(SPOT.ph) The great thing about a degustation is that you get to sample a series of dishes personally crafted by the chef that unfold into harmonious progression. That kind of indulgence, however, usually comes with a high price tag-that is, unless you're dining omakase at Marufuku.
Knowing that my favorite Japanese joint now offers omakase at such a reasonable price is like finding out that my pet dog just learned a cool new trick. Omakase is on-the-spot cooking using whatever ingredients are available in the kitchen. A set of small plates presented one after another, it goes from the lightest to heavier fare. My dinner was arranged days earlier, allowing Chefs Lito Cangas and Paul Canilao to prepare a combination of dishes I have long liked as well as unique items that may become new favorites.
My 10-course meal begins with a very clean-tasting salad composed of kani, sliced ika or squid, and seared tuna. It leans against a bed of cucumbers that has been doused with a subtly sweet and sour dressing that doesn’t interfere with the seafood. A squeeze of lemon only intensifies the flavors on the plate.
It is followed by a trio of one-biters, including tender slices of duck ham on a generous bed of wakame or edible seaweed, an upright log of roasted eggplant with a dab of sweet miso, and one of the restaurant's bestsellers, the kaki motoyaki, a juicy oyster topped with a mayo-based sauce that's been torched. Each bite has a punch of flavors, and they’re so good they make me crave a full-sized order of all three. The eggplant dish, popularly called nasu dengaku, stands its own ground even without the presence of a protein.
Three kinds of sushi usher me into the heftier part of the meal. The shime saba has a piece of marinated mackerel sitting on top of molded rice and crowned with pickled strands of ginger. More simple in presentation and preparation is the salmon, which is torched until pink turns white. Of the lot, the unagi easily steals the show. A piece of freshwater eel is lightly grilled, dabbed with a sweet sauce, then sprinkled with toasted sesame. Marufuku serves a scoop of calamansi sorbet to rid the mouth of the former flavors and richness.
Another regular item that has become a personal must order is the Hokkaido Soup, which the chefs included on my menu since they know I like it. A hearty broth is seasoned with the natural flavors of its ingredients-oyster, gindara, scallop, uni, and salmon. It's as comforting as any soup can get.
A warm clay plate of plump Japanese scallops cooked in garlic butter is placed on the table, instantly prompting chopsticks and salivary glands to get busy. It comes with a chili sauce made of mayonnaise, chili paste, onions, and chili oil.
Beef Steak and Gindara
The last two savory dishes are laid out at the same time, allowing me to enjoy it as a surf and turf of sorts. A thick chunk of gindara swims in a pool of unagi sauce. Alone, the fish is light and clean but eaten with the sauce, vegetables, and more unagi on top, it becomes richer and more gratifying. Dominating the plate and attracting immediate recognition is the piece of Japanese prime beef, seared, sliced, and served with a medley of sautéed mushrooms (button, enoki, shimeji). A cup of beef fried rice, the type you can eat and enjoy on its own, completes the course. A compulsory serving of mixed fresh fruits caps the meal.
I didn't have to impatiently wait in between courses and, despite there being 10, the meal doesn’t feel long, heavy, and tiring. There’s a gradual succession from light to heavy, not one rich and full-bodied dish after another. For P1,500, it's a feast I would gladly repeat more often than any other degustation, especially since I have the comfort of having the same sure-to-satisfy customized meal or one peppered with more surprises from the chefs.
Marufuku's omakase is available daily. You can either request the same meal I had, set a price for your meal, or leave it all up to the chef. Marufuku Japanese Restaurant is at G/F Crescent Building, 29 San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. For inquiries and reservations, contact 570-3989.