CHECK IT OUT: Yanagi at Midas Hotel, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City

Seasoned Chef Kimito Katagiri breaks down Japanese fare for the Filipino palate.

Mezzanine level, Midas Hotel and Casino, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Fusion isn’t confusion...At least not in Yanagi. Click for more.


( The Kaki Papya (P500) is met with surprise. A sort of casserole inside a hallowed out papaya shell, each bite is a steaming mouthful of rich, creamy, oversized oysters. Is it Japanese, though? Japino, clarifies Yanagi chef Kimito Katagiri. Katagiri, who’s lived in the Philippines for 30 years, has long ago learned that Filipinos prefer mestizo-type Japanese dishes with more layers and flashier presentations than what’s authentic. "Always fusion," he adds with a slight shake of his head.

As un-Japanese as the Kaki Papya seems, the dish, which resembles Oysters Rockefeller in taste, is actually made up of Asian elements where miso and Japanese mayonnaise combine to make that stringy, sumptuous sauce. To make his point, Chef Katagiri presented us with two plates of sushi: one, a simple trio of raw salmon, lapu-lapu, and tuna on three little beds of white rice; and the other, using essentially the first three as base, is grilled, saucy, and topped with multi-hued caviar then further embellished with small slices of fruit. Aburi Sushi (P405), Katagiri says of the latter, from the Japanese word for "torched." Only the Aburi is available in Yanagi.

The Tempura Maki (P600), on the other hand, is a gorgeous picture: one whole batter-fried prawn encased inside rice and nori,  and finished off with more colorful fish eggs and tempura sauce. The maki is heavy and meant to be shared, says Katagiri. We can feel what he meant. His other recommendation is the Ebi Tamago (P600). While not as hefty as the Tempura Maki, it’s sinfully deep-fried and generously drizzled with a thick egg sauce. Sticks of asparagus rest on the side and the egg sauce makes for excellent dipping. The SRF US Wagyu Sirloin Steak (P550) is a welcome break from all the shrimps. Onion sauce makes it slighty sweet; every tender, melts-in-your-mouth bite releases delicious salty smokiness.

Yanagi’s desserts are the highlight of the meal. Chef Katagiri has a scrumptious Tempura Ice Cream (P250), green-tea flavored and coated in crisp spongecake. Slices of mangoes add a dash of sweetness to the confection. Yanagi also has ice cream in red bean, black sesame, and wasabi. The latter begs to be tried: it has the impressive kick of wasabi without the heat.

We can only go on describing the flavors of Chef Katagiri’s carte du jour. At the beginning of the meal, over his special lemon-based iced tea, we asked Chef what to expect . "I can’t talk about it. You have to try it to see," he says, advice we now pass on over to you.

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