This New Sake Bar Is the One Thing Your Poblacion Bucket List Is Missing
Plus, their Japanese-Scandinavian dishes are practically comfort on a plate.
5579 Fermina Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Open from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Monday to Thursday) and 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. (Friday and Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) Poblacion might seem like it has everything you need for a perfect night out—from oyster bars and hip cafés to secret drinking hideouts—but there’s one new joint that’s low-key joining in the fun. Located just below Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen on Alfonso Street is YOI, a good starting point for an evening of great food and maybe a shot (or two) of sake to kick things off.
Japanese-Scandinavian cuisine sounds intimidatingly out-of-the-box, but that wouldn’t be much of a problem once you’ve had a sample of their dishes—heck, you might even be able to say it’s love at first bite.
The menu was curated by Noma-trained Chef Mikko Quimora and Chef Cris Villasor, who has over 20 years of experience in Japanese cuisine. Quimora describes the menu as mainly Japanese, but finished off with the heartiness of Nordic cooking.
Apart from their minimalist interiors dotted with wildly animated murals, YOI puts the spotlight on a sake menu that's unlike anything you might have seen before in the Metro. Made by managing director Tadeo Chua, a certified sake expert, he’d be more than happy to explain the ins and outs of their sake offerings if you catch him.
Sake Tasting Menu
Although the sake craze has yet to hit Manila, YOI leads the way in high-end and artisanal sakes. Their carefully curated menu has sake that can satisfy the most discerning drinkers, and it also has starter vintages for the less initiated. The restaurant’s Sake Tasting Menu (P995), which features six different types of Japanese rice wine with flavors ranging from citrusy to bold to umami, is not to be missed. Servers can also guide and tell you which sake pairs well with whatever dish you want to order.
Sourdough with homemade butter
To start, tease your palate with YOI's freshly baked Sourdough (P110), which is paired with the restaurant’s homemade butter. The butter complements the bread with a salty richness in each bite—it’s easily forgivable if you want to spread a spoonful of it on the warm, chewy bread.
The Tako (P285), or octopus sautéed in sake and finished off with torched Havarti, herbed oil, and fermented chili oil, features strong umami flavors balanced by the refreshing taste of seafood and herbs, and creamy melted Danish cheese.
Another must-try is YOI’s Tuna Tartare (P270), a delicious treat that has fresh tuna and diced cucumber. In the middle of the beautifully plated dish is a zesty foam dressing made of buttermilk yogurt. It adds another layer of texture, besides the nice crunch of vinegar-compressed potato chips on top, of course.
Whether you want to start or finish with something light on the belly, the Kropkakka (P220) is a great take on a traditional Swedish dish. With its deep-fried potato balls reminiscent of a croquette, mussels replace the usual bacon filling. Black cherries and fermented beef compote also give it an amazing marriage of flavors that’s both familiar and surprising on the palate.
Fish & Liver
The Fish & Liver (P320), on the other hand, is a different take on surf and turf. The strong taste of chicken liver is mellowed down by a charred salmon aburi and the sweet earthiness of shiitake mushrooms. Imagine all this goodness served on top of tangy sushi rice—you’ll be dreaming about it for days to come.
While many people think that vegan food is lacking in the flavor department, YOI's Quinoa (P360) is a stand-out, and it's definitely not just for vegans. Served with chilled melon and winter melon to provide contrast to the hot dish marked by piquant Japanese mustard, it's also accompanied with the distinct creamy nuttiness of coconut milk.
If you really want to spoil your taste buds, have the Salmon (P560), a lively plate of pan-seared and perfectly cooked salmon garnished with ikura, deep-fried kale, enoki mushrooms, and yogurt foam on a bed of risotto-style spinach-uni rice. It looks too pretty to eat, but not having it might lead to deep regret.
For a sweet ending, the Kladkakka (P360) won’t disappoint. It’s a delightful warm cocoa cake served with a caramel reduction and homemade ice cream made from dark, stout beer.
Yoi is anything you want it to be—a place where you can impress a hot date, a restaurant where you can hang out with friends, or simply a solo drinking spot where you can unwind and educate yourself about sake; either way, each experience is bound to be a good one.
Photos by Majoy Siason