Little Tokyo Series: Japanese Favorites at Izakaya Kikufuji

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Okay, so this is embarrassing. I started the Little Tokyo Series back in 2012, and have put it to indefinite status right after. I've been meaning to go back to the complex for more great Japanese eats, but I always unintentionally find reason to delay the trip. Until, my college friends and I decided to have our long-needed get-together at one of the most famous Japanese restaurants in Little Tokyo just a few weeks ago...

Izakaya Kikufuji Little Tokyo

It's funny how when friends and acquaintances ask me for recommendations on where to get authentic Japanese food from, I'd be telling them to go and check out Izakaya Kikufuji in Little Tokyo. A big however, I actually haven't eaten there yet until two weeks ago. Ehehe... And before you judge me, I did hear from fellow bloggers and some friends that this place is indeed a go-to restaurant for Japanese izakaya (bar) food. Sashimi, sushi, hotpot and more -- the perfect lineup of Japanese favorites with or without the alcohol.

Izakaya Kikufuji at Little Tokyo

You'd definitely feel transported to an old izakaya in Japan once you enter the restaurant. Almost all-wooden with Japanese noren curtains, a sushi counter by the middle of the room, a shelf full of Japanese sake, and even an elevated area with (seemingly) low tables. Some might find both the interior and exterior of Izakaya Kikufuji quite run-down and in need of renovations. But while I can't deny that, I feel like it somehow adds to the place's charm.

The Food

I'm not sure if I should be happy, or not, that my friends trust me so much when it comes to dining out that they left the ordering of food all up to me. I personally wanted to have a few chirashi bowls for our group thanks to the tempting blog post of Leslie. But sadly, they're only available for lunch. Bummer! So, we ended up ordering these...

NOTE: The place offers complimentary hot or cold green tea.

Nana Ten Mori Sashimi (P830)
✓ Nana Ten Mori Sashimi (P830)
Since most in the group were fans of sashimi, I figured we'd be happy with seven kinds of them. I'm not sure if Izakaya Kikufuji ran out of other fishes, as I've seen photos online with mackerel, cuttlefish and other kinds of sashimi. However, for our visit, we were given double servings of salmon and tuna, along with hamachi (yellowtail), katsuo (bonito), and hokkigai (surf clam). Not that I'm complaining 'cause I loved every piece I got to eat of these!

California Maki Special (P450)
✓ California Maki Special (P450)
We can't compare how this special version of California maki fares with their regular one, since we didn't order the latter. But we can definitely say that this serving shines in comparison to other California maki we've had from other restos. Your usual roll of California maki, topped with spicy tuna, strips of sweet mangoes, and more roe. The size of it makes eating a whole piece quite the task. But hey, it's a task I'm willing to take!

Mixed Tempura (P405)
Mixed Tempura (P405)
We also had the ever-popular Pinoy favorite tempura, but mixed, since some of us are quite allergic to crustaceans. This serving had shrimp, fish, kani, eggplant and zucchini, all coated in a light and crisp batter that goes perfect with the sweet tempura dipping sauce.

Cha Soba (P225)
Cha Soba (P225)
For carbs, the guys all ordered a serving of white Japanese rice (P62 per bowl). And since I'm trying to not be too crazy about rice anymore, I decided to go with cha soba -- cold green tea powder-infused buckwheat noodles served with a slightly sweet, mostly salty tsuyu dipping sauce, along with some wasabi, scallions and a raw quail egg.

Gyu Shabu-Shabu Nami (P1,100)
✓ Gyu Shabu-Shabu Nami (P1,100)
The main highlight of our dinner was when this platter of beautiful Wagyu beef was served on the table. Thin cuts of gyu nami (Nami is third grade, while another option Jo is first grade beef.) that looked oh-so-enticing even when raw. Just look at that marbling!

Izakaya Kikufuji Gyu Shabu-Shabu Nami
Mushrooms, vegetables and tofu
Konbu-based broth for shabu-shabu
Konbu-based broth for shabu-shabu
Of course, our shabu-shabu won't be complete without the platter of veggies, shimeji and enoki mushrooms, and silky tofu, along with a hot, refillable konbu-based broth that ended up being really tasty and just comforting after we put every ingredient in.

I didn't get to snap shots of us enjoying the cooked beef, since hey, we all wanted to dig in. But I assure you, the beef was very tender and succulent, provided you don't overcook it in the broth. We were all given a saucer each of a sweet, salty beef dipping sauce too. Yum!

Sumi and College Friends at Izakaya Kikufuji Little Tokyo
The Aftermath: all smiles after wiping off all the food.
It was really nice to be back at Little Tokyo and finally try Izakaya Kikufuji, one of the most-talked-about restaurants in the complex. But, it was nicer to enjoy their food with my good friends. As they say, food tastes even better when shared with good company.

THE VERDICT

After getting a taste of Izakaya Kikufuji for myself, I found out that I was actually right to recommend this restaurant to friends and acquaintances for good, authentic Japanese food. Legit Japanese izakaya food can be a little hard to come by, but definitely not in Little Tokyo. Everything we had from the sashimi, hotpot, even down to their complimentary tea was of really good quality. Prices are reasonable too, although obviously higher compared to price tags at mainstream Japanese restaurants.

One thing I feel needs improvement though is service. Dinner during our visit was quite hectic, and it was really hard to get one of the staff's attention. But it was nice that the server assigned to our table was very helpful and quite cheerful compared to the tired, gloomy vibe of most of the staff. But overall, I'd come back again and try their lunch sets which I heard are of even greater value. Hopefully by then, service will be better.

Taste 4.5/5
Ambiance - 3/5
Service - 2.5/5
Price - 3.5/5
Overall Value - 4/5


Izakaya Kikufuji, Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo, Chino Roces Ave., Legaspi Village,
Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines
(02) 893-7319; 893-6131

4 comments:

  1. Those sashimis look really good. Now, I'm craving for japanese food.

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  2. I hate you sumi!!!!! craving mode ako????!!!! and att his unGodly hour!!!! the cha soba is a must for me at any jap resto... and the sashimi looks really fresh although as you noted down in your ratings .. a little pricey!!!! I love your new layout dear... uh Happy new year to you and to atty.... from my family to yours ^_^ see you soon

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  3. I have been to Little Tokyo but haven't tried this one yet! I was craving for an Okonomiyaki that time kasi. Will definitely drag the boyfriend here. We both love Japanese food! :D


    xoxo,
    Gelleesh.com

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  4. The Nana Ten Mori Sashimi reminded me of the Tuna Tataki I had in a QC restaurant before, so yes, we'll definitely have that if there's a chance for us to visit Izakaya Kikufuji.

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