A darling of the foodie community, Japanese restaurant Nihonbashi Tei has been reviewed to death by so many food blogs all over the internet, but of course, I don't want to get left behind! There are already several branches of Nihonbashi Tei around Metro Manila and they're always packed to the brim, not only with Japanese-food-loving Filipinos but even Japanese nationals as well! I suppose that's how you know that a place is really authentic, right?
A brief backgrounder: There are so many different kinds of Japanese restaurants. You have the sushi-ya (sushi shop), ramen-ya (ramen shop), tonkatsu-ya (tonkatsu shop), etc. which are specialty restaurants that serve a specific dish. However, there is also the izakaya (of which Nihonbashi Tei is an example) which is technically a pub, where people gather to drink sake and make merry. Food served are also complementary to alcohol, (basically pulutan) such as grilled meats, rice, noodles, and sashimi.
Stepping into any one of their branches will transport you to traditional Japan, with wooden and stone decor and flooring, Japanese characters lining the walls, and most importantly, quaint little rooms where you get to sit on the floor and dine on low wooden tables (although these are smoking rooms). If that doesn't get you in the mood for some delectable Japanese cuisine, then I don't know what will.
What I love about Nihonbashi Tei is that they don't skimp on ingredients. Their salmon sashimi has the largest slices I've seen, their miso soup has fresh briny clams in it, and their spicy tuna maki is HUGE.
First, we begin the meal with the quintessential Japanese starter: Miso Soup. Nihonbashi Tei's version has negi (leeks), seaweed, and clams, all simmering in a nice umami soup with flavorful miso. My only complaint for their miso soup is that it's a bit too salty, but this would be perfect with a hot cup of rice.
Next up is my absolute favorite, and I make it a point to have this every time I come to this restaurant: it's Salmon Sashimi!
Now I know what you're thinking, "Charmie, isn't salmon sashimi available everywhere? What makes Nihonbashi Tei sashimi different?"
That, my friends, can be answered by this photo:
Feast your eyes on that, folks. Look at that calamansi. Now look at the salmon. Where else can you get sashimi so large and so thick, and so pink and fresh? Nowhere, I tell you! (Well, you can probably get it somewhere. I just haven't found that place yet, but if you know of another place with such gigantic sashimi, do let me know!)
This is salmon perfection, especially if you compare it with those pale, paper-thin slices of sashimi you get at other "Japanese" restaurants that have been sitting in their fridge for days, where you can barely even taste the fish.
Okay, I'm going to stop waxing poetic about that sashimi or you'll think that I own the place or something. But seriously, guys, give it a try. It can't be beat.
Speaking of large, thick things (stop sniggering), their Spicy Toro Maki is also much, much bigger than the average sushi roll. It's also quite distinct from the usual Spicy Maki, as the spiciness comes from Korean gochujang (spicy pepper paste) that they mix into the tuna. While it isn't my favorite spicy maki when it comes to taste (I'll reserve this topic for later), the sheer size of it is impressive enough to make an impact on most diners.
The main dish consists of seafood and meat dishes, starting off with these Asari Butter Clams. Small saltwater clams (called asari in Japan) stir-fried in a butter-soy-garlic sauce, garnished with green onions. The best part of this is the sweet savory sauce that gathers at the bottom of the plate that you should freely scoop onto your rice because it is so good.
(Interesting fact: Asari clams are also called Manila clams because they are commonly found in the Philippines.)
This Beef Teppanyaki is thinly sliced beef, stir fried in a soy-sauce-based marinade, and served atop a bed of veggies. The beef is delicious and flavorful, but a bit salty.
Kare Katsu Set - Breaded pork cutlet covered in creamy curry sauce served with hot steamed rice. The set also includes dessert of iced coffee and miso soup. The katsu itself was nothing special, but the curry was quite good!
This was perhaps the second star of the show, next to the sashimi. I don't know what it is about iced coffee at Japanese izakayas, but they are always so rich and sweet and creamy, and a perfect ending to the meal. The iced coffee at Nihonbashi Tei (included in the lunch set) is no different! The only negative thing about it is that there's so little of it. :(
And that, my friends, concludes my post on this lovely little Japanese restaurant. Perhaps it's not the absolute best Japanese restaurant there is. There is probably better ramen, better maki, better katsu out there, but the sashimi makes it all worth it. I could go there and have five plates of this beauty all by myself!
(Hint: If you're into uni, or sea urchin, this place also serves some fine uni sashimi! I personally find the taste too pungent, but I know some people love it.)
806 Arnaiz Ave, San Lorenzo, Makati
Branches: several other branches around Malate and Makati (There are so many, I can't keep track! I just know that there's one across Hyatt Hotel in Ermita.)
Price Range: 250 to 500 pesos