Nikkei restaurant is one of the places you should go if you are looking for something out of the ordinary. Despite the name, Nikkei dishes out fusion cuisine, a combination of Japanese and Peruvian dishes. It is owned by Carlo Lorenzana. To date, there are three branches in Metro Manila – two in Makati (Legaspi Village and Rockwell) and another at the Podium. A fourth one will open soon at Bonifacio Global City.
What Is Nikkei?
Though the word is often associated with the stock market (because it is always heard there), Nikkei actually means “outside Japan.” According to Head Chef Juan Borcon who is originally from Argentina, much of the credit can be attributed to Chef Nobu Matsuhisa of the Nobu Restaurant fame. He is the inspiration behind Nikkei.
Like Nobu, Nikkei makes innovative dishes. As mentioned earlier, they create fusion dishes, combining Japanese and Peruvian dishes to form something unique. Why Peruvian? It is because Chef Juan used to spend time in Peru or has worked with Peruvian cooks who bring their unique style to the kitchen.
A lot of Japanese migrated to South America, notably Peru and Brazil during World War II. Thy brought their recipes there and combined it with the local cuisine. The Zen-influenced simplicity blends with the fiery Latin American approach. Some of the dishes may look Japanese but the sauce and flavorings are Peruvian.
During a recent Foodie session, guests were treated to a sampling of what Nikkei serves. There is no particular specialty recommended as everyone is encouraged to try the dishes and be the judge of it.
One example of a fusion dish served was the Tiradito. It is basically thinly sliced sashimi (in this cast it is tuna) as opposed to the thicker ones in a typical sushi bar served on a flat slab-like plate. What makes this more unique is the Peruvian element added with bits of fruit (it can be passion fruit, pomelo or mango) topped with carmelized sunflower seeds. The sauce gives a little zest to the otherwise simple sashimi. The pomelo and mango bits add an element of sweet and sour to it.
Another is the Tuna Latke which is seared Tuna on top of shredded fried potato strings formed into a pancake topped off with huancaina sauce, cilantro and lemon. The tuna is cooked just right (like a Rare-cooked steak). You get a bit of the typical rawness of sashimi but at the same time still tender from the cooking. The potato strings are crunchy but provide a firm base for the tuna and the sauce adds a kick to the taste.
Next up is Nikkei’s version of Eggs Benedict they call Nikkei Benedict. It is Eggs Benedict (poached egg) on top of a steamed bun on a bed of fried potato strings adorned with prawns. The hollandaise sauce provides added flavor. The eggs are cooked just right and the yolk blends well into the bun, potatoes and prawns. You get a kaleidoscope of flavors in your mouth. This dish is part of Nikkei’s Brunch Set.
Another Brunch Set served is the Sea Bass Katsu Set. It is Sea Bass cooked katsu (breaded) style on plain rice topped with a fried egg which is topped with cilantro and sesame seeds. The katsu sea bass is crunchy enough but still tender inside to savor. It is served with a side dish of miso soup and shredded red onions.
Then came the Ceviche. Chef Juan cautions everyone that Ceviche is not like Filipino Kilawin. Kilawin uses vinegar, Ceviche uses lemon juice. In Nikkei’s version, they use their home-made “Leche de Tigre” (Tiger’s Milk) which is actually lemon juice added with various seasonings that provides a powerful kick. Chef Juan even said it is so powerful, it can cure hangovers.
Another dish served is the Seared Tuna with Huancina Risotto. It is seared tuna on top of risotto with cheese sauce. Chef Juan said the rice they use is imported from Italy because any other rice is not starchy enough to make risotto. You get a creamy taste of the food and the sauces add zest to it.
For dessert, guests are treated to Picarones. It looks likea donut (Chef Juan insists it is not a donut). It is made of crushed sweet potato and cinnamon. No flour is used. The dough is then fried then served with maple syrup and ice cream. The Picarones provdes a fitting close to a wonderful meal. The dough is well cooked you will think it is your typical donut but it is not very chewy as you may expect.
All in all, Nikkei’s dishes bring the best of both worlds. The Zen-like simplicity of Japanese dishes combined with the liveliness of Latino cuisine. This makes the dishes more filling and the prices are just right. It is not plain, it is not bland. Each dish is an explosion of flavors in your mouth that makes it different from your typical Japanese dish. What’s more, their dishes are unique. Everything has been conceived in Nikkei and never copied anywhere else.
If fusion cuisine is what you seek, Nikkei is the place to go.
Nikkei’s Branches can be found here:
Frabelle Business Center, 111 Rada St., Legaspi Village, Makati
71 Rockwell Drive, Makati
The Podium Mall, Mandaluyong (Ground Floor)
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