Of sushi, teppanyaki, and... papaya?!?
Not one to say no to a sushi and sashimi meal, I was pretty excited to try Yanagi at Midas Hotel. Though not as big as other nearby hotels, stepping into the lobby alone provides a moment of awe as your eyes internally debate on what to devour first. The old Hyatt Regency has been revamped into a modern elegant boutique casino hotel that is both classy and contemporary.
To the left is the concierge with a backdrop matching that of the lounge's located across the room: towering shelves housing orange boxes and silver decor. A grand piano dressed in ebony stands by the entrance to the casino partly cordoned off by a velvet rope. Philippe Starck furniture provides a nice contrast to the bright ambiance, while a fiber-optic chandelier completes the sophisticated scene.
A glass-encased adobe wall is the only piece left of the old Hyatt Hotel. Beyond it, various flowers are displayed right by the elevators, a visual representation of their floral arrangement services.
Yanagi Restaurant is located at the mezzanine floor. Aside from their ala carte dishes, they serve a Japanese buffet spread called Misono Days from Fridays to Sundays for only P1,337 nett. Lunch is from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, and dinner is from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Drinks such as iced tea, coffee, and hot green tea are already included as well.
We started with my favorite Japanese staples -- sushi and sashimi. Fresh slices of tuna, salmon, squid and mackerel are just sitting there for the taking. Bliss! A bamboo platter of makimono provides a nice eye candy as you decipher which maki to get first. Don't forget to grab a piece or two of the sweet Tamago Sushi.
If you're into salads, you'll appreciate their number of choices. There's the Wafu Salad with sliced tuna, Japanese yam, and vegetable salad with wasabi goma dressing. I kept coming back for the Kurage Salad, the one with jellyfish and cucumber in sesame dressing. Do try their Yanagi Salad that's served with two dressings, and the Sake Salad which comprises thin sliced salmon and onions. The Enoki Wasabi Ae is enoki mushrooms with sliced fish cake, but if you want a heavier choice though, there's always the Potato Salad.
And if those starters weren't enough to stimulate your appetite, they have more small dishes on hand. The Tai Naruto Maki is a marinated Lapu-Lapu roll with vinegar miso sauce. Another plate has deep fried sliced salmon marinated in oil and vinegar called Sake Suabura Zuke. Try the Gyuniku Yawata Maki or grilled beef roll with teriyaki sauce, or go for something very light like the Okaru Tofu, which is steamed egg custard with thinly sliced okra. There's Soba, too, if you have a propensity for Japanese noodles.
I love a good bowl of Sukiyaki, and Yanagi's is pretty much spot on. Not too sweet, the broth treads on a nice balance of sweet and savory, giving a much needed comfort in preparation for the heavier dishes to come.
For the hot dishes, they have Croquette, deep fried potato minced with ground beef and served with tonkatsu sauce. They also have the Ebi Cashew Age, which is deep fried prawn wrapped in cashew nuts. Others include Sake Hitokuchi Age (deep fried salmon ball with ginger sauce), Yasai Itame (teppanyaki assorted vegetables), and a delicious mix of rice, beef and vegetables Yanagi style that is Yakimeshi.
Personally, I usually skip the hot dishes in every buffet for I perceive them as distractions to what I really should be focusing on -- the star of the spread namely the carving station, or in this case, the teppanyaki station.
Fresh proteins like beef tenderloin, spring chicken, squid, Spanish mackerel, prawn, spearfish are all available for teppanyaki grilling, most of which you can coat with teriyaki sauce or garlic butter.
While the whole buffet selection may be limited compared to other hotel buffets, I'd rather have a small one that's of quality than having an insane amount of options offering subpar fare. Besides, as I have previously mentioned, you only usually zoom in on a handful amount of proferrings anyway since your stomach can't handle the entire spread.
There is a decent number of desserts; I for one would have loved to try each and every kind. Unfortunately, as much as I usually have a separate stomach for it, even my second one can't handle the amount so I had to choose wisely. The petits fours---almond jelly, carrot cake, tiramisu, and opera---are a delight. Don't miss out on the Dark Chocolate Mousse; simply heavenly! I took a few slices of fresh fruits, and wanted to grab that Blueberry Cheesecake, but I knew I had to stop myself if I wanted to try their ice cream.
Aside from the buffet, we were treated to a special 4-course meal that will put Yanagi in your list of favorite Japanese places (if the buffet hasn't already) after the first bite.
The Aburi Sushi is slightly burnt sushi with five varieties of meat: tuna, salmon, eel, hamachi, and lapu-lapu, topped with fresh fruit and tobiko (fish roe). A beautiful dish to begin with, it plays with your palate as you decipher the partially hidden meat drenched in a creamy sauce. It's an orchestration of textures and tastes inside your mouth, with you trying to separate and identify each layer of goodness, and finally taking it all in and just enjoying the swoon-worthy sensations.
Next is the Tempura Maki, which is thick rolls with prawn tempura. Again, it is a festive plate, with different-colored tobiko topping each roll, all drizzled with a contrasting creamy and soy sauce.
The most unforgettable dish, however, came in the form of a simple slice of papaya. But that's where the simplicity ends. Inside this bright yellow vessel hides succulent grilled Japanese oysters that had me wishing I lived in this resto just so I can feast on this opulent treasure every single day. Whoever thought that papaya and oysters mesh so well together? Certainly not I when I don't even eat papayas at all. And to serve it warm (it was torched)? I was actually hesitant to try it. Whoever said curiosity killed the cat, wasn't ever served this Kaki Papaya Yaki. OMG! This genius Japino (Japanese-Filipino coined by the chef) creation dressed in creamy miso sauce really works.
Of course, one cannot dine at a Japanese restaurant without having the ubiquitous tempura. The light crunchy batter covers a straightened piece of prawn. And while nice, it wasn't really enough to lose the high we got from that Papaya dish. All I could think about was how to get another order of those papaya oysters.
We were all fully sated, but they had to make us try the Wasabi Ice Cream, which I'm so glad I did, even when my stomach was already crying out in protest at that time. Yanagi makes my favorite version -- sweetness sweeps in, then the familiar kick of wasabi settles on your tongue. Definitely a great way to end a great meal.
Spot: Mezzanine, Midas Hotel and Casino, 2702 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City
Contact No.: 902.0100