Great Eats

Sashimi overload at Izakaya Kikufuji

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably already know that I went to Japan with my family over the Christmas holidays, so the current separation anxiety I’m undergoing is no joke. Japan is one of my favourite countries, period, and I don’t think any number of visits will ever be enough haha! Alas, we can’t have what we want all the time, but we can certainly attempt to fill in the void.

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Since today is my birthday and I don’t have a cake recipe to share (argh so lazyyy), I thought it would be apt for me to write about the early birthday celebration I had with my family last Sunday, where we ate at the highly regarded Izakaya Kikufuji at Little Tokyo.

When you enter the restaurant it has that really Japanese vibe as the place is quite compact but well-utilized. There’s a bar right at the center of the main hall, and then tables with normal chairs, as well as tables in tatami style. Going further in, the restaurant is actually big and extends all the way to the back!

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Being in here makes me miss Japan even more, to be honest with you, but Japanese food makes my heart feel so much better. This place has such a reputation among fans of authentic Japanese food it’s practically an institution. Also, I think the sashimi we ate in this one meal is enough to last me about a month.

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But let’s not kid ourselves, soon enough we’ll be eating Japanese food again!

Before I go on about the food, I wanted to talk about how packed this place was. It was literally bumper to bumper, and for a restaurant to be around this many years and still have this many customers says a lot about it! I got lucky and hooked a reservation when I called just a week earlier, but most people I know had to do their bookings two weeks ahead because the restaurant was already full. I highly highly recommend calling in a reservation in this place, because if you’re planning to be a walk-in customer, then be prepared to take a LOT of patience with you!

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The thing I love about Kikufuji is that the staff is very fast on their feet. It’s a really busy place, and sometimes it’s hard to get the attention of the wait staff for say, a refill of tea, but once you do get their attention they move super fast. In Japan, restaurant staff move pretty quickly too, but they also take a shorter period of time in bringing out your orders to your table. Since this isn’t Japan but a very busy restaurant in Makati, then I suppose it’s understandable that some dishes take a little longer.

Anyway, let’s start talking about the food! Any time we go to a Japanese restaurant and there’s a Spicy Tuna Salad (Php 280) on the menu, we order it. That soft fresh tuna coated with creamy spicy mayo and crunchy tempura flakes makes for an awesome eating experience.

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This is one of the freshest versions I’ve tried, and I say that about both the tuna and the tempura bits. It’s got all the seasonings of the typical spicy tuna salad too.

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Next, we ordered two makimono dishes. The first one was the Negi Toro Maki (Php 160), which was a little lackluster, as it was really small and so the portion of scallion and tuna inside the rolls were small as well. I could barely taste it. 😛

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The star makimono dish was definitely the Spicy Tuna Maki (Php 240), and yes, spicy tuna again! This was one of my favourite dishes of the day because somehow, that spicy tuna salad tastes EVEN BETTER on rice.

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Now we get to the main reason why we came here: fresh sashimi. Everyone practically waxes poetic about how good the sashimi is here, and even better, it doesn’t cost as much as most other Japanese places in the metro. As a lover of sashimi, to say that I was excited would be an understatement. And when they laid this on the table… My goodness. Look at all those beautiful colours!

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The one we ordered is the Nana Ten Mori (Php 830), and it’s got seven kinds of sashimi as the name suggests. (Nana means seven, so there’s a little Japanese counting lesson for ya! Haha!) Seven different kinds of wonderfully fresh slices of seafood for only 830 pesos! Where else can you find that kind of value???

This platter has the usual sake (salmon) and maguro (tuna) combined with other fresh fish like hokkigai (surf clam) and hamachi (yellowtail). Oh and the mackerel was superb.

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I have to give a special mention to the sweet silky uni (sea urchin). This was bursting with goodness in every bite and was addicting like crack!

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The mains that we ordered were pretty generic (by my standards anyway). I went for my usual Zaru Soba (Php 190) and I can honestly say it’s not the tastiest version I’ve eaten by far. (The best was in Japan, let’s be real.)

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My dad ordered a bowl of Wakame Udon (Php 270) and you can totally see all that fresh seaweed floating on top. He said it was pretty good. I was so busy slowly eating pieces of sashimi I forgot to give this a taste!

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Despite the good amount of main dishes they have on the menu, I would suggest going for items on their special lunch menu instead. I can’t say anything about dinnertime, but I reckon one of the reasons the place is filled to the brim at lunch is because of the lunch specials Kikufuji offers. In Japan, most restaurants also do special lunch menus for office workers, and these filling meal sets are mostly composed of rice and miso soup with a specific Japanese dish for a price that’s more value for money than ordering ala carte.

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My co-birthday celebrator Jason went for the Chirashi Don Lunch Set (Php 568), and it comes with its own Spicy Tuna Salad, apart from the loads of sashimi which the dish is made of. He said this meal was like two months’ worth of his sashimi quota haha! Luckily there are other side dishes to help keep the palate fresh.

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I also want to say that with the lunch specials, apart from the side dish/es and soup that come with the set, there’s also a glass of this absolutely fantastic iced coffee. If I had to guess, this is probably UCC coffee. It was deliciously blended!

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The other lunch set my family ordered was the Makunouchi Bento (Php 420). I want to mention that the grilled salmon in this bento was so well-cooked it literally melted in your mouth.

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Speaking of melt-in-your-mouth, when you come to Izakaya Kikufuji, DO NOT MISS their amazing Gyu Kushi (Php 125 per stick). (Thanks to an Instagram friend for suggesting this to me!) The squares of beef just pop and melt in your mouth in the most sublime way!

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These beef skewers are so perfectly grilled, so incredibly soft and juicy! And even though you know it’s probably bad for you, you’ll still want to have another bite! 😀 It’s too good to be missed, but just don’t go overboard. We ended up eating two cubes each, and I was highly satisfied! (Well we were already full at this point.) 😀

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There’s not much else I can say about this dining experience except that I’ll be back. I miss Japan on a regular basis, and this place is probably as authentic as it can get over here! Even the busy ambiance wherein you can feel people milling busily about as you enjoy your meal is part of that Japanese experience, and I for one do really like it– even though it took me several attempts to have my tea refilled haha!

I’ll make it a point to order the many other things I haven’t tried during this trip and report back. Don’t you worry! I’m actually thinking about trying to squeeze in a little midday get-together with my best friends, and perhaps get a seat at one of the tatami tables this time around.

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IZAKAYA KIKUFUJI

Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Avenue,
Legaspi Village, Makati City
Hours: 11 AM to 1:30 PM, 6 PM to 10:30 PM
Tel No.: (02) 893 6131 — non-smoking reservations

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Full disclosure: This post was not sponsored in any way. All opinions stated above are my own.

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