Ogetsu Hime: Rekindling My Flame With Japanese Food

Japanese food is almost as always included on the list of favorite cuisines of many. With the continuing rise in numbers of tonkatsu and ramen restaurants (still) sprouting like beans in the city, it's no wonder that Japanese food is a local favorite among locals, and is most often depicted with the highest forms of artistry.

Like me, Veejay Villavicencio was one avid Japanese food fanatic himself, and I was privileged to have lunch with him and some friends from Buensalido. It was a great opportunity for me to hear him tell all about different stories and how the history of one of their brands, Saisaki, was able to revolutionize the buffet and Japanese cuisine in Manila some decades ago.

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After so many years of perfecting the eat-all-you-can concept (Kamayan and Dad's are their other brands), years of traveling in Japan, and familiarizing the authenticity of the country's cuisine in the best ways he can, it was just recently when he and their long time master chef from Saisaki were able to bring forth the food goddess of Japan in the form of Ogetsu Hime, with its first branch now located at the Sky Garden in SM Aura at The Fort.

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I wasn't really the type who is accustomed to hanging out at this posh mall, so it took some time before I found out where Ogetsu Hime was exactly located. But it wasn't too long before we finally arrived at the restaurant. 

It was designed simply with some Japanese fixtures and designs which make you say that it is indeed a place where you can immerse yourself with Japanese food. The sushi bar is the first thing that you would witness upon entering Ogetsu Hime. 
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Plus, you wouldn't miss their two teppanyaki/dining tables, which I personally think are considered as centerpieces inside Ogetsu Hime. An area with ingredients such as eggs, lemon, butter, garlic, scallions and spicy ginger is also convenient and available for use if ever you wanted to try their teppanyaki dishes.

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Japanese trays act as camouflage to their tables, but it neatly contrasted by the standard set of plating that is usually existent in an authentic Japanese restaurant.

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Japanese condiments and this small teapot of soy sauce is readily available for use with your dishes.

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While Ogetsu Hime's masterchef is busy at the sushi bar, a list of fresh produce from Japan is seen on top of their cold display. I've got my eyes on Hokkaido Sea Urchin (Uni).

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With my visual thinking on its way, me and bf had the chance to try out Ogetsu Hime's unique sushi creations, staring with Kaisen Fried Rolls, made with a combination of salmon, spicy tuna and cream cheese, and served with a layer of wasabi mayonnaise and unagi sauce on the side. These  rolls are fried to perfection, but it didn't affect much of the textures from the filling inside.

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The Ogetsu Hime Roll is filled with all the good stuff: ebi tempura, cream cheese, and avocado, rolled in furikake and black sesame seeds, and topped with a slither of avocado and unagi. Served with small dollops of unagi and kochukaru mayonnaise, this is one of the yummiest mouthfuls I have ever encountered with sushi.

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Not long after, a plate of Ogetsu Hime's Soft Shell Crab Rolls was served, and man was it love at first sight. I always enjoy eating fresh soft shell crabs because I don't really need a lot of effort when eating them, so to have it inside a sushi roll is just amazing. It also has asparagus, cucumber and mango honey sauce, rolled in aonori and served with a combination of mayonnaise and unagi sauce. Guess who ate the remaining soft shell crab on this plate. :))

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Ogetsu Hime also has both fresh Tokubetsu Sashimi and Sushi Moriawase platters which are perfect for groups. It was filled with various cuts of fresh tuna, salmon, tako, mackarel, unagi and shrimp, with servings of uni and salmon roe. Same goes with the sushi versions where only japanese rice is used.

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Ogetsu Hime only serve fresh ingredients from Japan, and I sure enjoyed everything that's included in their picture-worthy platters. It was no doubt that I had to try their succulent strips of uni, which is very fresh indeed? If you like oysters, then try uni as well.

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It was very creamy and just salty like the sea, and it was great that I even got the uni sushi as well. Cravings have been pacified that day thanks to Ogetsu Hime.

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As much as I enjoyed all the dishes which I tried above, I actually got curious at Ogetsu Hime's Rainbow Batera. Veejay was kind enough to request for one, and a few minutes later, this vibrant platter of rainbow sushi that's layered with different combinations of salmon, tuna, ebi, ika, saba and kani with their sauces. It was like a painting that's made with batera, and is both appetizingly good.

By the way, all their sushis and makis are served in fours (which makes it perfect for two people) while the Rainbow Batera is the only dish that's served in seven portions so it covers the whole assortment of their finest ingredients.

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As unique as their Rainbow Batera, their Spicy Maguro Rolls is also a definite must-try. This looks more of like a salad, but really it's made with tuna marinated in sesame, a spicy kochukaru mayonnaise, and rolled in black and yellow ebiko. It's topped with tempura flakes and a roasted sesame dressing. I really love the combination of crunch, spice, and creamy textures from the fish and the sauce. It's indeed a killer sushi.

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If you think I have already tried too much, it's really only the beginning of my Ogetsu Hime journey to rekindling my flame with japanese food. Next up, the tempura.

We tried some popular Japanese food staples like Ebi Tempura, which was served hot and fresh, and very pretty too. This was not oily at all, and the ebi wasn't overly cooked at all. Just scrumptious.

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Another favorite is Ogetsu Hime's Chicken Teriyaki, which is not only marinated with perfection, but also cooked in coals that are normally used in Japan. These are grilled, rather than pan fried. This results to a unique char that you can only achieve through the said type of cooking. Another unique thing about their Chicken Teriyaki is the fact that it's cooked with the bone, so it adds up to the flavor profile of the dish.

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My next episode on this culinary journey at Ogetsu Hime now focuses on their teppan grill, and we were able to watch one of their chefs cook some Japanese Fried Rice and Beef Teppanyaki. Chefs are trained really well at Ogetsu Hime that they were able to master the flawless skills of teppanyaki cooking. Teppanyaki bars are very popular in other countries where chefs are like artists as they put up a show by cooking all these wonderful ingredients.

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The Japanese Fried Rice was very flavorful, and with hints of butter too. It was rich that I can just eat this by itself. However, this is not what I had in mind, as I ate this with the remaining tempura and chicken teriyaki on our table.

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If ever you order their sukiyaki or teppanyaki dishes, you will usually see lined up plates with all the ingredients needed so the teppanyaki chefs can already save up time on cutting and slicing. Notice those big oysters which are flown also from Japan. I can't wait to try them!

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After a showstopping performance on how they were made, it's time to eat! The vegetables were still a bit crunchy but really yummy, and let's not argue about the beef. It was cooked medium rare despite the hot teppan grill, and very tender as well. It didn't really need much sauce though. A few dashes of soy based sauce and garlic is all there is to enjoy this heavenly dish.

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Even the Kaki did not take a lot of time to cook. This was cooked with garlic butter and was very happy to have a few mouthfuls of these. Sooooo delicious!

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Sauces like Ponzu (and I forgot the other one) just made the beef teppanyaki even more delicious.

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If you are craving for the best Sukiyaki in town, then Ogetsu Hime can probably satisfy your hunger for it. Each order is good for about three to four people, so somehow, it is still quite affordable, especially for those who live or work near SM Aura and would like to have lunch there too.

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Sukiyaki Cuts are available in US Rib Eye, Ogetsu Prime, US Wagyu and Matsusaka. This was definitely has a much higher standard than the Sukiyaki that I usually make at home. Then again, I was able to learn from Ogetsu Hime, so here is how they do it.

We had the chance to try the different cuts of Sukiyaki beef for lunch, and started with the US Rib Eye.

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One of their servers are the ones doing it for you. They start with melting some fat on the sukiyaki pot, then followed by a few sliced onions and then their sukiyaki sauce. Each beef strip was dipped onto the boiling sauce and that's it. I didn't wait for the other ingradients (noodles, veggies, etc.) as I was just too excited to try the met first.

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Some prefer not to do this, but as a personal preference, dipping it onto a beaten egg makes it even more satisfying. Also, Veejay said that Sukiyaki isn't really supposed to have lots of soup. I'd have to agree, because there are far better ingredients to focus on, like this tender, juicy, piece of beef.

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In comparison, we tried the Matsusaka Sukiyaki Beef, which is their most expensive cut (P3,900 for the first 100 grams). You may think that Ogetsu Hime may be super expensive in general, but in rough estimates, I think that the usual budget is about 300 to 500 pesos per person.

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This is true because for me, I find the Matsusaka very tender (which is very very good) but I would have to prefer the US Rib Eye if I was to go back at Ogetsu Hime, because I'm more used to the taste of the said meat. Still, both did not really need much competition with which is better. Ogetsu Hime just does Sukiyaki well that the experience should be worth trying and coming back for.  

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It was not long when the lady server was able to put all the ingredients on the pot, where I was able to eat some more sukiyaki despite all the food that I already had earlier at Ogetsu Hime. And no, I didn't forget to slurp that day.

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I really didn't notice that all the tables are already packed as they enjoy their Saturday lunch at Ogetsu Hime. It's said that they are usually like this especially during weekday lunch and Sundays too.

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All in all, 'twas the most wonderful Japanese lunch I have ever had so far. Ogetsu Hime really hit me hard on this one. I cant wait to come back soon!

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*Disclaimer: The following post is written from the author's own thoughts and views on Ogetsu Hime.

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