There’s actually nothing new in Nikkei's menu. It’s been three years since the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant entered Manila’s dining scene and several months have passed since their latest branch in Rockwell opened. All this time, Nikkei has been garnering loyal followers with still the same menu that’s known for its balance of East Asian flair and South American flavor, lightness and boldness, sweet and savory.
And yet this consistency is what makes Nikkei an easy choice for brunch with the in-laws, happy hour with the gang, and dinner dates with the loved one. Why serve up trendy dishes and one-time promotional items if there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the current set of hard-hitters? What emerges to be the challenge is having to pick just a couple of dishes from the extensive menu if you’re actually craving for more than a handful of your all-time favorites. Imagine going out on a date and having the space for only three menu items to fill you up, or seeing your rowdy bunch of friends who all want the same lomo saltado?
Now, Nikkei has heard you and it’s come up with a hard-to-pass-up offering that puts together their top billers in a hearty tasting menu. The bestseller from each section of their menu was chosen and redeveloped into compact portions that promise flavor punches in each bite.
Nikkei also takes you beyond Japan and Peru, and bring you to South Africa as well. Together with wine distributor AWC, Nikkeo planned out for each course of the tasting menu to be paired with a wine from Warwick, a South African winery from Stellenbosch.
The shebang starts off with a couple of small bites from the causa (Peruvian mashed potato bites topped with a savory mixture) and tiraditos (Peruvian sashimi) sections. First up to tease the palate is a thumb-sized knob of delicate potato topped with a beautiful medley of chopped Wagyu beef, sweet guacamole, zesty lemon, chalaquita salsa, and togarashi. What comes next is a light and heavenly appetizer of thinly sliced tuna sashimi garnished with caramelized sunflower seeds, pomelo, and mango. Both go perfectly with the crisp and easy-to-finish Warwick The First Lady Sauvignon Blanc.
Thinly sliced tuna sashimi
By the second part of the meal, you’d be eager to take on heavier hitters. The chef does not disappoint as he sends out three objects of desire. Begin with the lighter of the trio—a familiar Japanese sushi roll filled with miso and salmon in the center. Move your way to the delicate white fish nigiri that’s beautifully accentuated by a special sauce, fiery chopped chilies, and soothing cilantro. Lastly, the playful mix of colors and textures comes via the green ceviche, made up of fish, octopus, prawns, wasabi cream, sweet potato strings, and canchita (toasted un-popped popcorn). In between bites, the well-bodied White Lady Chardonnay offers complementing acidity.
White Fish Nigiri
Back to that lomo saltado. If you’ve never been to Nikkei, then this is the first dish you have to order to convert yourself into an instant fanatic. It’s honest-to-goodness, no-frill Peruvian sautéed tenderloin and a bevy of vegetables swimming in a shallow pool of sweet-savory sauce (a sauce that needs to be bottled up and sold, stat!). It desperately calls for a starchy pairing, and though fries can do the trick, it’s rice that rounds out the dishin this case, Peruvian fried rice called chaufa. Together with slightly chilled glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, this course will leave you singing praises.
The tasting menu doesn’t end until you’ve finished the last scoop of their signature Suspiro Limeno—a comforting mishmash of caramel, crunchy meringue, and sweet-tart berries. As the smooth golden sauce lingers in your mouth, what easily becomes your next move is to call the server and schedule for your next helping of the tasting menu. For sure, whoever is with you at the dining table—a date or ten of your friends—would agree.
The tasting menu starts at P995+. Available only at Nikkei Rockwell, reservations (0916-636-9817) are a must.