Nikkei Cuisine Gives Filipinos Japan and Peru on a Plate
Japanese food is characterized by fresh, clean flavors presented reverently and artfully. Peruvian cooking brings out zesty, zingy dishes laden with texture and taste. Marry these two and you get Nikkei—not the stock market that is currently experiencing a high, but a cuisine that has been described as the love child of the two countries.
Nikkei cuisine has come about because Peru has the second-largest Japanese population in Latin America, and since any migration and integration to society yields wonderful results (hello, Mr. Trump), the world is now enjoying the full benefits of flavors that combine the Zen of freshness with a feisty Latino kick.
Manila has its own version of this current cuisine craze, via the Nikkei restaurant run by Carlo Lorenzana, who has also gifted us with Shi Lin, La Cabrera, and Single Origin. “We took a chance with the restaurant, because for me, the Nikkei cuisine is a perfect combination of flavors that would mesh well with the Filipino palate. Filipinos like Japanese food, and Peruvian is basically seafood as well.”
He describes his concept as “a sushi bar,” with nigiri, sushi, and sashimi that are familiar with Filipinos. They have stuck to the traditional ways of preparing these too, much to the delight of their Japanese guests. “Filipinos are used to fusion naman. I guess it also wasn’t difficult because there is the Japanese element.”
Peruvian mashed potatoes
The dishes that he says embody what he is trying to do with the concept are the miso kurubota, lomo saltado (“very Peruvian, not Japanese at all”, he shares), the parmesan scallops, the nigiris, and the tako confitado which is an octopus, making it very Japanese but the sauce is very Peruvian.
The concept, which opened at Legazpi Village has become so successful that they have now expanded to Rockwell, and soon, The Podium. “We opened the second branch because our space in Legazpi is really small and parking is a problem. We just want to be more accessible to the markets, with the Legazpi Village catering to the Makati CBD crowd and the other branches open to a wider audience. The audience that the serial restaurateur speaks of is a mix of expats (particularly the Japanese), foodies, yuppies, and millennials alike. “We get a pretty broad spectrum of people,” he comments.
The Rockwell branch is bigger, with a seating capacity of about 70. It also has an al fresco area, and a lounge with an exclusive cocktail list composed of four drinks, two of which are called “Japeritifs." Nikkei has a markedly smaller drinks inventory than his Single Origin concept, as Carlo explains that Japanese food goes well with light beers and Japanese whiskeys, so that is mostly what he offers there.
Smoked chili ceviche
Seared tuna with sea urchin risotto
Ebi furai sushi
Spicy tuna tartare
He doesn’t want to play on the word fusion when describing his concept. “Nikkei cuisine has an identity of its own, with its own sort of familiarity. To be honest, you don’t need to invent new things. Everything has been pretty much invented in the world in terms of food. Nikkei cuisine has been around and it has grown.”
Spicy Sake Martini
Carlo, who has been in the food industry since 2010, adds self-effacingly, “We really didn’t invent anything, we just tried to do the best we could with dishes that already exist. Maybe we did a little invention by adding influences outside of Nikkei cuisine, but nothing was totally invented. We just went with the popular dishes, we didn’t want 200 things on the menu, what we do have are the dishes using the freshest and best ingredients that we can find, with the tools and the skills that we have, and it turned out really well.”
Nikkei has branches at Rada Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City; One Rockwell, Makati City.