Food

More Steak: The Best Places for Japanese Wagyu in Manila

These Japanese wagyu steakhouses are cut above the rest.
IMAGE FACEBOOK @carmeloswagyusteak/KAI HUANG
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Now that we’ve identified the best steakhouses in the city, it’s time to zero in on the best places for Japanese wagyu in Manila. Wagyu is a premium cattle breed from Japan. The term translates to “Japanese (wa) cow (gyu),” and has become a fast favorite among foodies who get a kick out of the simple yet full-bodied flavors of Japanese food. After all, any discerning steak lover (wagyu or otherwise) knows that it is when meat is stripped down and seasoned oh-so-lightly that its textures and taste profiles shine through.

Wagyu beef is sourced from different native cattle breeds, including Kuroge (Black), Nihon Tankaku (Shorthorn), Akage (Brown), and Mukaku (Polled). Of the many brands from these breeds, those from the areas of Kobe, Matsusaka, Miyazaki, and Omi are most popular.

What makes Japanese wagyu particularly special? These breeds are highly pampered and raised in their respective environments, which results in meat that is high in fatty acids and has a slightly sweet aftertaste.

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When assessing the quality of Japanese meat, aside from the brand, do keep an eye out for cuts that meet the high standards of marbling, color and brightness, texture, and fat quality. It is believed that the best wagyu beef you can find carry the grade A4 or A5, or grades given on two counts, meat yielded (A class to C class) and quality of the fat (1 to 5).

Here are the best places for Japanese wagyu in Manila. This list is not ranked.

1| House of Wagyu Stone Grill

The House of Wagyu Stone Grill is the perennial favorite for all things steak. The dry-aged wagyu rib eye is its flagship offering—noted for being matured for 40 days with humidity and air flow controlled by an ager. This process is said to make the meat lose over 30 percent of its weight, which then better brings out the wagyu’s rich, nutty flavor. Another of its prized steak is the Saga Rib Eye Grade A4, which is served rare on the restaurant's trademark stone plate. To enjoy the marked flavor of wagyu, cook only the slice you will eat for a good 15 to 30 seconds, turn it over to sear, season, and then dig in.

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Photo by Jason Mariposa.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Dry Aged Wagyu Rib Eye
  • Saga Rib Eye Grade A4 

House of Wagyu Stone Grill branches

2| The Fireplace

Located on the fifth floor of New World Manila Bay Hotel (formerly Hyatt Regency Hotel and Casino) is a posh steakhouse best known for its delectable take on intercontinental staples like fresh seafood, burgers, and of course, steak, especially Japanese wagyu. Welcome to The Fireplace, home of the A4 Wagyu Steak from Japan’s Saga Prefecture, in addition to other steaks such as the dry-aged USDA or long-fed tomahawk. Each steak is topped with café de Paris butter and may be paired with your choice of “steak enhancements” like foie gras and scallops. It also offers a selection of sauces for its premium beef cuts, including mushroom-garlic, Béarnaise, and Tomari soy wasabi.

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Photo by Courtesy of Fireplace.

Esquire Recommends:

  • A4 Wagyu Rib Eye Steak
  • A4 Wagyu Sirloin Steak

New World Manila Bay Hotel, Pedro Gil Corner M.H. Del Pilar Street, Malate, Manil

 

3| Miyazaki Gyu

This BGC steakhouse is easy to miss if you aren’t familiar with the Taguig area, but just note a few landmarks (it’s sandwiched between a popular coffee shop and a 24-hour convenience store) and you’ll be on your way to a delightful steak experience. The home of ruby-colored wagyu, Miyazaki Gyu is chef Kensuke Sakai (of Iron Chef fame) and Santi Araneta’s answer to the growing demand for premium steak places in Manila. Here, you will find imported Miyazaki wagyu beef graded A4 and up, an indication that its selection of wagyu is not only top notch in terms of quality, but also carefully curated from Japan’s second largest prefecture producer of kuroge. Its steak can be served on its own or taken as a set; the latter comes with a salad, soup, and rice. If you want a little variety on the dinner table, go the surf and turf route and throw in pieces of garlic butter prawns or fried scallops. 

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Photo by Kai Huang

Esquire Recommends:

  • Prime Marble Steak
  • Special Part Steak

One McKinley Place, 4th Avenue corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

 

4| Melo’s/ Carmelo’s Wagyu Steaks

It was in 1987 when Carmelo Santiago introduced the first steak house in Manila to carry Certified Angus Beef, the pioneer’s personal favorite and the house specialty. Dubbed a classic choice for steak cravings, Melo’s has since become the go-to not just for Angus Beef, but also for its wagyu selection sourced by an exclusive supplier from the Saga and Kagoshima Prefectures of Japan. The same lineup is carried by its spin-off, Carmelo’s Wagyu Steaks, in which Santiago’s daughter, Cristina Santiago Rivera, is at the helm. When dining at the Santiagos’ steakhouses, do ask for the steak cart so you can choose your preferred meat cut and thickness before it is grilled with a secret marinade. Complement your steak with a round of oysters, which it serves fresh or a la Rockefeller or Florentine.

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Photo by FACEBOOK/ @carmeloswagyusteak.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Kagoshima Ribeye
  • SAGA Ribeye

Melo’s branches. Carmelo’s Wagyu Steaks is at Level 1, Greenbelt 5, Makati City

 

5| Tajimaya

It’s easy to get lost in Tajimaya’s comprehensive menu when everything, from the fresh sushi, to the rice bowls, to the premium beef slices, is as delicious and satisfying as it looks. This casual Japanese stop is best known for its yakinuku charcoal grill, where you can cook an assortment of beef, chicken, and pork slices for every fancy and craving. It’s the Japanese wagyu offerings though that are worth notinga selection of beautifully marbled beef that you can season with a special dipping sauce. As with other types of steak, it’s best to savor these choice cuts immediately after they’re cooked. Do keep a look out for promos from time to time so you can get your meat fix at a more affordable price.

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Photo by FACEBOOK/ @tajimayaph.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Wagyu Tokuhou Saroin
  • Wagyu Jou Karubi
  • Wagyu Tokuhou Harami

One Rockwell West Tower, Rockwell Center, Makati City; Level 2, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City; Upper Ground Floor, Alabang Town Center, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

 

6| Wagyu Japanese Beef

Don’t let the dim and steely façade of Wagyu Japanese Beef be an indication of the type of food it offers. Here, you can find top quality wagyu brands that leave a tender, buttery aftertaste. Chef Takayuki Hayano is the brains behind this BGC stop, which he runs together with business partners Lexington Chua and Clar Chia Siy. Chef Taka, a licensed importer of wagyu, is the same chef behind the now-defunct Makati hole-in-the wall, Japanese Wagyu Beef. In his quaint shop, you can find wagyu brands like Omi, Saga, and Kagoshima, which come in a variety of cuts: chateaubriand, tenderloin, ribeye, sirloin, chuck roll, and top round. You can get these premium cuts to go, too, and the staff will be happy to assist you on how to prepare them in your own turf.

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Photo by Jericho San Miguel.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Omi Wagyu
  • Saga Ribeye
  • Kagoshima Chateau Briand

Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

 

7| Gyu Kaku

Gyu-Kaku (“Horn of the Bull" in Japanese), the famous Japanese yakiniku restaurant with outlets all over the United States, is another stop for your meat-all-you-can needs. Aside from the yakiniku, come for the Japanese wagyu beef with your choice of marinade: Himalaya rock salt, tare, shio, miso, spicy miso, or miso/shio with leeks. The steak may be enjoyed on its own or as part of a set for up to eight persons. Each set combines Japanese and Korean gastronomic elements and is finished off with in-house desserts such as matcha ice cream or yuzu sorbet. Have your meat with a round or two of cold Japanese beer or sake for a diverse explosion of flavor.

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Photo by FACEBOOK/ @GyuKakuPhilippines.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Wagyu Karubi
  • Wagyu Ribeye

Level 2, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City

 

8| Yokohama Meat Kitchen

An underrated contender for some of the best wagyu you can find in Manila is Yokohama Meat Kitchen, an offshoot of the famous Japan-based restaurant Yakiniku Zanmai. According to its owners, Yokohama is best known for high-quality meat and seafood selections, each handpicked to offer only the finest taste. Aside from its wagyu collection, Yokohama has the usual Japanese fare down patsushi, tempura, and sashimi. This place is great for intimate gatherings over a mouthwatering meat spread.

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Photo by FACEBOOK/ @yokohamameatkitchen.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Wagyu Tokujou Karubi
  • Wagyu Tokujou Harami

Jupiter corner Antares Streets, Bel-Air, Makati City

 

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QUICK BITES

Wagyu is great on its own, sure, but there are many other takes on the premium beef that are worth trying. Check out these Japanese wagyu renditions spotted across Manila.

1| Wagyu Cubes

They’re handy and relatively inexpensive, plus, you can enjoy them in your own home. Get your dose of premium beef cubes at Izakaya Kikufuji and Black Wagyu.

 

2| Wagyu Pares

An interesting addition to this list is The Fat Seed Café + Roastery’s contribution. This dish highlights wagyu beef cubes in a rich beef broth, served with fried rice and rice wine.

 

3| Wagyu Tacos

Popular taco shop La Chinesca is best known for its soft, open-faced tacos, which it peppers with various toppings like carnitas, camaroncito, chicharron, lamb, and, of course, wagyu.

 

4| Wagyu Sushi

Diamond Hotel’s Yurakuen remains one of the most sought after yakiniku and teppanyaki places in Manila, so you know you’re in good hands. Don’t leave without a taste of its Japanese Wagyu Beef Sushi.

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5| Wagyu Salad

Izakaya Sensu’s Wagyu Harami Salad mixes your beef with some greens, and amps up the flavor with a drizzle of sio vinaigrette. You can also get these wagyu slices for your entrée and pair them with the izakaya’s negi-sio or yuzu ponzu dipping sauces.

 

6| Wagyu Sukiyaki/ Shabu-Shabu

At Tsukiji, you can enjoy your wagyu slices in a flavorful hotpot of assorted vegetables, tofu, and noodles. This Makati-based classic uses thinly sliced Omi wagyu for its sukiyaki and shabu-shabu sets.

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