Being a self-proclaimed foodie, I pride myself on having an open mind and a curious palate ready to take on new flavors from a wide array of international cuisines. However, as much as I want to hide my inclinations, I can't help but feel giddy whenever I'm in Japanese restaurants. Even as a kid, I had always been partial to Japanese cuisine. And after a sumptuous lunch at Kitsho, Trader Hotel Manila's Japanese restaurant and sake bar, I can no longer deny that I am deeply in love with the simple yet bold flavors of artful authentic Japanese masterpieces.
Conveniently situated in Trader Hotel Manila's ground floor, Kitsho is dressed with a contemporary zen-inspired interior exuding a calm and well-balanced atmosphere by drenching the place with blacks, creams and reds, coupled with soothing traditional Japanese instrumental music, and a slightly dim ambient lighting.
Apart from its spacious dining area which can accommodate 92 people, Kitsho also has 4 private rooms ideal for intimate gatherings or even special meetings. And being a sake bar, it also boasts of having a cozy bar counter which features an extensive list ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied sakes.
Since I'm not really a drinker, the sake bar was not the highlight for me. It was the fresh seafood on the sushi counter which made my heart jump with joy. Led by Japanese Executive Chef Masahiro Mizumoto, Kitsho's sushi counter features only the freshest ingredients even flown in from Japan. With his team of great chefs, one of whom I saw prepping a beautiful serving of assorted sushi, I just can't help but feel the excited butterflies in my stomach.
After seeing a selection of fresh seafood on the sushi counter, it was time to finally have them in our Sashimi Moriawase (P1,100). Of course not every seafood was served on our sashimi platter, but with the glorious cuts of fresh shake (salmon), maguro (tuna), ika (cuttlefish) and uni (sea urchin), I surprisingly sat so quietly to enjoy every bit of these prized seafood slices. Literally, it was a foodgasmic experience!
Though not as foodgasmic as the sashimi platter, the Take Nigiri Sushi (P850) which had ikura (salmon roe), uni, ebi (shrimp), anago (sea eel), hotate (scallop), kohada (spotted sardine), tai (red snapper), shake and maguro nigiri sushi, as well as some California and maguro maki, was also sensational. Each piece was fresh and oozing with bold flavors which my companions and I loved.
We also had a plate of California Maki (P180) and Spicy Tuna Maki (P280) which albeit lacking in flair as compared to the previous platters, managed to impress us with Kitsho's promise of freshness and authenticity.
After sampling the best sashimi and sushi selection I've ever tasted, we were served with a cup of Chawanmushi (P250), a steamed egg custard appetizer with a seafood surprise beneath, and topped with mitsuba (Japanese parsley) leaves. I've had my fair share of Chawanmushi before, and I can say that Kitsho's is definitely one of the best.
We also had a serving of Uni Tempura (P320), deep-fried nori-wrapped sea urchin, coated with tempura batter. Although I'm not big when it comes to tempura dishes, I can say that the Uni Tempura was a sure hit. Wrapped in a crispy and flavorful deep-fried nori-infused coating, the contrast of a soft and subtle uni filling gave a well-balanced taste and texture.
We also got to try the Salmon Tartaryaki (P480) which is sautéed salmon with tartar sauce. Although a surprising cross between the East and the West, this subtly-flavored yet quite filling dish gained our table's nod of approval.
Our dining experience at Kitsho was off on a very impressive start, but it got even better when we were served with the Kaibashira Butter Shoyuyaki Uni Sauce (P480) -- sautéed Japanese scallops with uni sauce, garnished with red, yellow and green bell pepper. And as much as I had already foodgasmed at the savory and succulent taste of the scallops, the slices of fresh bell peppers managed to make me giddy yet again. Unlike most bitter-tasting bell peppers, these fresh, beautiful and imported slices were surprisingly sweet.
We were also very fortunate to be one of the first few guests to try Chef Mizumoto's latest creation, the Hotaru Ika (P280) which was made with steamed firefly squid. Although this dish came drenched with sauce, the excited me only took out pieces of the little sea creatures which tasted absolutely amazing. They were so flavorful and delicately burst with each bite.
Even if we thought our afternoon meal was already coming to an end, we were still served with another one of Chef Mizumoto's signature dishes, Buta Kakuni (P350) -- Japanese braised pork belly served with karashi (Japanese mustard) and topped with what I believe was shiraga negi or long and thinly-sliced Japanese green onion. This very comforting dish, although not my favorite in the bunch, was sweet, flavorful and very meaty. The pork belly was very tender and very succulent, the perfect meat dish to eat on a rainy day.
And as our meal was drawing to a close, we were given a pot each of Dobin Mushi -- a traditional seafood broth made with dashi stock, soy sauce, shrimp, chicken, matsutake mushrooms and lime juice. Although Dobin Mushi is normally drank as an appetizer, it became the perfect meal ender for our group. Its light and subtly-flavored taste gave us a sense of peace, and helped in cleansing our palate.
Our group was already all set. However, we're not rude enough to decline Kitsho's dessert offerings, so we had a serving each of Grilled Banana with Vanilla and Kuromitsu (P150) which is just grilled bananas with mildly sweet Japanese black honey and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Although bananas are generally heavy, this dessert was pretty light for my stomach but was also very satisfying.
We also got to try a bowl of Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream (P150) which was straight-in-your-face flavored with the bitter and distinct taste of matcha. Unlike other green tea ice creams I've tried in the past, Kitsho's was unpretentious. It was not too sweet, and it had a strong bitterness that matcha green tea should really have.
Although Japanese is my favorite among all international cuisines, I am a big critic as much as I am a big fan. Honestly, I have never tried any Japanese restaurants in the Metro which had fully satisfied me from appetizer to main course to dessert. However, after paying a trip to Kitsho Restaurant and Sake Bar, I can definitely say that I've found a Japanese food haven that I'm sure to visit and revisit for the years to come.
Armed with delicately-prepared great-tasting food and impeccable service in a calm and peaceful location, Kitsho is a Japanese restaurant worthy of its name -- kisshou which translates as goodness.
Ambiance - 4.5/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 3.5/5
Overall Value - 4.5/5
Kitsho, Traders Hotel Manila
Traders Hotel, 3001 Roxas Blvd
Pasay City, Metro Manila
(02) 523-7011 loc. 2918