I was back at the hotel again as I was invited to join a special Japanese dinner at Umu. I immediately confirmed my attendance and made sure I won't be late for my dinner date. At the start of the program, the head chef performed the Kagami-biraki which is the traditional way usually done in celebratory events where the chef used a wooden mallet to signal the start of the party and all guests will be served with a cup of sake.
As we await our first dish, we were given a glass of cold Zipang (Sparkling Sake) which was very smooth and light. Sake is to Japan as wine is to France. This can normally be seen in dinner tables as Japanese would have this while enjoying their meals or as they unwind after a busy day at work.
First on the table was a tall champagne glass with Ebi Siso and Soft Shell Crab Furai beside it. The ebi siso is not your typical tempura as it's wrapped with obba leaf before coating it with breading and deep frying. The soft shelled crabs was very delicious too. I love crabs and I enjoy the convenience of just biting into the tiny piece of crab complete with meat and shell. No need to fear of hurting your gums as the crab shell is very soft and chewable. The soft shelled crab furai was prepared like a prawn fritter on a soup spoon. I enjoyed this very much while sipping on my Zipang.
Up next was a saucer filled with thinly sliced Sashimi -- Lapu-lapu and Salmon. To be honest, I proceeded with caution as it has been two months since I had something raw after recovering from that nasty amoebiasis that I had last November. Well, I assured myself that definitely Umu follows the highest standards when it comes to food sanitation but for extra measures, I requested for some wasabi to add into my soy sauce. One taste and I suddenly miss eating sashimi. I was reminded of how delicious a slice of fresh fish is. I know it will take me some time to really get over the amobiasis trauma but I'm glad to be able to have a small dose of raw sashimi that evening.
Third dish on the table was the salad. We had Kaisou Sarada with Onion Dressing. This time, the server gave us a small Japanese shot glass and poured Gekkeikan (hot sake) into it. With just one sip, I could strongly taste the alcohol in this sake. Too strong for my taste. I really do prefer the Zipang over the Gekkeikan.
Meanwhile, I loveeee the salad! I love seaweeds but I've never had it purely in a salad. I found it so refreshing and the onion dressing was very yummy too. It actually reminds me of my favorite potato chips dip.
At this point, I was starting to feel very full already. Who would have thought that the appetizer, sashimi and salad can be very filling. It's a good thing Umu slowly paced our dinner giving us enough time to chat with our dinner companions and to allow the food to slowly digest itself while we wait for the next course. Of course, I was very excited for what was up ahead.
Just right in time, out came the highlight of our meal -- Suzuki Teppanyaki (Iron-grilled Seabass) and Saikoro Steak (Beef cubes steak with grilled vegetables). It was arranged daintily in a long white platter and I had to pause for a while to decide which one to try first.
I went for the veggies. They have provided us with three different sauces, one for each piece -- vegetable, steak and fish. Slowly, I picked one piece at a time and sliced it up. I got one piece without the sauce and another dipped into it. With or without the sauce, each piece was heavenly. I love the seabass the most, the tender meat that melts into my mouth, it was delicious as it is and all I needed was a bowl of fragrant Japanese rice and that would make a wonderful meal for me.
It has been a wonderful dinner but wait, Umu's not yet done. After the trio of teppanyaki items out came a trio of rolled sushi -- Umu Maki, Ebi Furai on Rice Paper and Tekkamaki. I love how the presentation made on these rolls as it shows the creativity of the sushi chef. The tekkamaki has fresh tuna sashimi inside, once again another piece of fresh raw meat that I enjoyed very much. The Ebi Furai has hot sauce poured on top, I took a careful bite and enjoyed the crunchy shrimp inside an equally crispy rice paper. What I loved the most was the Umu Maki, fresh salmon sashimi with avocado and cream cheese rolled on vinegared rice and piled up with crunchy orange ebiko. It's very similar to my favorite Philadephia Roll yet the ebiko gave a very interesting crunch to every bite.
Last but definitely not the least was dessert. Of course, every meal should have a sweet ending and with that we were serve with a glass of Plum Wine and a bowl of homemade Coconut Ice Cream. This is one that somehow deviated from the over-all Japanese feel but I was surprise that the Coconut Ice Cream goes pretty well with the sweet Plum Wine. "It grows on you", I told my dinner date Minette as I scoop up more coconut ice cream from my bowl .
It was a lovely dinner and I truly enjoyed sampling Umu's specialty dishes. I can't wait to head back for my special dinner date with Paul as we'll surely head straight to the teppanyaki table and stuff ourselves silly with the most tender cuts of meat and freshest seafood.
*photo credit: Dusit Thani Manila / Umu (Makimoto photo)
Visit Umu at the ground level of the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel, Ayala Center corner EDSA in Makati City. Call 8673333 for reservations.