The Vibrant Flavors of Japanese-Peruvian Cuisine Shine at This Hip Dining Spot in Poblacion

Hit up Japonesa to see how zingy and umami worlds come together.

Japonesa Peruvian Cuisine
5658 Jacobo Street corner Don Pedro Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Sunday and Tuesday to Thursday), 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. (Friday to Saturday)

japonesa poblacion
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

( Over the last few years, Poblacion has seen a revitalizing redux. Gentrification took the old Makati downtown area from a charming, mostly residential neighborhood, to one peppered with full-to-the-brim restaurants, bars, and nightspots. The pandemic dealt an unexpected blow to the community with lockdowns and safety measures; but as the neighborhood now opens its doors and streets to people once again, it’s seeing yet another revival. Poblacion’s second coming brings fresh new faces and brand new eats to the community.

japonesa poblacion exterior
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion dining area
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion la japonesa roll
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

Also read: Here's Where You Can Find Excellent Sushi and Sashimi for Delivery

Visit this Peruvian Japanese restaurant in Poblacion for the best of both cuisines: 

Japonesa, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant on the corner of Don Pedro and Jacobo, is the neighborhood’s newcomer, brought on by Notorious Concepts—the same group behind Alamat and West 32. “Japonesa came about after a serendipitous meeting with our current head Chef Luis Higa,” says Notorious Concepts’ CEO James Thomas. “A friend of ours found out we were planning to set up a restaurant group, and he recommended we order Peruvian food from a couple who had been operating a home food business.”

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japonesa poblacion Chef Luis Higa
Chef Luis Higa creates a menu that takes inspiration from his Japanese culture and experience living in Peru.
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

“After trying the food, we immediately set up a meeting with Chef Luis and his lovely wife Candy, and we quickly got to talking about setting up a brick and mortar,” he continues. “Because Luis is Japanese by blood and lived in Peru for nearly half of his life, we found that doing Japanese-Peruvian would be the obvious choice... After Chef Luis explained how different our menu direction could be from [other similar local restaurants], we found the confidence to tackle this project head on.”

The menu is an artful blend between the two cuisines, with everything you would expect from a full Japanese menu such as fresh sashimi, sushi, yakitori skewers; alongside quintessential Peruvian spices and sauces, chimichurri, and classics like the stir-fried meat dish known as lomo saltado. The balance between Japanese and Peruvian cuisine is delicate—something Chef Luis Higa achieved by letting the Japanese ingredients take center stage while pulling in a diverse range of heat and sour notes from chili and citrus. You’ll find shisho leaves mingling with olive oil, meticulously prepared black garlic, and even mango bringing in new flavor combinations to the different dishes.

japonesa poblacion interior dining area
With wooden elements and wavy details in the tiles and other areas, even the interiors reflect the seamless marriage of Japanese and Peruvian worlds at Japonesa. 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion bar
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

Diners experience warmth as soon as they step into Japonesa’s interior and exterior spaces. Architect Kat Encorporado of Ark Designs managed to preserve the original structure’s original tiles, while incorporating Japanese touches with wood elements at the bar as well as a woodblock-inspired wave-pattern right at the counter. Peruvian touches permeate the space with the venue’s geometric arches and patterns, stucco wall finish, and fun llama-themed art. Everything comes together under cozy, camera-friendly lightning.

japonesa poblacion interiors
Geometric patterns add dimension to the restroom area.
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

If you’re looking for a hearty meal that enthralls your tastebuds, Japonesa’s wide-ranging menu is sure to pique your curiosity. The signature La Japonesa (P590) roll is an instant crowd-pleaser—best taken hot and freshly served, it merges crispy sushi rice with the familiar taste of spicy tuna with a twist of green chili.

japonesa poblacion la japonesa roll
The La Japonesa is the restaurant's eponymous spicy tuna roll, and should be top of everyone’s order list.
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

Up for a light yet zingy ride? Go for their tiraditos plates, featuring fresh seafood paired with vibrant sauces that bring out the best of their base fish. There’s the Hamachi Tiraditos (P750), which combine yellowtail with refreshing yuzu and a distinctly garlicky chimichurri sauce; should you prefer things zesty, try the Sake Tiraditos (P590), which brings together fresh Norweigan salmon with an unexpected cucumber-green garlic sauce.

japonesa poblacion Hamachi tiraditos
Succulent slices of yellowtail fish are lent zip by yuzu and chimichurri in the Hamachi Tiraditos.  
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion Sake Tiraditos
Go for the Sake Tiraditos, featuring Norwegian salmon, if it's a more zesty, vegetal bite you seek. 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

Filipinos who crave comfort will not want to miss the Lengua Katsu (P690), which contrasts incredibly tender meat with a deep-fried katsu coating. And visits to Japonesa aren't complete without their take on the Peruvian classic Lomo Saltado (P950), which incorporates tender bites of marinated steak with a vibrant selection of vegetables.

japonesa poblacion lengua katsu
The Lengua Katsu takes a familiar Filipino fave—beef tongue—and gives it a Japanese spin. Don’t miss out on the creamy mashed potatoes.  
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion lomo soltado
Their version of classic Peruvian Lomo Saltado is an especially vibrant and colorful one.  
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

And if you’re in the mood for small bites or want something to munch on while sipping on their signature libations, check out the multitude of skewers available on the menu. You won’t want to miss the Eringi (P380), which is a yakitori-style take on king oyster mushrooms brushed with a surprisingly refreshing sauce. The Anticucho de Lomo (P650)—made with cubes of U.S. tenderloin beef—is perfect for those looking for a medium rare steak.

japonesa poblacion Eringi
Must-try skewers include the Eringi, a surprisingly light and refreshing dish of king oyster mushrooms grilled a la yakitori... 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion anticucho de lomo
...And the Anticucho de Lomo, featuring U.S. tenderloin beef. 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

Looking for chicken? Go crunchy with the Piel de Pollo (P160) a.k.a. chicken skin, or tender with the Pollo Negi (P160) or chicken thigh with scallions. Even fresh veg are well-represented, in the form of the colorful veggie skewer dubbed the Yasai (P150).

japonesa poblacion Piel de Pollo
The Piel de Pollo is a slightly sweet and crunchy chicken skin yakitori. 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion Pollo Negi Yakitori
Meanwhile, the Pollo Negi Yakitori is a chicken-thigh and scallion staple that every skewer lover would be familiar with. 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
japonesa poblacion yasai
The heat of the grill makes for a wonderful slight char in the Yasai Yakitori. 
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

There is a lot to explore at Japonesa—they’ve got enough food on offer to warrant a second, third, and fourth visit. Diving into the Japanese-Peruvian menu is a wonderful way to welcome yourself back to the neighborhood.

Photos by Hans Fausto

Also read:
What Is Lomo + Easy Ulam Recipes To Try
How a Piece of Makati's Poblacion Is Being Turned Into 'Sinigang Valley'

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