Located at G/F Two Central Building, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City
Bambi and Michelle Meer are huge fans of Japanese food. They love it so much that they decided that the next restaurant they open (Bambi's family- along with a few others- are behind Meat Plus in Subic and Tender Bob's; millennials might be more familiar with the Kettle and Fireside chains) will serve just that. Koku in Valero Street can easily be pigeon-holed as modern Japanese, but it's really not. "We wanted to serve what we as a family like to eat," Michelle admits. "Our children played a big part in choosing the dishes we serve."
Purists will not feel out-of-place here. The Spicy Tuna Sashimi, for instance, might look stylized, but the flavors are classic- chunks of raw tuna loaded with spicy Japanese mayo, then topped off with crunchy agedama and fried wanton strips for texture. Just order a side of miso soup with the Mixed Sushi and you get yourself a light lunch.
Teppanyaki dishes- like their Wagyu beef and salmon belly- are perfectly seasoned and nicely-crusted from the hot griddle, almost not needing the ponzu it comes with. Accompanied with the vegetable Fried Rice- the mushrooms make sure you don't miss the ground beef- it's a satisfying and nostalgic meal that brings you back to family time around a misono table.
Although Matt and I are self-proclaimed Japanese food purists, we have to admit that we have developed a soft spot for Koku's modern Japanese dishes. The Dynamite Roll lives up to its name- it's a spicy tuna roll that really does pack a punch, thanks to those chili strands. The Salmon Aburi Sushi is a revelation and haunts me to this day. That creamy topping (is it miso?), torched, just delivers that rich, buttery flavor which perfectly compliments the raw salmon. I will go back for that Salmon Aburi Sushi. Same thing with the Oyster Papaya in that tiny skillet. No sharing.
I will come back for the Japanese Carbonara, too. We didn't have it that night with Bambi and Michelle, but Matt and I did try it during our first visit there and we were pleasantly surprised by the lovely balance of flavors from the crispy nori and sautéed mushrooms in the light, creamy sauce. Finally, Matt said, carbonara he can eat from top to bottom.
Ended the meal with some coffee jelly and ice cream which bring me immediately back to my childhood, solidifying what Koku is really all about- it's old-school, it's avant garde, but more than anything, it is what it is. Despite the modern twists, the flavors never get lost in the western techniques and spurts of fusion. "If we have to explain a dish in too many words, then we know that's NOT something we'd want to serve in Koku," Bambi imparts. Love that.
By: Jaclyn Clemente-Koppe
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