Over lunch, Bokie Villavicencio tells me that Sambo Kojin is the “Japanese Kitchen God”. According to him, Sambo Kojin is a three-headed deity, with two pairs of hands, who is the bearer of fire, watcher of the household, and keeper of the brotherhood.
It may seem like a mindless chat about some anime he recently watched but it wasn't. We were discussing business-- his business. Based from the size of the lunch crowd we were sharing the restaurant with that uneventful weekday, I'd say this young entrepreneur indeed has the kitchen god by his side.
With such a huge banner plastered across the building it's housed in, Sambo Kojin is impossible to miss. It's located right at the second floor of the Kamayan, Dads, Saisaki building along EDSA. The location should have told you that Sambo Kojin is Triple V Group's (one of the pioneers in the buffet service industry) latest brand. Who else is better to manage the business than Bokie, the youngest son of business magnate Vicvic Villavicencio?
Sambo Kojin, like Kamayan, Dads, and Saisaki, also offers an eat-all-you-can concept. This one, however, specializes in the yakiniku-style of preparing the food. Offering mainly Japanese and Korean fare, Sambo Kojin easily attracted Filipino foodies with insatiable appetites for the said cuisines.
Granted you leave your plate free from leftovers, you'll be charged P495 for a weekday lunch, and P595 for a dinner at Sambo Kojin. This will give you access to a fairly wealthy selection of sushis, sashimis, different slices of meat marinated in different sauces, a few seafood, mushrooms, and vegetables. There's also a counter reserved for a few of their specialty Japanese and Korean dishes. Unlimited servings of tempura, gyoza, and miso soup are, of course, present.
During my first lunch there, I've stuffed myself with so much salmon sashimi; I think it comprised a good fifty percent of my meal. They weren't as plump as I'd hoped for but they were nevertheless firm and fresh. The tuna and salmon slices almost always have a line in front of them. You can be assured that none of the two sits out in the open for too long.
The other large percentage of my lunch that day can be attributed to the Kamameshi Rice one can have upon request. Normally, I do not like eating rice when I'm in a buffet but it is said that in Sambo Kojin, it's almost illegal to leave without having some. This wonderful, sweet, and sticky mix of robust Japanese rice, chicken, and vegetables, served in its traditional pot, tastes great; you wouldn't mind allocating a little space for it in your stomach.
Sauces for the grills
The rest of the meal is a mix of different grills. Among all, most memorable were those marinated in the Sambo Kojin and Teriyaki sauce. I'm such a sucker for sweet salty combinations.
I also love the Bacon-wrapped Enoki and Shitake Mushrooms dearly; I think I've had at least 6 servings from each of those. The mushrooms are the best at Sambo Kojin.
At Sambo Kojin, you'll be given a cube of beef fat to cook your food with but experience told me that grilling using the sesame oil provided along with the sauces makes you less queasy. You may also request for butter for when you're grilling your shrimps and fish slices. In my opinion, shrimps must always be grilled with butter. It's just better that way.
It will also be helpful to note that you must not interchange the chopsticks you use to cook the food and the chopsticks you use to eat. Raw food is raw food; please be wary of that.
Desserts are available at Sambo Kojin, but nothing comes across my palate as remarkable. This clearly isn't their strongest point. The best I can recommend are their ice creams, which are sweet enough to cleanse your palate of the clingy flavors of the yakiniku.
Service at Sambo Kojin exceeds expectations. The place is brimming with energetic and friendly wait staff. They're warm and welcoming right from when they give you the mini lecture on how to cook your meal to when you ask for your bill. I hope this kind of training lasts.
A month after my first visit, I again dined at Sambo Kojin. It was as full as the first time I was there, if not, more packed. Granted this warm reception from the hungry populace doesn't waver, the Triple V group is looking at yet another trophy restaurant they can be proud of-- a possible legend in the making just like the long-standing Kamayan-Dads-Saisaki group.