Where to Eat Around Asia by Restaurateur Malu Gamboa
The general manager of Cirkulo, Azuthai, Milky Way, and Tsukiji lists her top recommendations in Osaka, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Sapporo, and Baguio, among others.
May 17, 2017
IMAGE IMAGE COURTESY OF Malu Gamboa / Kani Doraku / Dan Harvey
Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, Osaka
My best discovery in Osaka is not a restaurant, but a person. Kuniyoshi Okamoto, or Kuni to his legion of Pinoy friends, manages the M chain of restaurants that serves consistently high-quality Matsusaka beef. He has become Osaka’s most popular point person for his happy disposition and his willingness to help you find the best Osaka has to offer. It’s no surprise to walk into the restaurant and hear Tagalog spoken everywhere! Kuni is proud to sport a Filipino flag on his lapel and rattle off a long list of Filipino celebrities who have just stopped by. Ask Kuni to recommend a selection of the day’s best Matsusaka beef cuts for grilling, but don’t forget the marbled beef sushi for starters (yes it’s raw!) and bacon rice, just because you must. Each bite is best enjoyed with his fine selection of flavored sakes.
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Kani Doraku, Osaka
If you have difficulty with maps, know that it won't be hard to miss the giant moving crab adorning the façade of Kani Doraku right in the heart of Dotonbori. Here the King and Queen Crab native to the Sea of Japan reign supreme, served as sashimi, boiled, broiled, grilled, shabu-shabu, tempura. and more. Come for lunch and order any of their set meals, which allow you to sample different styles in one go at such good value.
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Japanese food in Taipei? Absolutely. If you need a break from your dumplingfest at Din Tai Fung, head over to Hsuan for some of Taipei’s highest quality sushi prepared by the innovative Chef Hsuan and his apprentices. I loved how the omakase progressed from classical nigiri sushi to some aburi (lightly torched), then sushi garnished with black truffle (surprise!). Uni was paired with tamago and a pickled cherry tomato. A specific soy sauce, pickle or salt was used for each selection. Would have loved to go back a second night for more delicious surprises.
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Two words capture why this beloved Guam diner is the hardest table to book on the island: taro cheesecake. It is indeed an unexpected piece d’ resistance. But I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy the meal that you will have before this. Start with the sushi-grade ahi tuna Poke in a purse and the house salad served with a yuzu vinaigrette, followed by the Chamorro BBQ platter of ribs and chicken served with rice, of course.
This casual restaurant is an absolute must on our family’s Hong Kong eat list. Whichever side you are staying, you are covered as Delicious Kitchen has branches in Kowloon and in Causeway Bay. Whet your appetite with their always perfect pinsikfrito (fried wantons) and cold pickled cucumber. Then I suggest you order your own crispy fried pork rib with mustard green rice. You will not want to share this dish.
A dear Thai friend introduced me to this restaurant recently, and I have not failed to recommend it to those traveling to Bangkok since. In an elegant dining room that is completely in sync with the contemporary Thai cuisine that is served, the familiar home-style Thai staples we have come to love such as mee krob, phad Thai, and curries get elevated several notches higher. Each dish is a visual and gustatory feast.
Filipinos have recently discovered Sapporo and all its food offerings. This land famous for oysters, Royce chocolates, and Le Tao cheesecake is also known for its Ramen Alley. Anthony Bourdain traveled all the way to this northernmost big city of Japan just to have some of their legendary miso ramen. I had an unforgettable sesame ramen with grilled pork belly at ESTA Ramen Republic, adjacent to the Sapporo train station. Order this with a side of gyoza (ground pork and vegetable dumpling) and you will find that these are exactly what your body needs in this usually cold city.
Baguio is one of my favorite “happy places,” and this Greek taverna just gave me another reason to love it more. Its location on Outlook Drive affords every diner a view of the still breathtaking Cordillera mountains and the historic Baguio Country Club golf course. Greek salads taste better here, in my humble opinion, thanks to Baguio’s fresh greens. Share a souvlaki platter, the lamb rack, moussaka and my personal favorite, the stuffed tomatoes and peppers.
Rima, Shangri-La Boracay
Dining at this romantic treetop restaurant overlooking our country’s most popular beach was a dream come true for me as a Filipino restaurateur. I was deeply satisfied with my perfectly grilled U.S. Angus prime rib-eye, an al dente lasagne bolognese, and glass of a Joel Robuchon selection cabernet. It was so gratifying to see the restaurant filled with foreign guests as I know they will come away from Rima knowing that Philippine dining is truly “world class.”