Ichiba: First Japanese Seafood Market in Manila

This article originally appeared on the July 2016 issue of the Filipino-Japanese Journal. Filipino-Japanese Journal is a monthly, free publication distributed across Tokyo, where most Filipinos and other foreign nationals are located. View the full issue here: https://issuu.com/filipino-japanesejournal/docs/filipino_20japanese_20journal_20jul

inside-ichiba-japanese-market-in-newport-mall-resorts-world-manilaIchiba Japanese Market is bustling with energy. The sound of food being grilled and cooked is music to the ears. The smell of takoyaki can lift your mood. And their fresh catch definitely brings in customers. It is the first Japanese seafood market and food hall in the Philippines.

Ichiba opened March this year at the Newport Mall of Resorts World Manila which is located right in front of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City. Aside from Japanese food loving Pinoys, the place is also often visited by curious foreigners and Japanese locals.

The restaurant aims to recreate the experience of being in an actual Japanese seafood market. The inspiration? Four of the most popular food markets in Japan: Tsukiji Market in Central Tokyo, Kuromon Market in Osaka, Fukuoka City Fish Market in Kyushu Island, and Nijo and Curb Markets in Hokkaido. There are also various food stations to choose from including Takoyaki, Gyoza, Karaage, Ramen, Udon/Soba, Tempura, Yakitori station, and a lot more. They even have their own Asahi beer station.

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It might feel a little bit overwhelming especially if you want to try most everything but the good thing is, Ichiba provide a complete guide on what to eat, what to do, and what to try. They have food stations trivia and top things to do while inside the market for the first time. 

The Food

For starters, try the Ichiba’s market menu offerings. Shop for fresh crabs, squid, fish, shrimp, and oysters, which can be prepared in a variety of ways. There are suggested recipes available in the menu and cooking charges are surprisingly affordable. 

For the adventure lovers, the restaurant offers a “fishing adventure” in which you can try to catch fish for your meal for 30 minutes. The activity is free but you have to pay for the fish and the cooking charges.

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Ichiba also offers set menu. For the ramen lovers, try the Tonkotsu Miso Chashu Ramen. The broth is perfect and the serving is huge. For the heavy eaters however, the Katsudon or beef pork cutlet served with egg over rice is a must. It’ll make you feel full yes, but it’s delicious you won’t even notice. 

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A must try: Strawberry Frozen Iced Tea

The Experience

The overall concept is very unique. They have succeeded in bringing that authentic feeling of being in a busy Japanese market. The food is reasonably priced, servings huge enough, and the location is perfect.

There is a Japanese mini market inside the restaurant that sells Japanese goods such as chocolates, snacks, and other goodies that it would even make you reminisce about your grocery shopping in a quaint supermarket somewhere in the middle of Tokyo. It’s a totally fun experience.

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The next time you crave for a market style dining, visit Ichiba Japanese Market. And don’t forget to take a lot of photos.

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Discovering Kichijoji, Tokyo

This article originally appeared on the June 2016 issue of the Filipino-Japanese Journal. Filipino-Japanese Journal is a monthly, free publication distributed across Tokyo, where most Filipinos and other foreign nationals are located. 

It is great to note that Tokyo, one of the world’s mega cities, is made up of many interesting cities and suburbs, each having its own distinct characteristics. According to many tourists, getting lost in Tokyo is actually one of the best travel experiences ever. Hopping out of a bus or a train station could mean discovering something new and fascinating.

The districts of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Odaiba, and Asakusa are probably the most popular among tourists in Tokyo. Aside from the great shopping experience that these places offer, some of Tokyo’s famous hotels, parks, temples, and landmarks are all here. There are also a lot of tourist-friendly restaurants in these places so you don’t have to worry about asking in English. 

But when you have been to Tokyo more than once, it is actually better to get out of your comfort zone and stay off the beaten path. You have probably walked along the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing in Shibuya and you probably posed for an Instagram-worthy photo in the middle of Ginza so why not discover something new? Something that is equally awesome, but less crowded. One of the best places to watch out for is Kichijoji.

Kichijoji is part of Musashino City. You may probably hear about it from your friends or relatives staying in Tokyo. It’s quite famous among Japanese people and it’s the go-to destination of teenagers because of its energetic and vibrant appeal. The bustling district has even been voted as the number one place where Japanese locals mostly want to live.

Kichijoji is slowly becoming a tourist hub too. Apartments for rent (there are loads in Airbnb) and hotel accommodations are less expensive here compared to other more famous Tokyo districts and according to most tourists, the place offers a much more warm and relaxing atmosphere.

From the moment you step out of the train in the station, you will be greeted with a lot of shops selling various items — from shoes, clothes, cosmetics, Japanese treats, and other local Japanese products that you won’t find elsewhere.

Popular designer brand shops such as Old Navy, Under Armour, Gap and Zara all have huge stores here. And aside from traditional Japanese and ramen restaurants, there are also steak house, Italian restaurants, and famous western fast food such as Ben and Gerry’s and McDonald’s around the area. 

SHOE OUTLET STOREKicks everywhere! You’ll be surprise to see a lot of shoe outlet stores in Kichijoji.

One of the best things to do in Kichijoji aside from the shopping, however, is discovering quaint yukocho alleys (narrow alleys beside main streets). In these alleys, you’d be surprised to find kawaii (cute) shops, old-fashioned Japanese restaurants, fashionable furniture shops, concept cafes, and even game centers for kids.

QUAINT ALLEYMost alleys have vending machines and plenty of benches where you can take some rest after hours of walking and shopping.

ICE DESSERTDelish treat from a quaint Italian restaurant in one of the alleys in Kichjoji. Love the peaches, berries, and vanilla ice cream combination.

There are absolutely a lot of things to see and do in Kichijoji. Don’t be afraid to get lost. You’ll always find your way back to the station. The Japanese are also very polite, and even if they struggle to talk to you, they’ll find a way to help you.

Tip: ask college students for help if you really need it. The place is known as a hub for college students because of its accessibility. For nature lovers, a visit to the famous Inokashira Park, Kichijoji’s most famous landmark, is a must. It is about 10 minutes walk from the station. You may also download useful maps and mobile apps to serve as your guide while you tour around the place.

Kichijoji is easily accessible from Shinjuku, via the Keio Inokashira Line and Shibiya via the JR Chuo Line. Travel usually takes less than 20 minutes. 

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Bergblick Restaurant — A must try when in Pagudpud

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Unlike Vigan and Laoag, the town of Pagudpud does not really have restaurants with good, innovative concepts.  Well, you can probably spot one  inside big resorts such as the famous Hanna’s Beach Resort and Convention Center but you have to check-in or pay huge amount just to eat good food.

We arrived in Pagudpud around 4 in the afternoon and we were not able to spot a good place to have (late) lunch so I decided to ask google for suggestions.

I searched for “Best restaurants in Pagudpud”. This lead us to   Bergblick Deutsches Restaurant, listed as the number 1 restaurant in Pagudpud based on reviews in  Trip Advisor.

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Bergblick is located in Barangay Burayoc, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. The town of Pagudpod is about 75 km or about two hours away from Laoag City. The restaurant is not hard to spot and it’s very near to the famous Pagudpod Saud White Beach.  Tip: You may directly search it on WAZE from your phone or you may just enter Saud Beach on your car’s GPS.

Bergblick is a German word that means “Mountain View”. Guests who want to have a quick rest after hours of trip can dine outside and enjoy a panoramic view of the idyllic Cordillera Mountains. 

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Inside, the quaint restaurant has this homey vibe. It’s very tidy as well.

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If you are not quite sure on what to order or if you simply just want to try something new, ask the staff or look for the “Today’s Special” board.

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Bergblick is owned by Chef Detlev Cotte and his Filipina wife. This was according to the staff that we managed to “interview” while we were there. 🙂 We were also very lucky  to meet the German chef, who is very kind and accommodating. He even asked us if the food was ok. But our gastronomic experience is beyond ok. It was heavenly! 

The menu offers a wide variation of  German and Ilocano dishes. Of course, we ordered the classic Bagnet. 

Bergblick’s Bagnets are served along with a steamed rice, salad, and 4 sauces (bagoong in tomatoes and onions, mayo, patis, and sweet and spicy).IMG_2348_1024

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We also tried this German dish composed of meat covered in a  cheesy mushroom sauce served with fresh garden salad. I forgot what its called since we just ask for their suggested German dish that day. I was also informed that the chef can even create a special dish for if you want so maybe this is not part of the original menu. 🙂

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We spent about a thousand pesos on our food. We think it’s quite affordable for the servings were hefty and the taste, first rate. But for those who are looking for a much cheaper alternatives, Bergblick also offers budget meals.

All and all, we were impressed with the hospitality of the staff, we absolutely loved the food we ordered, and we loved that fact that we were able to enjoy the place all by ourselves. We’ll definitely be back!

Price range of main dishes: Php 125 to about Php 500

Serving: Good for 2-3 pax (depending on your appetite)

Road Trip to Ilocos Part I (Long overdue post)

It was last September 2015  when I finally decided that the corporate world is really not for me. I’ve been working right after my graduation in 2009 and I personally believe that I need to take some time off. So for the past five months,  I’ve been taking as many writing assignments and rakets as I can to earn even while at home because hey, I can’t travel without huge funds. 🙂  The freelancing world has been so good to me so far and I’m very thankful for that. However, my mind gets really exhausted most of the time and that is probably the reason why I can’t even update my own blog. Hehe!

Anyways, for 2016, I vowed to update this blog as much as can because this has always been one of my ways to unwind. I was in Tokyo last month with my mom and   it was my decision to stay offline as much as possible for me to enjoy the trip. Now, I’m back in Manila and the first thing I want to do is to update my blog. Yey!

After our trip to Busan last August 2015, we decided to push through with our planned road trip to Ilocos because it was our anniversary week. We got back in Manila around 1 AM on August 18 and got home at 2 AM.We overslept but decided to go anyway. We were on the road at 12 NN of August 18.

Going to Ilocos from Manila and leaving the house at noon doesn’t seem like a good idea for many, for us however, it was just fine. We were at Vigan around 7 PM and we’ve reached Fort Ilocandia, our hotel, at 9:30 PM.

There were two things I’ve learned instantly from this: (1)  With the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), traveling to Ilocos from Manila would just take about 6-8 hours so if you are the type who don’t want to wake up early in the morning to travel, it’s completely fine. Leave the house at 11, be at NLEX at noon, and reach Ilocos Sur by 6 PM or Ilocos Norte by around 8 PM. It took us more than 9 hours to reach Ilocos Norte because we had some stops along the way — we had our late lunch at NLEX, we took our time to enjoy the sceneries of La Union, and stopped by a McDonald’s in Ilocos Sur to have dinner. (2) It’s still best to bring your own transpo and travel by land. Traveling by plane and getting to Laoag International Airport after about an hour is  convenient but you have to commute or rent a car in order to explore most tourist spots.  Joining a group tour is a good idea too, but your time can be limited. And if you are the type who want to take the road less traveled, this could be a real bummer.

In 4 days, we were able to explore Ilocos Norte, Pagudpod, and Ilocos Sur. The goal really is not to visit all places of interest but to rest and let  the provinces of Ilocos  surprise us with what they have to offer. It’s really beautiful and its’s one of our most memorable and relaxed trips to date!

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The following day, we went around our home in Ilocos Norte for two days — Fort Ilocandia. It’s obviously old but it is undoubtedly the best hotel in Ilocos. Some thoughts about the hotel: the rooms were old but clean, the breakfast buffet is so-so, there are a lot of activities you can enjoy even while inside the hotel’s compound, there are a lot of tourists (mostly  Chinese), and the vibe overall is relaxing. We love the view!

I booked through Agoda.com using my rewards points and paid for less than half the price.

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After lunch, we decided to do some sightseeing around Norte and then visit Pagudpod after. We don’t have one solid itinerary but we have with us our mobile phones with data plans and we just searched for places right then and there. Our first stop was the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Along the way, we were greeted with beautiful sceneries.

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Stopped by this beach somewhere to take photos. 🙂

The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is easy to spot but in order to reach it, you would need to pass a  steep winding road. But the view on top is rewarding. The lighthouse was built in 1892 and it is set on top of a hill overlooking the South China Sea.

There is NO entrance fee in Cape Bojeador. It seems like a deserted place but it’s still functioning to date.

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A bit of history.

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There’s no one around when we got there so we just climb and enjoy the view.

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Guess its safe to say that you’re at the edge of the Philippines here.

 

Our next stop was the Bangui Windmill in Bangui, Ilocos Norte. You’d surely spot them on your way to Pagudpod but you really have to drop by the Bangui Bay if you want to take awesome photos of the turbines. 🙂

The windmills were project by the NorthWind Development Corporation. Aside from providing a source of power to the province of Ilocos Norte, the windmills  help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Typhoon Ineng was just about starting then and it was Signal Number 1 in Ilocos Norte so most of our photos were dark. But we were lucky to just see and enjoy the place.

Again entrance is free here. There are also a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants along Bangui Bay. Getting there is easy because there are a lot of directions along the way. Sign that you are near the bay: gravel, rough road.

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At around 4 PM we decided to grab a quick bite near Pagudpod and drive to see the famous Patapat Viaduct. At first, we really wanted to spend even just a day in Pagudpod. We even searched for a good place to stay. And although the place has a lot of awesome beaches, we are not ok with the resorts. Some say that it’s the Boracay of the North but when you get there, you’d know instantly that it’s not. If you are the type who really enjoy swimming and doing beach activities, then it is advisable to stay there only for a day or two but a day trip is perfectly fine.

A quick research lead us to Bergblick Restaurant in Pagudpod. It’s currently the number 1 restaurant there according to Tripadvisor.com. The food are awesome so here’s a separate post about that. 🙂 We were able to meet the owner as well.

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The weather was getting worse so we decided to make the viaduct our final destination for the day and head back to the hotel before it gets really dark.

The Patapat Viaduct is an elevated  concrete highway that offers a breathtaking view of South China Sea. This is on the top edge of the Philippines map and it was such an amazing feeling to just reach it. Imagine, we were able to reach the top. 🙂 It is  16 Kilometers from Pagudpod, about an hour away.

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We were at the hotel at around 7 PM, had dinner, and just watch TV. 🙂 It was really an awesome, hassle free day (Well, aside from the typhoon). I love that we are not required to wake up early and follow a specific timeline. I’ve always loved hassle free trips. Whenever we go abroad, we always have a detailed itinerary even if we are not part of a tour. The best thing about traveling around the Philippines is that we are completely okay with getting lost and that we can speak clearly to people. Filipinos are really hospitable and kind. And there’s so much to see! The Philippines is beautiful.

Can’t wait to share the other places we visited around Ilocos Norte. We also went to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Part II coming up! 😀

PS: Here’s a video I’ve made documenting our road trip. I’m no pro but I’m sharing it with you guys still. 😀

 

 

 

Busan-Gyeongju Photo Diary (South Korea)

The month of August for the Chinese is cursed as it is considered the “Ghost Month“. The gates of hell, they say, are open and spirits can roam around freely here on earth. And  since most us Pinoys have grown accustomed to Chinese culture, we also tend to follow traditions such as this one.

During August, important occasions are postponed and going on a trip is strongly discouraged. But for the past 2 years, surprisingly, most of our spur-of-the-moment trips would always occur during the month of August and these trips were the best ever!

Just last August, I went to Busan, South Korea for a 3-days business/semi-leisure trip. Hubby needed to go to Busan to meet with business colleagues and I decided to tag along. His whole family is going and we though that it would be a great idea for us to leave Manila for a while to breathe and unwind. We only had a week to prepare. We were actually lucky that the Embassy of South Korea here in Manila did not give us a hard time. We were late in passing important documents but they were very cooperative.

Busan is a port city in South Korea. We are mostly familiar with Seoul because it is a capital city but Busan, being the second largest city after Seoul, is a popular destination too and there are actually direct flights from Manila to Busan. Travel time is about 3 hours. Local time in Manila is one (1) hour behind Busan.

Thinking that Busan is a far away province, I though there won’t really be a lot of interesting places but I was wrong. Busan surprised me with its vibrant streets, huge malls, awesome food, more awesome sweets, and of course, its relaxing, laid back ambiance.

We stayed at a business hotel located at the city center in Bujeon-Ro, where most tourists stay. The streets around the business center are bustling with life.

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There are shops, hotels, and restaurants all over.

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Vibrant streets in Busan business center at night. Walking distance from our hotel.

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I just have to take photo of these cute flowers being sold in a small flower shop. ❤

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Here’s a cute pastry shop. There are a lot of quaint yet adorable pastry shops around Busan. Too bad I was not able to try what they have to offer. 

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There were actually a lot of people even at midnight.

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Me and little sister looking for street food. 🙂

Since it’s a business trip, our Korean host would often invite us to try traditional Korean dishes. Authentic Korean BBQ is just delicious but I find it hard to eat the side dishes which are called “ban-chan” in Korea. The ban-chan is composed of small vegetable dishes unfortunately, the only thing I know is the kimchi.

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Before every meal, they would serve appetizer in the form of a vegetable salad followed by a rice wine.

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Then its side dishes galore!

We were looking for rice but that’s the last thing they serve and its optional… well, just in case you aren’t full. 🙂

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In love with traditional Korean BBQ.

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We were so tired of eating traditional so we decided to have something else. This is a Mongolian meal that we were able to try in one of the fast food stalls inside Lotte Mall. It tastes like well, fast food. Haha! Not a good idea.

Now for dessert..

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Lucky to discover Korean Dessert Cafe that has been serving the best Sulbing (snow ice) in Busan. Seriously! According to our host, almost all branches are packed with customers. 

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Strawberry Sulbing ❤

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This ones my favorite. Caramel Coffee sulbing. I think this is 7,000 won or about 270 pesos but its good enough for two or three. 

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We were told to put a little condensed milk on top to make the sulbing sweeter. 

We also went on a quick side trip to Gyeongju. Another coastal city near Busan. In Gyeongju, we went temple hoping.

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Known as the “Museum Without the Walls”, going to Gyeongju is like traveling back in time because old Korean villages and temples were magnificently preserved. As a matter of fact, the Gyeongju Historic Areas are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I wanted so bad to understand what the temples and museums are all about but not everything is translated to English. Even our host was having a hard time explaining probably because he’s not really a tour guide. Haha!

Our last stop in Gyeongju is the Shilla Millenium Park, which was great but looked somehow abandoned. Maybe because its not a peak season for tourists but who knows.

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The park, I believe,  is a tribute to the Shilla Dynasty which was one of the strongest and longest sustained dynasties in Korea. Gyeongju served as the capital of the Shilla Dynasty for hundreds of years.

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I was hoping to find relevant information about the park but here is what I saw outside. The park also serves as a movie or television show setting. Familiar with Boys Over Flowers? How about Lee Min Ho? He’s probably the most famous in South Korea today. The streets and malls are full of Lee Min Ho!

Back to Busan, we made sure to visit South Korea’s most famous beach,  Haeundae. It’s the summer season so there were a lot of people in the beach.

Aside from the beach, there also a lot of attractions around Haeundae like the APEC Conference Hall (APEC Summit was held in Busan in 2005).
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If you want to relax near the beach and experience a more traditional Korea, visit Busan. It has the best of both worlds. At night, when you feel the need to get out for some drinks, the central business district has a lot of bars, pubs, and even food stalls along the streets where you can have your dose of soju.

I’m not familiar with the whole place because we were on tour bus but I’ve noticed that there are a lot of city centers with malls, restaurant, and business establishments.

Seoul probably has more modern attractions that are perfect for the younger ones. I can’t wait to visit Seoul too! Maybe next August. 🙂 But Busan, I must say, is a revelation.

Sometimes, it feels so good to take the road less travelled.

Authentic New York Pizza in BGC

Just discovered Nolita, a quaint, New York inspired pizza restaurant in High Street Central, BGC.

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If you love pizza and other American comfort food then this place is perfect for you. Good food and huge servings for pizza! This steak and egg pizza is one of their best sellers. ❤

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I personally love the stovetop mac and cheese (blue cheese, gouda, white cheddar, and fusilli). But its expensive at Php 330.

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The ambiance is relaxed but food are pretty much expensive. Prepare to spend about Php 600 per person. But I love the food!! Visit Nolita after a movie date at BGC. 🙂

Banzai: The Great Teppanyaki Theater – A Japanese Food Feast in Manila

We’ve been hearing the word “Teppanyaki” a lot and while we are familiar with the “Teppanyaki dining experience” most people are not aware that Teppanyaki is actually a collection of dishes such as meat, vegetables, seafood, and noodles (yakisoba, udon, etc.) cooked in a hot, steel plate that is usually part of a dining table.”Teppan” means iron plate  and “Yaki” means grilled.
In Banzai: The Great Teppanyaki Theater, the new buffet restaurant in the SM Mall of Asia by the Bay, you don’t really get to cook your meal cause they have chefs to do if for you. All you have to do is watch. After cooking, the dishes go directly to the different food stations where customers can get what they want freely. 🙂
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It feels as in you are in  the streets of old Tokyo when you enter Banzai and everything seems authentic too. It also feels nice to just sit and eat quietly and observe how things go.
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Banzai is divided into 4 huge dining areas with different themes. They have the Dotonbori themed area,  Japanese Castle themed area, Old Japan themed area, Sumo arena themed area, and the Nautilus themed area.
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Banzai is obviously a Japanese restaurant but it also serves a fusion of many different Asian cuisines. And for a local buffet, the food tastes great! Another thing I love most about this restaurant is that they accept reservations even for a small group. Most of the  popular buffet restaurants I know don’t do that.
There are a lot of food choices, really (I was confused if I’m going to have Thai rice with my teppanyaki or white authetic Japanese rice with my Katsu).  As I roam around the place to look for my favorite Japanese dishes, I realized that my digestive system won’t be able to digest all of it so I have to select carefully and just go back next time to try other dishes. Seriously, you would get lost in the number of food selections available. Anyways, here are some of my favorite food stations.
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Who wouldn’t love Cold Soba? 🙂
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And Makis too!
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Yes, there’s a ramen station.
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There’s a good line up of Korean dishes but I was only able to take a photo of the kimchi. Haha!
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And finally, the Filipino food station!
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I have to be honest, pizza in Japan are way better but Banzai’s selection is pretty much ok. 
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I forgot to take photos of the Beverage Station which also has a lot. However, I’ve noticed that simple restaurants in Tokyo have so much more drinks to offer cause they have this cute dispenser that contains about 2-3 different drink flavors. Anyways, Banzai’s cappuccino is so good that I was able to drink 3 cups in the whole 3 hours that I was there.
But the restaurant’s dessert station contains delectable sweets that tastes similar to what I’ve tried in some of the dessert shops in Tokyo. Yes, these sweets are good! 🙂
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Surprisingly, Banzai: The Great Teppanyaki Theater is very affordable. Lunch rate on weekdays is Php 699 dinner on weekdays is at Php 899 and weekend and holiday rates for lunch and dinner is only Php 1088.

I initially thought that the restaurant won’t live up to the hype but I admit I was wrong. I went there with the family and we actually payed for our meal and you know what, we can’t wait to go back again.

My dad who loves Japanese food enjoyed the place so much. It was actually the first time he stayed in a buffet restaurant for about three hours. Usually, after getting what he wants, he would get the bill and go. Haha!

When we were about to leave, I’ve noticed that there is a mini gallery near the entrance of Banzai. It’s full of cool 3D murals of old Japan. 🙂

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