New Restaurant Alert: Ikigai Kakigori Cafe, Tomas Morato, Quezon City
Our new obsession is Japan's version of halo-halo.
Ikigai Kakigori Cafe
POS Building, Scout Mandriñan corner Tomas Morato Avenue, South Triangle, Quezon City
Open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday)
(SPOT.ph) Ikigai Kakigori Cafe is a traditional Japanese dessert place that specializes in kakigori or shaved ice dessert. “Usually, when people ask, ‘What is your ikigai?’ (They're asking) what is your purpose of being? What is your purpose for waking up in the morning. What is your motivation?” Ikigai Kakigori co-owner Ibarra Padolina explains.
Ibarra's experience in the restaurant industry started five years ago when he opened Wabi Sabi (which is the Japanese aesthetic that values the acceptance of impermanence), an Asian vegetarian noodle restaurant at The Collective, Malugay Street, Makati. Wabi Sabi’s delicious dishes and affordable prices made it an instant hit, resulting in a second branch in Quezon City that opened last year. Ikigai Kakigori came after, opening in the space across Wabi Sabi just off Tomas Morato. “(It was a) natural progression,” Ibarra says. “Meron akong Wabi Sabi diyan, so (we wanted) something different, something more. Sabi nga ng kaibigan ko, ('yong) energy sa Wabi Sabi, fire. Tapos dito, (water). Contrast siya. Big difference.”
The owners still went for that extremely laidback, simple vibe.
He and his partner decided on kakigori because they wanted to offer the kind of dessert that Manila doesn’t see much of, and also because the ice dessert fed into Ibarra’s love for everything Japanese.
The folks behind Ikigai spent a lot of time and effort developing their menu. Almost everything is made from scratch, from the ice cream to the milk ice to the brownies to the shiratama (glutinous rice balls) to the syrup. “Very simple ('yong mga recipes namin),” Ibarra says. “(We use) basic ingredients. The simpler they are, mas masarap, mas pure. That’s also the Japanese way. 'Yong milk na ginagamit namin is free range. Walang additives, walang stabilizers na kailangan para hindi agad mag-melt pero malalasahan mo na it’s really good.”
The Matcha Kakigori (P190 to P250) is shaved milk ice topped with matcha ice cream, sweetened adzuki (red beans), and green tea shiratama. The milk ice is drizzled with green tea syrup. Its accompanying ice cream has a deep matcha flavor that adds another layer of tea to the dessert. The adzuki provide a sweeter contrast to the refreshing green tea, while providing crunch. The shiratama also adds textural contrast, but this time a chewy one. The nature of the tea ensures that the dessert isn’t too sweet, making it a refreshing way to cleanse the palate.
The Mango Kakigori (P180 to P240) is reminiscent of the mango ice popular in Japan and Taiwan. Shaved mango flavored milk ice is paired with mango ice cream, fresh mango, nata de coco, and as a surprise when you get to the middle, cashews for crunch. It’s a favorite sweet treat.
The Kuromitsu Kakigori (P180 to P240) is the "most Japanese" of the desserts. “'Yong kurumitsu 'yong gusto talaga namin isingit kasi very classic Japanese,” Ibarra says. Milk ice is drizzled with brown sugar syrup (the Japanese equivalent of arnibal) and paired with houjicha (smoked green tea) ice cream, sweetened adzuki, and shiratama made with special flour. All its elements are subtly flavored, making for a tantalizing dessert.
“Mainly, 'yong three flavors na classic sa Japan is mango, matcha, and kurumitsu,” he adds.
“Yong chocolate for kids, and for us na gusto maging bata ulit,” Ibarra says of the Chocolate Kakigori (P170 to P230), a delight composed of choco milk ice, vanilla ice cream, and fudge brownies, sprinkled with Oreo dust. The chocolate shaved ice tastes like chocolate milk frozen and scraped—the taste of childhood. No one is too old for this.
The Coffee Kakigori (P150 to P210) is “'yong take namin na medyo adult,” Ibarra explains. Coffee milk ice is paired with vanilla ice cream and coffee jelly. Like all the flavors, this one comes with a surprise in the middle of the mound of ice, this time by way of almonds.
The surprise in the middle of the dessert is something Ibarra added to give the dessert a local flavor. “Gusto mo lang na parang tapos ka na kumain pero meron pa pala sa ilalim. Filipinos like variety so kasuy is very Pinoy, but mangoes are very popular in Japan, tapos nata de coco, gustong-gusto din nila 'yong nata de coco. Very important din 'yong quality ng mango, 'yong quality ng nata de coco—pinili din namin,” he says.
The anatomy of kakigori
The matcha and mango variants are available in vegan flavors, where soy milk is used instead of cow’s milk. Ibarra and his crew went to great lengths to ensure that the vegan and non-vegan options are indistinguishable from each other in terms of taste. “Kapag kumain ka ng vegan kakigori, the experience is the same as 'yong hindi vegan so no missing out on the experience,” he says.
The ice cream flavors, which are delicious on their own, are also available per scoop (P75) in matcha, mango, chocolate, houjicha, and vanilla flavors. The iced desserts go well with hot drinks. There’s brewed coffee (P60) and hot tea (P60). Guests can also order food and drink from Wabi Sabi next door.
Ikigai Kakigori is the dessert place you’ll want to camp out in, specially during the summer. It offers desserts that are refreshing, fairly healthy, and a delight to eat. The restaurant plans to come up with more flavors, “baka passion fruit, or something citrus, guava na flavor, more fresh pang summer.”
We can’t wait.
Photos by Jericho San Miguel