Abigail Tabuchi-Sumida, a part-Japanese businesswoman, initially wanted to acquire a ramen franchise. “My business experience involves real estate and software manufacturing but it has always been my dream to put up a food business. My father is from Fukuoka, Japan-- the origin of the Tonkotsu ramen. There, I fell in love with ramen and I thought of bringing the authentic experience to Manila.”
But just when she was decided to bring in a ramen franchise, the Ramen Wars erupted. “It took me by surprise how all of a sudden, ramen is so popular here. I was shocked that the ramen brand I was initially eyeing to franchise was already operational in Manila,” Abi remarked.
Seeing no point in entering an already dense market, Abi decided to look for another Japanese concept that she can franchise. “One time, I ate at Magosaburou, a fairly-new Japanese restaurant in Singapore that offers prime Japanese Wagyu. I loved the experience and I thought, hey, we don’t have something like this in Manila.” Determined to share her experience with fellow Filipinos, she looked for Sato Akira, founder of Magosaburou and applied as franchisee.
Not long after the negotiations, Magosaburo opened its first Philippine branch in The Fort Strip, Bonifacio Global City.
Well, thank you, Ramen Wars. We got authentic and imported Japanese wagyu instead.
Not all beef are created equal
Before we go into discussing Magosaburo’s wagyu offerings, let’s first differentiate which is which. It’s hard to sift the facts from the rumors that surround the highbrow topic of steaks. (Do wagyu cows really listen to classical music while being massaged? Do they drink beer?)
For your quick reference, remember that: Angus is not Wagyu. Wagyu is not Kobe beef. Kobe beef is Wagyu. Wagyu Kitayama is not Kobe beef. And yes, Wagyu cattle are occasionally massaged.
Wagyu means “Japanese cow,” but unlike Japanese people who are mostly slender, these cattle are genetically pre-disposed to growing fat. Kobe beef, a much-tossed around term, is meat from Tajima wagyu raised in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Doubt a local menu that says Kobe beef in the ingredients since Kobe-style isn’t exported to the Philippines. The wagyu sold here is actually Wagyu Kitayama, a Bukidnon-raised cross-breed of a wagyu and local cattle.
Like all the other wagyu steak places in the Philippines, Magosaburo also carries Wagyu Kitayama. But what really sets Magosaburo apart from the other local wagyu restaurants is their kaiseki (multi-course) menu, featuring prime cuts of full-blooded Kurohana Wagyu they import from Kumamoto, Japan.
Look at that marbling!
Enjoy Kurohana Wagyu, the Mago Kaiseki Way
Magosaburo’s menu features cuisine-fusing pizazz that echoes the sleek, modern, and expansive interiors of the restaurant. The selection of modern Japanese dishes is lengthy and dynamic as there is no final menu, yet.
To make choosing easier, first-timers are advised to stick to Magosaburo’s kaiseki selection. These pre-determined multi-course meals, designed by Executive Chef Takashi Motomatsu, highlight the best of what Magosaburo can offer. There’s the 7-course Fuji Sukiyaki kaiseki, highlighting a relentlessly rich tomato sukiyaki, priced at P2,500 per person and a 7-course Sakura Yakishabu, starring Chuck Roll-cut steaks, pegged at P3,000 per head.
Tomato Sukiyaki, prior to cooking
But those who can afford the best of the best should subscribe to Magosaburo’s 9-course signature Mago Kaiseki (P3,500 per person). Here’s what to expect from the most lavish of Magosaburo’s kaisekis:
To trigger the different sections of your taste buds, you will be served an Assorted Namuru: slightly-spicy spinach, oily and tangy tomato, and a sour spoonful of radish in a small platter. All three will wet your mouth with its respective juices and sauces.
This will be followed by a more complex, Cold Appetizer plate with Tomato Parmesan Caprese Salad, Seared Tuna with Vinegar Jelly, Wagyu Beef with Onion, and Wagyu Sushi.
Seared Tuna with Vinegar Jelly
The caprese salad, however plain-looking, is a beautifully orchestrated ballet of flavors and textures, combining sweet and smooth tomato with sticky mozzarella, and foamy Parmesan. Next, you are to tackle a seared tuna—small, soft, cold, that’s punctuated by a dollop of vinegar miso. To break the tang, slide the pungent onion and beef tataki to your mouth. This will leave an after taste. Follow it up with a seared, still pinkish wagyu sushi rolled with extra sticky sushi rice. The beef, which is even softer than the rice, melts and gets lost among the grains. Don’t worry, this is just a teaser of wagyu’s incredible tenderness.
A Foie-gras Chawanmushi follows suit. Unlike the previous contrasting dishes mentioned above, this bowl is a play on monochromatic textures and flavors. Sip the briny consommé. Bite into the foie-gras. And then dig in to the savory egg custard. To break the monotony, chew the spring onions included in the bowl.
For Hot Appetizer, you’ll be having a Wagyu Beef Shank Stew that was cooked for 24 hours. This is akin to a bulalo, springy tendons and all. Only, the local bulalo is still better. You are to dip it in an egg-sauce, but it barely makes an improvement.
Wagyu Beef Shank Stew
A seafood entrée follows. If you will be served the King Prawn with Mushrooms Wrapped in Seaweed Salt, expect to be overwhelmed with the flavors of the sea. Wrapped in seaweed, then baked in a rock salt dome, the prawns are extra salty, as if you’re eating them straight from the ocean. The mushrooms that accompany the prawns have thoroughly absorbed the seaweed flavor. This course can be challenging to non-adventurous eater. Thankfully a Basil Sorbet will be served to wash the flavors off.
The next, and better, part of the meal now stars Kurohana Wagyu. The prime meat cuts are cooked in 180 degrees lava stone plates. Adjectives in the English language are not enough to describe the texture of the wagyu. I can attempt by describing how it would resist a little upon bite, but then submit like moist cotton upon further chewing. Drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with salt, the beef is flavorful enough; you barely need to dip it in soy sauce.
Lava Stone Japanese Wagyu
Prime Ox Tongue
As if the past six courses aren’t enough to fill you to the brim, you will still be served with Magosaburo Curry Rice with cheese and bell peppers. Dessert is in the form of a not too sweet Flourless Chocolate Cake that would have been perfect if it isn’t too crumbly.
Magosaburo Curry Rice
Toast and Taste at Magosaburo Philippines
Magosaburo is present in Singapore, Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Thailand. But several things that make the Philippine location unique.
In stark contrast with the vibrant and posh Singapore branch, Magosaburo Philippines created a minimalist room and adapted the recent interior design trend of leaving things “unfinished”. But even with its bare gray walls, Magosaburo still emanates the ambiance of a see and be seen ritzy place.
Abi also emphasized the inclusion of wine pairing options in the kaiseki menu. “We have over 100 selections of wine available, sourced from around the globe. By wine pairing, each course becomes more defined and more exciting.”
And lastly, the local Magosaburo is spelled without the "u" in the end. "Other countries spell it with the u but we decided to spell it like how Japan first promoted the brand," Abi shared. Not that it matters, because Magosaburo is just an old Japanese name they adopted, to emphasize the brand's Japanese origins.
Other than these three, Magosaburo gives the exact same experience of eating premium wagyu in its international locations.
So for those who've oversaturated themselves with ramen, here's another Japanese feast for you minus the noodles. Indulge in prime meat at Magosaburo and have a toast to the finer things in life.