Afternoon Tea With A Japanese Touch In The Relaxed And Rustic Setting Of Ikomai
Afternoon tea is one of those rituals that always makes the day better. It’s a chance to relax for an hour or two in the middle of a busy day. All you need is a cozy setting, good food that goes down easy instead of filling you up, and a choice of quality tea. For those who love Japanese food, you can now enjoy a Japanese-style version of a relaxed afternoon tea at Ikomai Restaurant in Salcedo Village, every day from 2 to 5 p.m.
A relaxing Japanese-style afternoon tea tablescape with a mix of nature-inspired and rustic elements was set up at Ikomai by Metro.Style and Chef James Antolin.
A Filipino-Japanese partnership
What makes Ikomai different from the usual Japanese restaurants around town is that it is truly the product of a Filipino-Japanese collaboration—Filipino chef James Antolin and Japanese partners Taro Hori and Chef Hideki Saeki.
Metro.Style recently met up with Chef James, a pastry chef who trained and worked in the United States for 27 years, who recounted how this partnership was born. In 2016, he was introduced by his brother Peter to Taro Hori who works at an ad agency and wanted to stay in Manila. Taro then introduced Chef James to Chef Hideki Saeki who cooked at Chef James’ home to show what he could offer. Curious, Chef James organized a cooking and tasting activity with friends at a culinary school to get feedback. Eventually, he and his Japanese partners opened a stall at the Salcedo Market offering Japanese street food fare like kushikatsu sticks, ebi mayo on rice, as well as Chef James’ Japanese-inspired desserts under the Tochi brand. Then in April 2017, Chef James, Taro Hori, Chef Hideki Saeki, Peter Antolin, and Mark Bernal launched Ikomai as a stand-alone restaurant in Salcedo Village, Makati.
Ikomai’s afternoon tea includes a variety of pastries from Tochi Desserts plus savory sandwiches bursting with umami.
On the choice of restaurant name, Chef James answers, “Ikomai is a Japanese slang word which means ‘Let’s go’ and is a term used in Japan when someone asks another to go and eat. While our dessert brand is Tochi which means ‘land’ since our idea is to offer a land of desserts.”
A multi-faceted restaurant with a Japanese progressive menu
Even with the interiors, Ikomai doesn’t look like your typical Japanese restaurant, instead featuring a more industrial-minimalist look that Taro and Chef James helped design, along with the choosing the furniture and other items.
The restaurant is divided into three areas: Tochi Desserts for pastry, the Ikomai main dining area, and the al fresco garden area which holds Hideout nights every other Friday. “We have a Japanese DJ play jazz music and we offer customers yakimono or grilled dishes,” Chef James shares.
Chef James and Chef Hideki worked together to create what they call a progressive Japanese menu. “We like to play with ingredients. We do an Ikomai taco which is raw fish in between a taco with nori. Chef Hideki works on the Japanese taste of the dishes and I give comments if it will appeal to the Filipino palate,” Chef James illustrates.
Open from 7 am to 10PM, Mondays to Saturdays, Ikomai offers all-day dining which covers Japanese-style breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner.
Creating a relaxing Japanese afternoon tea setting
One thing you won’t find in most Japanese restaurants is afternoon tea. “We want to have that culture of having afternoon tea which the Japanese women appreciate when they go here with friends. We also want to offer Filipinos a nice place where they can enjoy afternoon tea when they have meetings here,” explains Chef James.
The Metro.Style team and Chef James captured that relaxed midday vibe by creating a stylish Japanese afternoon tea setting that featured a mix of nature-inspired and rustic elements.
The centerpiece, which is the focal point of the tablescape, is a serpentine stone planter with bamboo leaves placed on top of an oversized serpentine bowl with air plants. Other interesting elements such as serpentine stone candle holders and a tree log planter with air plants were also included.
The centerpiece, which is the focal point of the tablescape, features a serpentine stone planter with bamboo leaves on top of an oversized serpentine stone bowl from A-11 Store. Serpentine candle holders were also placed around the centerpiece and air plants were added on the bowl to provide contrast and add color.
For the dishware, irregular shaped serpentine plates were used for the sushi and scones. A two-tier serving tray with Serax white plates were used for the sweet and savory treats. Dining plates in white and green were layered and matched with chopsticks on the side.
For Chef James, the key elements of an afternoon tea are the taste of the food and the variety of items offered. He explains, “We like to offer food with umami flavor and different textures and tastes. For our afternoon tea, we have a cuapao which has buta kakuni (braised pork) inside, a French baguette with karaage (fried chicken), ebi sandwich, sushi, and different pastries.”
Serpentine stone plates with irregular shapes from A-11 Store were used as serving plates for sushi and scones. A tree log kaingin planter with air plants and layered dining plates using Serax white plates on top of green plates were also included in the table setting.
For a more relaxing atmosphere, jazz music is played at the restaurant while customers can enjoy their choice of teas, such as Japanese sencha, black barley, Earl Grey, chamomile, or a Paris blend.
Chef James, his partners, and his team continue to make things better at Ikomai by adhering to three key values. “We want to build a community, we learn from each other, and our team believes that we have to be good, do good, and work hard,” he concludes.
The art wall at Ikomai features an inverted tree with birds painted by Atsuko Yamagata, a Japanese artist who is also one of the restaurant’s regular customers.
Ikomai and Tochi Desserts, G/F ACI Building, 147 H.V. Dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City, www.ikomai.today
Tablescape elements such as serpentine stone items (planter with bamboo leaves, bowl, plates, candle holders), Serax white plates and kaingin tree log planter were provided by A-11 Store located at 2680 F.B. Harrison Street, Pasay City, Metro Manila
Air plants provided by Gary’s Bayong and Plants from Salcedo Saturday Market
Photographs by Daniel Soriano
Shoot Assistant: Cara Tirona