New Restaurant Alert: Aburi in Alabang, Muntinlupa
Torched sushi, anyone?
2/F Madison Galeries, 398 Don Jesus Boulevard, Alabang, Muntinlupa City
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sunday to Thursday) and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) If you can get past the traffic, the South is easy to love. It boasts a unique culture, its fair share of activities, as well as friendly food joints ready to satiate anyone's cravings. Aburi joins in on the eating fun and it's already claiming the "neighborhood Japanese restaurant" title. With the growing gastronomic diversity, it's not hard to understand why people who live here never want to leave.
For husband-and-wife tandem Louie and Rachelle Almario, the idea was clear from the very beginning: They wanted to bring to Manila the modern Japanese food movement they witnessed—and loved—when they lived in California. "We admired the unique way restaurants in [Los Angeles] treated Japanese food. It was constantly evolving," shares Rachelle.
You can't beat the Almario aesthetic.
Best seats in the house
Aburi by the bar
With Relish restaurants in Makati and Quezon City, the Almarios are no strangers to the industry and they've always kept it a family affair. Rachelle's 15-year-old son Lorenzo, in fact, makes contributions to the Aburi menu, while her mother-in-law Pacita is a partner. As always, her sisters-in-law, celebrity interior designers Ivy and Cynthia, conceptualized the look.
The red just makes the place pop.
"We wanted to be experimental with our aburis, but at the same time, we still wanted to keep the traditional Japanese fare like tempura, donburi, and yakitori. We're more playful with the rolls, but for the basics, we just want to do them well," Rachelle says as she describes Aburi's menu.
The star of the menu is the torched nigiri sushi. The delicate creations have a nice, smoky character to them, thanks to the charred top or aburi. Tip: The sushi is torched at the bar just before service, so try to get a seat there to get in on the action—and to really enjoy them piping hot.
The Salmon Aburi (P185) is impressively fresh and elegantly delicate, while the Beef Aburi (P175) is more in-your-face. The taste of the savory meat strip and signature crispy shoestring onions come together for a snappy finish. A sweet teriyaki glaze bolsters the bold Unagi Aburi (P325), while garlic chips do the work for the subtle Ebi Aburi (P165). Each order comes with two pieces, but they also have an Aburi Sampler (P425) for those who want a taste of everything.
Lorenzo is proud that two of his masterpieces have already worked their way up to the bestseller list. The Lorenzo Maki (P395) stands out for its heat and varying textures: the crabstick and cream cheese maki is wrapped in light tempura batter, then generously topped with addicting spicy tuna. His other creation, the outrageous New York Roll (P495) puts together shrimp tempura, crabstick, and avocado, which are then layered with juicy torched beef and shoestring onions.
New York Roll
Calamari Tempura Roll
Compared to these heavyweights, the Calamari Tempura Roll (P245) feels a bit modest, but it's equally appetizing. It's filled with avocado and tobiko, then crowned with crispy calamari and a drizzle of Japanese mayo and teriyaki glaze.
Seared Tuna Carpaccio
Other successful experiments include the aromatic and shoestring onion-laden Salmon Carpaccio (P295) in ponzu and truffle oil; and the Tuna Carpaccio (P295) in ponzu with a swipe of refreshing chimichurri and avocado. Aburi also offers a Seared Tuna Salad (P295), which is a straightforward medley of lettuce, seared tuna, and, of course, shoestring onions all tossed in sesame dressing.
As for Aburi's classic Ebi Tempura (P195/three pieces, P325/five pieces), it's definitely nothing to overlook. The shrimp remains springy and tender inside, with the batter remaining light and airy.
The yakitori options—Chicken Wings (P95), Chicken Thigh (P85), Pork Belly (P85), and Wagyu Beef Cubes (P195), among others—are kept traditional, too. Guests have the option to have them shio (salty) or tare (sweet). The Waygu Beef Cubes steal the scene with their tenderness and buttery flavor.
Wagyu Beef Cubes
Who doesn't love bacon?
But the Gindara Teriyaki (P625) is a sleeper hit. It's a melt-in-your mouth grilled creation, charred in all the right places and smothered with just the right amount of teriyaki sauce.
If you prefer fried over grilled, karaage options are also available. The must-try among them is the Tebasaki (P195) or fried chicken wings. Each wing is lightly seasoned, delicately lined with Japanese mayo, and torched for just a slight smoky taste. Enjoy it with Japanese Fried Rice (P115), a hot and heavy serving of carbs, various meats, and vegetables. It's actually a meal in itself, thanks to serving size and flavor.
Japanese Fried Rice
Beef Aburi Bowl
Or, you can just go for the Beef Aburi Bowl (P345), a generous portion of Japanese white rice, topped with smoky beef aburi strips in rich teriyaki sauce. It's finished with the now trademark shoestring onions.
The torched theme continues up to the dessert. Lorenzo designed the Aburi S'mores (P95). It's a comforting plate of crispy Belgian waffles with Nutella sandwiching warm aburi marshmallows.
Fresh from its opening in May, Aburi is fast gaining followers. The restaurant is usually filled with large families, ladies who lunch, and even retirees. Off to a good start and with much hope for Aburi's future, Rachelle tells us, "Our happiness really is not for people to try us, but for people to come back."
Photos by Majoy Siason