2/F MET Live, EDSA Extension corner Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City
Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sunday to Thursday) and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday and Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) There’s a lot to love about Japanese culture, whatever your level of enthusiasm might be, from the clothes to anime, and right down to the food. There’s a lot of ceremony surrounding the culture as a whole, as well as many undiscovered treasures that simply never made it to mainstream—and that’s what Kyoto Chaya hopes to put in the spotlight.
As much as they understand the love for all things matcha, Kyoto Chaya also wants Filipino diners to understand there's a lot more going on in the world of Japanese green tea—namely, houjicha, which is best exemplified in their Iced Houjicha Latte (P150/medium, P170/large). Nutty with an airy, pleasant sort of sweetness to it, the toasted quality of the tea shines in cold drinks; it just might rid the loyal of their matcha obsession, if they're not careful. Beyond that, their Flat White (P130/small, P145/medium) would make just about anyone feel a little more at peace—tells you how good they're brewing it.
Of course, they do serve the well-known favorites—what sort of business would they be if they didn't—like a soft, authentic Takoyaki (P180), an unapologetically umami-earthy Gyudon (P330), and maybe the most well-balanced Katsu Curry (P320) you've had in a while. And as lovely as they are, the point is there's more to this place—to Japan, really—than that. The Shirataki Pasta in Chicken Miso Cream Sauce (P270), which you kind of just have to eat to believe, is just one example.
Apart from focusing on sustainability, direct business with farming communities, and quality ingredients—which become evident very quickly—Kyoto Chaya's story revolves around the undiscovered parts of Kyoto, which sisters (and business partners) Yumi and Megumi Tamazaki know and love as they place where they truly grew up.
"Here we have a traditional rice dish that's served in tea," says Yumi, referring to the Chicken Chazuke Rice (P200). You read that right—in tea. Similar to lugaw, though arguably much more herbal and hearty with the soy chicken and marinated mushrooms, this is one comforting bowl you don't want to pass up, however strange the description may initially sound.
And that's sort of the whole theme of Kyoto Chaya: Acquired tastes that are actually pretty easy to acquire. You just have to learn to play along.
Photos by Vincent Coscolluela