Monday, January 21, 2008


4.5 out of 5 stars

I have always been a fan of Little Tokyo in Makati. From Seryna to Kikafuji, to Sango’s and their Okonomiyaki bar, I’ve considered that area as the pedestal for authentic Japanese cuisine. So authentic that their menus are written in Japanese, all their patrons are Japanese and their music and magazines are also Japanese. Incomprehensible yet fascinating. It’s as if you’ve been transported to Japan when you step in these places.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that another Japanese restaurant along the lines of Little Tokyo was found near Pao’s condo in San Juan! Based on a good review by Dr. Jeff, Pao and I wanted to go there because if everything turned out well, that would be our default quick fix for Japanese.

And it did! :D Panalo and YUTAKAAAAAAAH! :D And thank God they close rather late (around 10 or 11 on weekdays), because the first time we visited, we just came from a movie. And from our first visit, we’ve probably eaten here around 3 times the past 2 weeks.

I think Yutaka Izakaya is more of a secret treasure for people that live and work near this area, as well as for med students and doctors who are based in UERMMMC, since it is found very close to this hospital. It does not really advertise (much like Little Tokyo restos), and its reputation has remained solid thru its small but faithful clientele. The resto itself is inconspicuous because the sign and place isn’t really that big, and it’s easy to overlook from the highway since one doesn’t really expect much restaurants along Aurora.

The restaurant is definitely not one of those places where it looks small from the outside and big when you step in. The interiors are also small, but very neat and clean, very low profile. It can probably sit about 15-20 people only, with 3 booths, and probably a secret room inside for the owner’s friends or regulars. This is not a fancy date place, more of a resto for authentic, hearty Jap food with very (VERY) reasonable prices.

And oh, how reasonable they are! California maki is only 80 PhP, the tempura bento set is only 150 PhP, and katsudon only 95PhP!!! You will certainly be full if you’re a couple, spending only 350. But don’t think that just because it’s cheap, that it wouldn’t be good. The Japanese owner is the one running the sushi bar at the back himself, so expect your sushi and sashimi to be prepared personally by him. And let me tell you how good the other main courses are!

In the three times we’ve been here, we got the following: California maki (80 Php), futomaki (90PhP for 4 pcs), tamago (50 for 2 huge pieces), gyoza (4 pieces for around 80 PhP) , gyudon (95 PhP), tentoji bento set (108 PhP), and the kushikatsu bento set (120 PhP). Because this resto is a small operation, their menu is limited compared to the Little Tokyo restos. But instead of a curse, we consider it more of a blessing because I’ve never understood the menus in Little Tokyo anyway. Their menus are so encompassing there, that they don’t have a picture for all their dishes. At least here, practically all have pictures. And because menu is kept short and simple, you’re tempted to try and explore the entire menu. Besides, even if their menu is short, it’s relatively complete. You have 4 Donburi Toppings, 14 Teikoshu (bento) sets, 8 kinds of sushi, 5 kinds of sashimi and maki each, 3 kinds of yakimono, 3 kinds of soup, random orders like tofu or rice pilaf, as well as a variety of snacks called “oyatsu” (their counterpart for “pulutan”) for drinking with your sake such as butabara (30 PhP), tsukune (30 PhP) or sonazuri (30PhP).

California Maki and Tamago
The California maki was excellent, and we’ll definitely get that again when we don’t feel like being too experimental with choosing the dishes. As for the tamago, I requested that it be without rice. And when it came, it was a fat and juicy, and around 10 pieces! I forgot to take a picture of it before eating, so I only did when it was half-consumed….

Pao’s comment: I love, love, love the California maki. The tamago is quite generous for its price. But don’t get this if you’re getting the Futomaki since it already has tamago inside it.

Futomaki means “fat roll,” and is usually vegetarian, sometimes containing fish eggs. Ours didn’t have any, but it really was fat, nearly two inches in diameter! It had tamago, kampyo (dried fruit strip), really good mushrooms and probably a thin cucumber strip inside. It had no meat, yet it was more tasty than some of the sashimis I’ve tried!

Pao’s comment: It’s so futz!

I’m not a fan of gyoza, yet a lot of my guy friends, including my boyfriend, are nuts about it. In all fairness, even I like their gyoza. Its dough was thick and puffy, a clear sign of being steamed well, the meat inside wasn’t overpowering by the addition of scallions and seafood, and only the bottom was correctly seared, making it slightly crunchy for added texture.

Pao’s comment: Fresh, flavorful and served hot, unlike the ones served in Isshin, which was my previous favorite.

The Gyudon was very beefy with not an ounce of sugar, and was simply stir-fried with some onions. This might not be too enjoyable for everyone, as some might find it too dry. But I liked its simplicity. If only they could have added more beef, but hey, it’s less than 100 PhP, so I shouldn’t be complaining.

Pao’s comment: The gyudon was not Philippinized unlike in Ajisen Ramen, Kamirori or Zaifu, where they were sweet and saucy, sometimes with egg.

Kushikatsu Bento Set
The Kushikatsu bento set, as all the other bento sets, come with miso soup and rice. But the Kushikatsu itself was my least favorite. It looked and tasted like katsudon on a skewer, only that there was so much fat in it, and even less meat.

Pao’s comment: I didn’t like it.

Tentoji Bento Set
Unlike the Kishikatsu, the Tentoji bento box is the best! Three pieces of tempura bathed in a mild sauce, but different from the one you dip in tempura. It was a little more viscous, with traces of mirin, sugar and soy.

Pao’s comment: SARAP! All Japanese restaurants should have this in their menu!

This is a find, mainly because it’s truly authentic Japanese with half the prices of what you’d usually pay for. And I love the fact that it’s so near where Pao lives. Considering we practically study in his condo all the time, Yutaka has been our guiltless splurge when we’re on a break, or when we’re hungry. A relocated Little Tokyo resto, I won’t even bother asking why it’s displaced since I’m so grateful that it’s there!

Click on menu to magnify (I only took a pic of the important ones)
Donburi and Teishoku Sets

Teishoku Sets

Sushi and Noodles

Yutaka Izakaya
GF Unit X Aurora, Quezon City


banonymous said...

it's just 4.5 cuz there's no hamburg dish - pao

Dar Andrew Cayabyab said...

they now have a hamburg dish :)

graey eats said...

Dar: awesome! it now has full stars :)

jssica wabbitty said...

I pass by this small resto everyday and I have long been wanting to try it. I guess its worth dropping by. Thanks for the post! :)

graey eats said...

jssica: you're most welcome! :)

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