Nikkei is the name bestowed upon the very interesting Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine. Over the past few years this special cuisine has gained a lot of traction outside of its native Peru, but it’s taken some time before it made an impact locally. I think this particular restaurant contributed largely on that front.
Simply named Nikkei, this posh-yet-industrial looking restaurant in Legazpi Village is easy to remember because it is named after the cuisine that it serves.
I already had my introduction to Peruvian cuisine thanks to the wonderful Mantaro, and Japanese is one of my personal favourite cuisines in the world. Needless to say I was already looking forward to the food the moment I arrived at the door.
It was a stormy night when we found ourselves along Legazpi Village, and the place we initially wanted to eat at was closed. Driving around we found ourselves at Nikkei, and luckily we got a table despite randomly walking in. I’ve heard how busy this place can get, but it was still early evening and the restaurant wasn’t packed yet. It didn’t take too long before people piled in though.
The ambiance of Nikkei is one that I really like. It feels a bit like visiting your friend’s loft for a get-together. It’s dark but cozy, with a rough-around-the-edges vibe, but it still feels perfect for intimate gatherings. I would have to say these contrasting yet complementary elements are also present in their food.
Nikkei Tiraditos (Php 175)
Tuna thinly sliced in Peruvian style, topped with Nikkei sauce, red chilli, and cilantro
These are quite delightful in a subdued way, compared to sashimi that comes in thicker cuts. The tuna is fresh, and it comes with a flavourful Nikkei sauce that really gives this dish a nice oomph.
As you can see, the slices are so nearly paper thin, so if your intention is to get a sashimi fix don’t order this one. Order a regular sashimi, which they also have. This would go well with sake most probably!
Grilled Ceviche (Php 395) 🌟
A combination of grilled white fish, octopus, scallops, and prawns, flavoured with cilantro, sweet potatoes, and red chilli, plus a good coating of leche de tigre.
A delightful ceviche dish, albeit the small serving. However the abundance of seafood does make up for that. It doesn’t quite have the same tang I loved from Mantaro’s ceviche, but the leche de tigre used here had a nice balance of sour, salty, and spicy. As a fan of ceviche in general, I enjoyed this one quite a bit!
*Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) is the Peruvian term used to refer to the citrus-based marinade used to cure the seafood in ceviche.
Ebi Furai Sushi Rolls (Php 390 for 10 pcs) 🌟
Fried prawns, avocado, and white fish rolled inside flavourful sushi rice and topped with Nikkei’s special ceviche sauce and togarashi.
This was love at first bite. I really liked the carnival of flavours this brought into my tastebuds. The fried prawns give a slight crunch, with the avocado and white fish lending some nice texture to the rolls. Tasty!
Grilled Ebi Sushi Rolls (Php 390 for 10 pcs) 🌟
Prawns, cream cheese, and leeks wrapped in sushi rice; topped with grilled mango, a touch of yellow pepper sauce, and togarashi.
This one had a milder taste than the sushi roll above, but it’s the cream cheese that elevates this into a delightful, even creamy, little roll. The mango adds just a touch of sweetness.
Nigiri Set (Php 420 for 6 pcs)
Colourfully plated duos of nigiri sushi, salmon nigiri, and maguro nigiri.
Frankly speaking, I was a little disappointed seeing this spread. The two sushi on either end are the only ones that look a little different from the usual, and I was really expecting something… I don’t know, unique? So one of them has some chalaquita on top (it’s like a Peruvian salsa) and that’s about it.
I ended up eating the sushi with the topping similar to the Nikkei Tiraditos because it looked by far the most interesting and flavourful of the bunch.
Salmon Belly (Php 450)
Salmon belly tempura with a side of ponzu sauce.
This is the first of the dishes that veered towards ridiculously expensive for me. I understand that salmon belly is a pricier portion, but there were literally five pieces of salmon tempura in this plate, all of them shorter than my fingers! I will agree it was delicious, and that the salmon was cooked to a perfect texture inside that non-oily crunchy tempura shell; but my enjoyment of this dish still felt like a betrayal to my wallet! 😛
Buta No Kakuni (Php 380)
Pork belly marinated in ponzu, leeks, and togarashi, plus a bit of katsuboshi for a boost of flavour.
Deliciously saucy melt-in-your-mouth juicy pork belly. It is definitely all that is advertised! However at the price, I can’t help but note that this was a teeny tiny serving! I should’ve taken an overhead photo for you guys so you can get a better idea. The fact that they served this on such a big plate only highlighted how small the portion was.
Miso Kurobuta (Php 680)
Charcoal oven-roasted Japanese kurobuta short ribs marinated in miso, with a side of wasabi coleslaw.
Not the best kurobuta I’ve eaten, but tasty thanks to that premium juicy meat laced with a sweet and tangy flavour. The serving was waaaay too small however! Kurobuta is one of the best pork there is, so it is understandably expensive, but this was still pretty small for a dish that’s nearly 700 pesos!
Chahan (Php 180)
Your typical Japanese style fried rice that goes well with anything.
All I can say is, this was sorely needed by the boys in the family after being surprised by the small servings of the main dishes.
Salmon Burger (Php 350) 🌟
Wasabi coleslaw and sweet potato strings accompany the salmon burger patty sandwiched between the steamed buns; comes in two mini burgers and a side of fries.
I enjoyed this a lot. That salmon patty was delicious, and each bite gave way to a savoury but also crunchy experience thanks to the sweet potato strings. It’s a small burger with big flavours!
Between this and the Salmon Belly Tempura, I definitely think you will get your money’s worth if you order this instead. This is more filling since it is already a full meal in itself, with layers of carbs, fish, and veggies, plus a side of fries. Once you take your first bite, I doubt you’ll want to share this. 🙂
Tres Leches Cake (Php 250) 🌟
A sponge cake soaked in three types of milk, topped with bruleed mangoes and a tiny drizzling of soy syrup.
I loved this. This is how I imagined Tres Leches would be like, which is a far cry from the version I made via Alton Brown’s recipe (which I will talk about tomorrow)! The cake base is spongey but soaked just well enough not to turn soggy. Every mouthful is a burst of light milky custard cream. DIVINE.
One order of this cake is quite generous and is enough for three people to share. I make sure to run my portions over the soy syrup for a little salty hit. The top has slightly bruleed mango slices, and the caramelized sugar adds a crunch that contrasts with the spongey cake. Delightful and highly recommended!
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anywhere that’s made me feel both love and disappointment in the same bite. I hated the serving-to-price ratio of the mains, but there were some really good dishes here that I enjoyed wholeheartedly. Eating with the kind of homey atmosphere Nikkei has was definitely a plus as well.
I know a lot of people love this place, and I was expecting to feel the same way. Yet somehow I can’t imagine myself shelling out that much money for such a small serving of Kurobuta when I could probably eat something as delicious elsewhere at a cheaper price.
I guess my point is: The dishes here that are pricey are actually good in both taste and quality, but not mind-blowingly so that I’d pay that much for such a small plate. For an establishment that doesn’t position itself as fine dining, some of the dishes sure feel like it.
There are some other dishes here that I have no problems recommending though. The rolls were definitely more worth it, at Php 39 a pop. It’s much less expensive than what you get at Genki Sushi, which sells lower quality sushi and rolls compared to the ones here. Nikkei’s rolls were fresh and tasted pretty fantastic. I would come back for the rolls, but the Salmon Burger was also delicious. Ending your meal with that delightfully milky Tres Leches Cake is a must!
Full disclosure: This post is not sponsored in any way and opinions are 100% mine alone.