If I could eat Japanese food everyday, I would. There is something about the cuisine that draws you in. It is hearty. It is meticulous. It is balanced. And it is oishi (Nihongo for delicious).

I am no expert in Japanese food, just a huge fan. I could not say much about sushi or sashimi. The best ones demand only the choicest cuts. Sushi masters spend their lives for the art. I learned that when I watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This fascinating and delectable film revolves around the world’s oldest three star Michelin chef. He is Sushi master Jiro Ono, now 90 years old.

           Photo by www.npr.org

As I watch this film, I realize sushi  is not only art. There is as much science as there is art. This article partly explains why Ono-san’s meal is done in less than an hour. There is a tutorial of how to enjoy your meal with Ono-san on the Sukiyabashi Jiro website.

Catch a glimpse of the trailer of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

The chance of eating at Ono-san's Sukiyabashi Jiro at the Ginza station in Tokyo may be farfetched at this time. I scaled down my expectations lower until my next trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. But that's not to say that I can't find places around here that will feed my sushi ego. There are upscale and pricey places to go for top-of-the-line sushi. But I refuse to spend too much for it. So everytime I watch Jiro and his sushi, these two places will be my refuge.

For years, Nihonbashi-tei has been my go-to place for reasonably-priced and yummy Japanese food. They say that to make sure that you are eating at the right place, look around for Japanese people dining there. And at Nihon, as we call it affectionately, you will find them in drones.

We've eaten here so often for the longest time that we already know the servers. We love their lunch sets- they come with tsukemono, onigiri and coffee or nata de coco for every set. They serve hot or cold mugicha for free. Their lunch hour is from 11 am-5pm. Beat that!

You can take your pick. Don't hesitate. Nihon does it well. But in the sushi department, this is their main draw- their Spicy Toro Maki..

Nihonbashitei's Toro Spicy Maki; Photo by Michelle Africa

A spicy-friendly chopped tuna belly (toro) salad, mixed with crunchy tempura bits, vinegared sushi rice and toasted sesame seeds, you won't get enough of this tuna treat. Nihon brings home the bacon with their Spicy Toro Maki everytime!

For a while, I thought that no one else comes close to Nihon's Toro Maki. So I tend to stick to what I know won't let me down. I hate being wrong about food. You may say where is my sense of adventure? My philosophy is if I intend to load up on calories, it better be darn worth it!

This was before I discovered the Dynamite Roll at Jipan Cafe and Bakeshop. Submarine sushi coming through...

Jipan's Dynamite Roll (PhP395); Photo by Michelle Africa

As soon as I saw a photo of this dish on the menu, I immediately ordered it. I was quite skeptical that the actual dish varied greatly from the photo. But to my pleasant surprise, it is exactly as advertised. Ebi tempura, kani sticks and tamago rolled in sushi rice with those oh-so crunchy tempura bits. A spicy tangy kewpie mayonnaise dressing fences the entire dish. This deserves a round of applause, for real. It's worth going back for.

True to form, I went back for it at Jipan's Robinsons Magnolia branch for three consecutive days. The waiters sensed a frequent diner in the making and they offered me the Jipan Privilege card. For P250, it gives me a 5% money back worth of points. And I am entitled to freebies for every visit. Sounds like a good deal. But since then, I have not been back haha.. That reminds me to head Jipan's way and claim those freebies!

I am offering some sound advice for that moment that you do watch Jiro and his sushi. I'll bet my bottom dollar that you'll look for sushi-- faster than you can say Su-ki-ya-ba-shi.

Sukiyabashi Jiro
4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
+81 3-3535-3600
Main Branch: 1030 A.Arnaiz Avenue, San Lorenzo Village, Makati City
Jipan Cafe and Bakeshop
Various Branches in Metro Manila

P.S. This article is also featured in my personal blog Chowpowwows, where chow is always on the lowdown.

Published by Michelle Africa