Yakiniku, a form of dining which uses bite-sized pieces of meat for grilling, is actually of Korean origin. It took the Japanese to make this a personalized artful experience. The very idea of having your own vented table where a special charcoal burns means that the diner can also be his own chef and determines how the food is cooked in terms of texture, flavor and doneness.
Yurakuen at the Diamond Hotel, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Manila, now offers the exquisite Yakiniku experience. They have opened a Yakiniku room where the running motto is probably “Hot Off the Grill.” The best thing is that the room is installed with a high-tech ventilation and grilling system to ensure that you don’t go out of there smelling of fish or some pricey wagyu.
Like the Korean banchan, we started our Sumibi Yakiniku dinner with an array of appetizers. My personal favorites from the line-up were the Nikujyaga (stewed ground beef, potatoes and carrots in light soy sauce which tasted like our ginuiling minus the ground meat) and the Sake/Gindara Tsuyani (stewed salmon and codfish in sweet soy sauce.) You can partake of the kimchi when you want it kickin’ hot. The starters are free when you order from the yakiniku menu.
A Diamond Hotel staff demonstrates the high-grade binchotan charcoal which they import from Okayama Japan for the high-quality grilling of the yakiniku. This special type of charcoal burns at very high temperature to allow for short but flavorful grilling time while locking the moisture and juices of the seafood or meat. It was amazing to see that otherwise tough cuts of beef brisket can cook in under five minutes or so while melting in the mouth.
A most fitting ending to our satisfying meal, Yurakuen’s Green Tea Ice Cream with Ogura or sweet red beans (azukin in some parts). Pardon me as I hyperventilate at not having enough of this. the ice cream was simply divine.
Yurakuen Restaurant’s Sumibi Yakiniku Menu:
Appetizers (free of charge)
Sake and Gindara Tsuyani
Horenzo (spinach with sesame oil and chili paste)
Dilis Tsukadani (dilis with sesame seeds)
Main course (priced separately)
Japanese wagyu sirloin
Gyu roas (beef brisket cut)
Gyu calbi (beef belly)
vyu tongue (beef tongue)
Yakiniku teriyaki sauce
Choice of Garnish
Kara miso (chili miso paste)
Kuchujang (Korean red chili paste)
Gohan or Japanese rice
Miso or Wakame soup