'Izakaya' exposure

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Friday, November 30, 2012


IT IS a common sight in the streets of Tokyo.

USUALLY characterized with a red lantern hanging by the door, an izakaya is a casual drinking establishment that the Japanese enjoy heading to after a long day’s work.

It loosely translates to “staying in a sake shop,” but aside from serving the traditional sake (rice wine) and beer, an izakaya is known for pairing its beverages with yakitori, or grilled chicken.

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Today, Cebu can experience this Japanese custom at the newly opened, izakaya-inspired QBay Restaurant. It is managed by Raiko Fujioka, whose chain of izakaya restaurants are stationed in Tokyo, as well as Shanghai and Seoul. QBay is his first food venture in the Philippines.

Alongside Raiko is chef Norihiko Hashimoto, whose expertise is in making yakiniku, or grilled meat.

In true izakaya fashion, QBay offers an assortment of yakitori and ramen only. Sushi and sashimi—the typical icons of Japanese cuisine—won’t be found in its menu at all.

The restaurant’s yakitori comes in a variety of cuts that one can get in two flavours.

Diners can either have the yakitori bathed in the restaurant’s signature sauce, or go basic and just have it dabbed with sake and a pinch of salt. The cuts available are thigh, breast, leg, wing, neck; then there are also innards like liver, gizzard and heart, and lastly, everyone’s guilty pleasure—skin! These are then skewered and grilled over charcoal, following tradition, since it is the heat of the charcoal that brings out the flavour of the yakitori.

Raiko said that among all his izakaya restaurants, the taste of QBay’s yakitori is distinctive because of the local chicken meat used. He even went as far as saying that it tastes better than its Tokyo counterpart because he finds local meat more organic and bearing “less preservatives.”

As for restaurant’s choices of ramen, the house specialty is the QBay Special, which is their own take on the tonkotsu, or pork bone ramen. According to Raiko, what makes it a “special” kind of noodle dish is that it has been prepared the traditional way.

The process can run for up to 12 hours, he said, as the longer it is simmered, the better tasting the broth will be. The chefs use only handmade wheat noodles, too.

An izakaya experience will not be complete without liquor. The restaurant serves an array of sake, soju (Korean liquor), as well as local and imported brands of beer.

These can be availed either by the bottle, by the bucket, or in a tower dispenser—perfect for groups scouting for a good hangout spot!

A place where one can “unwind and enjoy” is how Raiko basically described QBay. True enough, similar to how it is in Japanese dining outlets, the staff there will greet you with a booming “Welcome to QBay!” the moment you step inside. Then should you say “Kanpai!” (cheers), then be ready to have the staff join in the merrymaking as well.

They will join you in a loud jovial chorus, just like how it is in a real izakaya.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of Skyrise 4 Bldg. in Cebu IT Park. It is open from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 01, 2012.

Lifestyle

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