other hand, has gin, strawberry, and hibiscus. It’s very smooth and fruity with a light creamy layer on top and definitely tastes as good as it looks.

You can hardly taste the alcohol in either of these drinks so they’re both recommended even for those who are not that great with strong alcohol flavour profiles (like me).

Overall experience

Japonesa provides an interesting dining experience for those who are craving an authentic Japanese-Peruvian dining experience in Metro Manila. The dishes are reasonably priced for the portions and the flavours you’re getting and the ambience of the place is also perfect for intimate and picture-ready get-togethers with family and friends. The staff are also friendly and welcoming and are happy to assist when it comes to navigating the restaurant’s rich menu.

Despite the many dishes we’ve already tried during our first visit, there’s still enough room for curiosity that definitely encourages a return to sample the rest of the menu.

Japonesa’s location and operating hours

Japonesa is located at 5856 Jacobo St., Brgy. Poblacion, Makati City. They are open from 11AM to 1AM on Sundays to Thursdays, and 11AM to 3AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Next, if you’re looking for Japanese restaurants to try in Singapore, check out this list.