Kazunori Gifts Us With Unbelievably Good Sushi, Sashimi, Soba And So Much More
Along the row of car dealerships on Pasong Tamo Extension are notable restaurants that offer a colorful mix of cuisines to satisfy any enthusiastic foodie. There are the topnotch wine stores and hip cafés, as well as exceptional restaurants with their specific specialties. Last year’s stream of new dining establishments brought about a lively food scene throughout the metro, and one of the latest additions that continues to attract diners is Kazunori inside the Mazda showroom.
Kazunori is the brainchild of Elbert Cuenca and Ryan Cruz of the famed Elbert’s Steak Room, Mendokoro Ramenba and Yushoken Ramen. If the popularity of these restaurants is any indication of what Elbert Cuenca and his group can do, then Kazunori has a pretty bright future in 2018. The past six months may have already created a fan base for Kazunori, but here’s a glimpse into what we’ve experienced ourselves.
This Japanese restaurant has put together interesting dining concepts that cater to various types of diners. Upon entering its doors, you’re welcomed into a casual café set-up, surrounded by an all-glass façade that allows in lots of natural light. It’s the perfect setting for a morning coffee, an afternoon java, or a cup of green tea. The café menu is delightful with its typical Japanese café fare—Uni Cream Spaghettini, Omurice, Tori Teriyaki Pizza, Pork Curry and more. But for more traditional Japanese food, you can head over to the other two dining areas, namely the sushi and sake bar right behind the café, and the main dining area at the far end.
At the sushi and sake bar, a perusal of the sushi menu may intimidate the more budget-conscious diner, but this only reveals the quality of the raw seafood at Kazunori—not that you should expect anything less. With this in mind, the interiors will begin to make sense: the semi-enclosed space allows you to savor glorious sushi and sake in private, a much-revered experience in Japan. And rightly so, as the sushi served in Kazunori overshadows the usual sushi at other local restaurants. The sushi is simply exceptional, comparable to what you might find in Japan. In terms of portion size, and in particular, the fish to rice ratio, you can hardly see any rice showing underneath the slab of seafood. Fresh wasabi is also used (not those paste or powder versions), and rice is carefully chosen and imported from Japan.
At the farthest end of the space is Kazunori’s main dining area, with an open kitchen layout that allows diners to watch the chefs create their masterpieces. During our visit, the menu was still being developed, and in fact, the kitchen was busy experimenting on new additions. We tried grilled chicken on skewers and a bowl of tempura on rice. The mix of ebi and vegetable tempura was crispy and light, but sizable compared to most other Japanese restaurants. It was delicious, and not oily at all.
But the soba, oh the soba! While most restaurants focus on ramen nowadays, the soba has stayed under the radar of many foodies, and quite unfairly, too. If ramen is the bold, outspoken extrovert, then soba is the reserved, restrained introvert. Ramen, as well-loved as it is by many, can sometimes just be a tad too rich, too flavorful, too heavy, too oily, too indulgent. Soba, on the other hand, is the perfect companion when you want something simple and straightforward—just the right bite to the noodles, just the right balance of flavors on the broth, just the right cleanliness and richness to the overall dish. It’s not shy, mind you, because Kazunori’s soba selection includes some that can pack a wallop, but it makes for a welcome change in a sea of ramen.
To sum it up, Kazunori has fused together a “traditional” and a “modern” Filipino dining concept when it comes enjoying Japanese food. It has retained that old familiar experience of Japanese restaurants offering a little bit of everything we love about Japanese food—tempura, sushi, donburi, noodles, tonkatsu and izakaya. But at the same time, Kazunori’s thoughtfully curated menu selection adheres to the more traditional way the Japanese enjoy dining out, that Filipinos have come to love—specialized restaurants that serve only one kind of dish that has been perfected. If you’re not too keen on visiting any of the small establishments on Little Tokyo, or have long missed that sushi or soba that you had on your last trip to Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, then Kazunori would be your best bet to satisfy that craving for honest-to-goodness, authentic Japanese food.
2301 Chino Roces Avenue (formerly Pasong Tamo Extension), Makati City, (02) 989-3152
Photos by Justin de Jesus