Now that it has become easier to secure a visa for Japan, more and more Filipinos have been able to experience and savor authentic Japanese fare. They develop a wider appreciation of the skills required to prepare sushi, sashimi and tempura, among other dishes.
Those are the people whom restaurateur Veejay Villavicencio wants to attract. His father, Vicvic, is credited for bringing Japanese food into Filipino mainstream dining 37 years ago when he opened the first Saisaki restaurant. Veejay is raising Japanese food dining to another level with Ogetsu Hime.
Unlike the buffet setup at Saisaki, the food at Ogetsu is served a la carte.
“What we have at Ogetsu is a century of Japanese culinary experience,” Veejay said. “Our sushi chef Isao Takada has been with us since we opened Saisaki and by then he had already been working for years.”
With chef Kiminori Iwabuchi who now oversees the hot kitchen, and the Filipino sous chefs who have worked or trained in Japan, the restaurant has a hundred years of combined Japanese culinary experience.
Access to seafood
It also has access to what could be the best seafood and produce with deliveries from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market arriving every other day.
“We are able to bring in fresh produce regularly because we’ve managed to maintain decades-long relationships with our food purveyors. That’s why we have Matsusaka beef, the highest class of beef in Japan, on our menu,” Veejay said.
Ogetsu is now on the third floor of SM Mega Fashion Hall
—the first Ogetsu is at SM Aura. Its SM Mega Fashion Hall branch is one of several Japanese restaurants doing brisk business during lunch and dinner.
At lunch earlier this week, tables were full with one group of around 10 male friends enjoying the steak cooked in front of them. At the other tables, diners were tucking into their sushi rolls and sashimi.
“We’re really not a date place. We cater to families and barkada, many of whom have been to Japan and are looking for that ‘authentic’ taste,” Veejay said. “One diner told us, ‘Your sushi is better than the ones I’ve tried in Japan!’”
Vicvic is glad to hear that. “Filipinos who travel to or work in Japan can easily tell a lousy sushi from a good one. It really boils down to our passion for what we do. We wouldn’t be in this business for close to 40 years if we weren’t passionate about it,” he said.
Chef Takada shares this passion with the Villavicencios. You can tell he made the nigiri sushi (seafood over a ball of rice) by the “tail” that drapes over the rice. It’s his signature flair.
“We don’t claim we’re the best Japanese restaurant but we are authentic,” Veejay said.
Customers can sample Ogetsu Hime’s “Best of Japan” (sushi, sashimi and Matsusaka beef) at half off until Oct. 10.
Ogetsu Hime is at 3/F SM Mega Fashion Hall and 5/F SM Aura Premier.
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