It was Holy Week last week and He is risen. Given the plenty of vacation time in the long weekend, we did not pursue another outing (just got back from Caliraya Resort Club) but stayed at home instead. Malls were closed last Thursday to Friday, so we quickly decided to go to the nearby mall—Robinsons Place, Manila—on Black Saturday, to fend off the “going-out-of-the-house” craving. After hours of window-shopping, we took delight and had dinner at Tempura Japanese Grill.
Tempura Japanese Grill serves up traditional and exotic Japanese fare in substantial portions. It’s a casual dining restaurant that’s one of the best spots for food aficionados trying out Japanese dishes. Out of all the foodie places in the mall, I chose this as I’ve always wanted to try the ramen burger ever since the craze began last year. Also, I was missing the taste of my favorite bite-size yummies: sushi!
Review of Tempura Japanese Grill (Robinsons Place, Manila)
Mirrors on the wall permit diners to sample the sight of fellow diners’ faces. A plethora of Japanese hanging lanterns brought a certain feel that suggested some class and traditional elegance in this modern-themed restaurant. The area was quite cramped; the aisle was so narrow that no two average-sized people could pass through at the same time. So this place can get pretty noisy when it’s full of guests. A section at the back offers more privacy for conservative folks.
You know how it goes—when you’re asked to be seated on the sofa chair or on the regular chair, I bet that most would choose the sofa type for comfort. As part of the majority, we occupied a dining booth with the sofa and the grill at the center of the table. Later, we smelled something strong and awful like poo. Apparently, we were near the toilet. I guess there was something wrong with the flush system. The staffs were kind to move us to a clean table near the entrance. They were fast in taking our orders, serving food and taking the bill.
My dad had the Agedashi Tofu (PHp 105). I’ve tried this three times before and during all those times, I have always been satisfied with the lovely texture of the deep-fried Japanese bean curd. It melts in your mouth like milk chocolate would! The five agedashi tofu pieces were topped with special sauce and bonito flakes.
I didn’t know what bonito flakes are. Upon checking for the description now, my mind just exclaimed OMG. “Bonito flakes are a staple in Japanese Cuisine made from dried, fermented, shaved fish.” My dad is a vegetarian for 26 years now and cannot take any bit of non-vegetable food in. Otherwise, he’d feel ill. Maybe he ate just a few serving of these flakes, so nothing bad happened.
We experienced difficulty in choosing which sushi to order, torn between Uncle Sam’s Maki (PHp 210) and Hawaiian Maki (PHp 190). Finally, we went with the latter, following the restaurant’s best recommendation. Hawaiian Maki is made with pineapple chunks and spicy crunchy salmon bits. These inside-out cooked rice rolls were so delicious that we could not help but fetch a piece right after swallowing another.
Grease. Whether you love it, hate it, or feel only a mild ambivalence towards it, it’s a key feature on the katsu landscape. And whether it be tonkatsu, chicken katsu, fish katsu or vegetable katsu, with properly balanced and flavorful oil, it can be absolutely magnificent. This time, we had Tempura Japanese Grill’s newest item on the menu: Salmon Katsu (PHp 435). Thanks to its inherent flavor, the deep fried salmon katsu came out tender and tasty. I totally love salmon sashimi, but this cooked salmon is equally fine. Dip it into the special sauce and eat the lettuce on the side to experience a mouthful of harmony.
The salmon katsu arrived with a bowl of Japanese rice called gohan ideally good for one person. Since it was too filling, my mom, sister and I managed to share without short supply. The sesame seeds on top added a pleasing crunch and kept the rice’s usual bland taste at bay.
The Ramen Burger (PHp 245) turned out to be not twice as unique-tasting as the standard burger variety, but man, was it good. The beef patty was perfectly fried; you’re able to get a bit of crunchy coating and meat in every bite. In between, the honey-cured bacon stripped to thin slices was juicy and packed with flavor together with roasted onions with sesame seeds and garden fresh lettuce. The sweet-sour signature Japanese barbecue sauce did a good job in cutting through the rich fat, too.
The most awesome highlight in this burger must be the pan-fried ramen buns, which we originally thought to be hard but were actually soft with great texture. On the side, potato chips were provided as necessary accompaniment. If you haven’t tried the ramen burger yet, then the next time you see it on the menu, you would know that it basically translates to, “The rest of the menu means nothing; I must order that.” 😛 Trust that it would be great!
Price for Value: ★★★☆☆
By the time the meal ended, so had my sushi and ramen burger envy. These dishes we ordered at Tempura Japanese Grill were good enough as our attention was not diverted to other tables. Prices are expensive yet dining here in the midst of Holy Week is still cheaper than a vacation.