Of all cuisines, Japanese is the closest to my heart. Don't get me wrong. I'm by no means Japanese nor have I set foot in Japan. Truth is, I've only eaten my first slice of sashimi around five years ago (prior this, the thought of biting into something raw would always make me queasy). I grew up in a household with the biggest appetite for anything but sushi. You may say that for the most part of my life, I've been sheltered from the wonders of unagi and uni nigiri.
These used to make me go 'blech!'
Enlightenment came the same time I first dated my now boyfriend. The guy's obsessed with Japanese food, it was unbelievable at first. In just a year of dating him, I've eaten so much variation of Japanese food I never bothered to order before. True, his convincing (sometimes, even hypnotizing) powers encountered many a hurdle (making me swallow my first tuna sashimi, for example) but five years into the relationship, he was able to groom me into a clone. I'm now as obsessed-- if not more obsessed, that he originally was.
Nowadays, our default date place is any of our go-to Japanese restaurants. Usually, people seek Japanese food when they have the means and time to splurge. Us? We seek Japanese almost every time we're together and hungry. Fact is: we choose a Japanese restaurant-- be it for fast food or a fancy meal.
When we're in a hurry or are within the constraints of a tight budget, we seek Teriyaki Boy's rice meals and (their ever inconsistent, but still delightful) Spicy Tuna Tartare. Komoro Soba is our (and our pockets') choice for gut-warming hot bowls as they are affordably priced at just over a hundred. Pepper Lunch is also an option for something fast. When craving ramen, we pick Kenji Tei Ramen or Ramen Bar-- depends what area we're in. We usually suppress our sushi and sashimi cravings until we can find time for a leisurely buffet in a hotel (Dusit's UMU is our absolute favorite!) because ala carte servings of these can be pricey when ordered in restaurants. Ever since our first try at Sambo Kojin, we've always kept it top of mind for casual Yakiniku buffets and kamameshi rice feasts. When we're confused and would like to indulge in all the available variations of Japanese food, we go to Little Tokyo-- a catch all basin for anything that's Japanese and edible. Yakitori nights, however, are always reserved for the smoky Nanbantei of Tokyo, which we love for being always quick and consistent.
Nanbantei has recently opened its second branch (after 14 years since it first opened in Polaris, Makati)in BHS Central and all the while during the media launch, I was thinking when is the best time I can bring my boyfriend here and try what we call our “Nanbantei Feast Til' We Drop Night” in this new branch.
So what's “Nanbantei Feast Til' We Drop Night” like? Well, the night starts with wiping off the complimentary vegetable platter empty. We're not the biggest fans of vegetables but Nanbantei's set is an exception. The accompanying brown paste they vaguely call “our signature vegetable sauce” is so good, it can make any vegetable hater consume stick after stick of carrots in this resto. The brown sauce, which I think tastes closely like the sate peanut sauce, is said to be a mixture of soybean paste and herbs. The unique sauce is that tasty-- most people (this includes us) ask for refills so they can dip their grilled orders in it.
Complimentary Vegetable Platter
Just after we wipe out our complimentary sticks, our Spicy Tuna Maki (P160) arrives on cue.
Spicy Tuna Maki
Appetizer is always this, or a plate of California Maki (P180). On we're-so-hungry-we-can-eat-a-person-days, we add an order of Kani Salad (P185) or Miso Soup (P85).
Soon after, the Bestseller Platter (P875)-- 21 sticks, 3 of each kind: Aspara Maki, Tebasaki, Pork Garlic Yaki, Shiso Maki, Negima, Corn, and Poteto Maki, arrives. I think a platter of this is good to be shared by 3 to 4 persons, but we're not that generous; We finish all of these by ourselves.
And since each item comes in threes, we have this kind of an unwritten rule who gets the extra piece. Thankfully, we favor different kinds so there's not much argument during our feast nights.
For instance, two rods of Tebasaki or chicken wings (P110/two sticks) are, by default, mine. No one loves chicken wings as I do and he knows that. The upfront, plain salted Tebasaki is my favorite among Nanbantei's grills. If only they were bigger, then these chicken wings in a stick would be the best. The same rule applies for Negima (P100/two sticks), which are chicken breast cubes and leeks skewered together. You do not deny a chickenitarian, extra chicken pieces.
A corn-lover, I also get the extra piece of the grilled corn (P80/two sticks) by default. He doesn't understand why I love these cobs when I can easily consume them at the streets. “Just because”, I always tell him.
On the other hand, he always claim dibs on the Shiso Maki (P120/two sticks). Although I like pork, I guess I just don't have the proper taste buds to appreciate the minty flavor the sisho leaf that surrounds it. I love the other pork item, Pork Garlic Yaki (P125), though. Liempo-like, Pork Garlic Yaki is what I consider comfort food from among the food on the platter. Still, I'm always willing to give him the extra stick of this item.
Aspara Maki, Poteto Maki, and Shiso Maki
Peace is until the time we finish the above said items. After consuming those, arguments ensue at the sight of both the Aspara Maki (P80) and the Poteto Maki (P95).
Problem is: we both love Aspara Maki and we both agree that the vegetable sauce complements it perfectly. If there's such thing as a platter with all 21 sticks of Aspara Maki, we'd probably get it. But there's none, so we always have to argue who gets the extra piece. Sometimes, batting my eyelashes and giving him a puppy dog stare works but sometimes, they don't.
The Poteto Maki works the other way around. After eating each of the assigned piece, we both feel too full to want an extra rod. I draw out my “If you love me you'll eat that” card during worst case scenarios. Either he obliges or I just doggy bag whatever's left.
The feast finishes off with dessert. After so many grilled food in one sitting, your tongue would naturally yearn for something cold. Thankfully, Nanbantei offer Coffee Jelly (P110) and Green Tea Ice Cream (P100). Either works well as a palate cleanser.
It's not like the Fort branch is more convenient that Greenbelt but I still would like to try how our feast-like dinner would go in a place that's bigger, brighter, and less smoky. And more than this, I'm just so happy that after a long time, Nanbantei finally opened its second branch. That just shows that we're not their only fans.
Check out the new branch at the Upper Ground Level, East Superblock of Bonifacio High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. For reservations, call: 377-2636.
P.S. Do you have other recommendations for Japanese cuisine lovers like us? Hit the comments to let me know.