This Fancy Wagyu Restaurant is Opening In the Midst of the Pandemic
It’s no secret that many restaurants are having a tough time these days. With movement still restricted and the number of dine-in customers limited, many outlets have had to make tough decisions such as laying people off or closing their doors altogether.
ALSO READ: FOOD
But the owners behind a new restaurant are taking their chances and are welcoming diners for the first time on Saturday, October 31. Wagyu Studio is the brainchild of a group of brothers and friends who felt that Manila needed an upscale dining establishment that spotlights premium Wagyu beef.
As for the challenges of opening during an unprecedented health crisis, the owners say they were left with little choice.
“We had plans to open earlier this year,” LA Clavano, managing partner, tells Esquire Philippines. “But when the quarantine began, all those plans were shot. And after all the time and money we had already put into this restaurant, we didn't have a choice but to open. We just had to figure it out and move forward. This was our baby and we could not wait around for another year for things to get better.”
Head chef Yoji Kitayama revealed that he was working in Bangkok when the opportunity to run the kitchen of a dedicated wagyu restaurant presented itself. He’s been living in Manila for the last two years helping birth the restaurant concept and was all set to wow local diners with his creation when the pandemic messed up his and the partners’ plans.
But he says he’s ready now. During an exclusive sneak peek ahead of the opening, Chef Kitayama presented an 11-course tasting menu that provided a glimpse of what’s in store for Wagyu Studio’s diners.
The meal started off with Tricolor Tartar, an amuse bouche of wagyu tartar, topped with uni and caviar. One bite was all it took to be instantly transported to Japan, with all its unique colors, sounds, and flavors. It might seem hyperbolic, but the dish was the real deal and was more than an appropriate start to the meal.
Next was a dish called Toro, which was three pieces of delicate tuna torched and then drizzled with yuzu paste and onion dressing. Cheesy Gyoza followed, with sweet and juicy wagyu meat stuffed inside the pillow-soft wrapper.
A dish simply called Q was chilled seedless cucumbers coated in sesame dressing, and Korean chili sauce. Although restaurant manager Rianne Barrameda explained it was a palate cleanser, it ate more like a TV-time snack, with the pairing of crunchy cucumber unexpectedly working well with the light spice of the chili.
Tebasaki, a basic small plate of chicken wing, was followed by Cured Kobe, meat cured for one week and then bathed in tangy ponzu jelly.
Wagyu beef cooked rare sandwiched between two slices of milkbread then topped off with a sliver of edible gold leaf, a.k.a. Chateaubriand Sando, was a definite highlight in what was increasingly becoming a truly special meal. It prefaced the star of the evening—five beautiful slices of perfectly cooked Wagyu beef served with peppercorn, Japanese horseradish with mustard seeds, and Wagyu Studio salt on the side. The course, which Barrameda identified as Josper, was exquisite, and is the perfect wordless counter-argument against the virtues of vegetarianism.
Ikura Gohan and Consommé
The meat complemented Ikura Gohan, or the rice course. The soft white grain was generously topped with globes of salmon roe that were like mini explosions of salty-sweet flavor in the mouth. There was also the simply named Consommé, an elevated beef stock soup that was like a warm, comforting hug on a rainy day.
Finally, dessert was Jerky Gelato, or milk gelato ice cream topped with, you guessed it, wagyu flakes and tiny hints of pepper. Any doubts about whether the wait for the restaurant to open was worth it disappeared just like the soupy gelato at the bottom of the cup scooped up with a spoon.
While there are still those who question the wisdom of going out and risking health and safety for a restaurant meal, Wagyu Studio is here simply to offer a one-of-a-kind dining experience for those ready to try something new.
“The idea was always to take something traditional like a typical steakhouse and make it more appropriate to today's diner,” says Lui Clavano, one of the partners. “Honestly, my partners and I just wanted to create a concept that was fun.”
“Our main goal is to bring in the best Japanese ingredients to Manila and use those ingredients in unique and unusual ways,” adds Carlo Alvarez, also one of the partners. “Wagyu Studio will prove that eating well does not always have to be about silverware and white tablecloths.”
ALSO READ: FOOD
Wagyu Studio is located at The Finance Center, at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 26th Street in Bonifacio Global City. The Tasting Menu is P10,000+ per person. There is also an a la carte option with a selection of sashimi, starters, yakiniku (grilled meats), and sides. Opening hours: Live Kitchen Dinner: from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Yakiniku Lounge Dinner: from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays and public holidays.