December 2, 2023

Of course, when you think of Japanese food, it is sushi and sashimi that comes to mind. These are unmistakably Japanese, but we decided to check out other good things that are “oishi” or delicious.

Our restaurant of choice this week was Botejyu and al fresco dining as the terraces of SM City Baguio. This Japanese teppan grill restaurant prides itself in cooking food Osaka style.

My adventure started with Okos or Okonomiyaki or one of the typical teppan-yaki dishes that combines a flour-based batter with cabbage, meat, seafood, and other ingredients of your choice. The story of this food is that it became popular after World War II when food was scarce.

It was a valuable source of nutrition that could be made with readily available ingredients.  Then came the mayonnaise used to top this dish, which is of the Botejyu signature. Compared to the looks of our Pinoy food, this looks like an omelet because the flour batter is as thin as the egg that covers vegetables or meat inside.

This is round and looks like an oversized burger patty. Inside it are cabbage strips, some ramen, meat, and a creamy sauce. The texture of the food is smooth, creamy, and chewy. The mayonnaise on top makes which is creamy and the salty sweet sauce that is poured over it are quite a delightful experience. This comes in different fillings, shrimp, mochi and cheese, pork belly, moonlight egg, or seafood mix. It can come with miso soup, rice, or kimchi. It looks too ordinary a dish to think of its country of origin. But highly recommended for those who don’t like sushi or sashimi.

The diced beef garlic steak rice bowl looks plain but the beef is supreme. There is something about Japanese beef that is trusted worldwide, it is tender and almost melts in your mouth. Well, the name gives away the main spice, garlic, that has mildly flavored the cubes of meat. This rice bowl meal is good for a person with a medium appetite  because it has a cup offluffy rice, meat cubes,and some lettuce with a little mayonnaise on the side.

Ramen has to be a part of the meal because Japanese noodles are too much of a food art to miss. I recalled how we lined up at a Japanese ramen eatery in Hawaii just to have a taste of the popular noodles that came in varied sizes. To localize the sushi and the ramen to Hawaiian tastebuds, of course you had Spam sushi and Spam as one of the toppings of your bowl of ramen.

The paitan ramens of Botejyu boast of the local specialties. According to the menu, these continue to evolve in their unique way of reflecting the history, culture, and lifestyle in the region. The pork paitan tonkatsu ramen was the choice.

The pork slices were delicious, almost akin to the Chinese asado pork, in miso soup with fine yellow noodles. If you are familiar with miso soup, you know how the fine granules of miso thicken the soup a bit. Someone must be fermenting the soy curds to make miso because this is the magic in the ramen bowl.

The split boiled egg and fine slices of green onions in a spoonful of soup and noodles are divine.  The hint of the sweetness of the smoked pork in the soup is perhaps the difference in the Japanese version.

Osaka premium takoyaki boasts of the different sauces inside and outside the snacks. This is a snack made from wheat flour  with bits of octopus and other spices in the filling. Of course, this is a five-star compared to the street counterparts. This is a delightful snack for those who love chewy soft balls dipped in mayo or yogurt.

At Botejyu, they pride themselves in the different sauces that they drizzle on the balls that have a creamy octopus filling. The bacon and cheese was my request but because we had the All Star which meant six different types of sauces, we got to try each one and mark our favorites. There were sauce and mayo, tomato sauce, umami sauce and mayo, salt garlic sauce, spicy tartar sauce, and thick spicy sauce. This tends to burst in your mouth. The creamy filling is simply delish for lazy eaters like me.

Of course, we can’t miss the spicy maguro tuna sashimi, simply because this is the most common fish type, we are familiar with as sashimi. We chose spicy for a change and wondered how this would blend in with the shotgun effect of wasabi on the nose. We were not disappointed; we could hardly pop the big slices of the tuna in blankets of chili powder into out mouth. The sensation of fire in the mouth and smoke up the nasal canal were pleasant on a cold windy afternoon. 

Spicy salmon sashimi was the other choice of sushi. If you ask me, I enjoy the fatty texture of salmon that makes it smoother than tuna. This fish literally melts in your mouth because of the fat in its flesh. Rolled in some chili powder and other spices, this was another great wasabi adventure. What’s more with some pickled ginger and the fine grated radish in the same bite, what merriment for the tastebuds.

Sushi is a must to complete this Japanese cycle and we decided to check out the Sukiyaki Beef roll and the California roll.  To those who are familiar with Sukiyaki, they will know how delicious these fine slices of beef are in the soup. Sweet salty slices of beef in a soy sauce were made into rolls. This was new to us because we enjoyed the other flavors as well.

At last, we got to the most familiar type of sushi, the California roll. The crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and prawn egg drizzled on the top were a must have. This was our first taste of sushi, for me anyway. This was love at first bite for the Japanese food. I will always order this in the different places I go to. Like a homage of sorts, you must have a California roll and tuna sashimi, for the taste of it.

Teppan baked banana with Vanilla Ice Cream is a must try. The simplicity of this dessert cheats its delicious sweetness. The banana is baked in the teppan grill as evidenced by some of the lines on the split bananas. The bananas are your regular Cavendish type split horizontally in two and  with two scoops of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with a fine sugar mixture or maybe a nutty powder of sorts. This caps a good meal, anytime. Enjoy every bite of the banana because the brief dash in the oven gives it a natural caramel flavor.

There goes the taste buds turning Japanese this week. Enjoy the terraces at SM for safe dining pleasure.

Bring a jacket please because the afternoon breeze is typical of the “brrrr” months in Baguio.