There is no way of writing about this restaurant without mentioning the classic Japanese song “Blue Light Yokohama,” which has been running through my head since a friend recommended the place to me a couple of weeks ago.
Ayumi Ishida’s version of the song catapulted it to the top of the charts in Japan in 1968, though I heard it live with Saori Yuki covering it at the Royal Albert Hall with Pink Martini during their joint concert in London. Since then, Yokohama has existed in my mind as a city fraught with sensuality and menacing but tender romance.
The Yokohama Meat Kitchen, which is also fraught with sensual and tender carnality, is at the far end of the row of restaurants on Jupiter Street in Makati, and is just about my favorite place to eat at the moment. If you’re a fan of the slightly down-at-heel Japanese restaurants in the Little Tokyo area, or the delightful Hole in the Wall Wagyu Japanese Beef shop at Makati Cinema Square, or even of any Korean or Japanese place with a decent grill in the center of the table like Tajimaya or Sariwon, you will most likely enjoy Yokohama.
It doesn’t have the ultra-high-end A5-certified Wagyu that the little shop at Sunvar Plaza has, and if you’re a connoisseur of wagyu beef (and who isn’t, really?) you will notice the difference: these are not the absolute prime cuts, nor are they as fragrant and evenly marbled.
However, a properly filling meal at the Wagyu Japanese Beef shop will set you back at least P2,000 a head, and your arteries can take that sort of abuse only once every so often. And it really is a meat shop with a kitchen and a few seats added in as bonus.
Yokohama is a proper restaurant. It has ample seating, disabled access, parking out in front, and it takes reservations and actually calls to follow up on whether you’re arriving or not, which is something that every restaurant should do, just as every customer should have the decency to cancel a reservation if he changes his mind.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, you should go for the Wagyu. It has the harami beef from the diaphragm area, as well as the more familiar karubi short ribs.
Having tried both, I would recommend a double order of the diaphragm, which is not only half the price, but also has a distinctive bite and only marginally less marbling.
Unless you want to have a heart attack on the spot, I suggest you temper all that fat with various other possibilities for the grill: chicken, fatty pork, pork or beef intestines, pork liver, beef tongue, pork sausage. Even if not all of them sound immediately exciting, the variety satisfies more than the sum of its components.
The distinctive taste of charred intestines, for instance, like a Turkish kokoreç, works in counterpoint with the less fatty tongue, which is in turn offset by the barely-cooked liver. You can have the liver as raw as you want, because it’s the same liver that is used for the beef liver sashimi, which was too raw and violently red even for me.
But I have friends who have enjoyed it and lived to tell the tale, so I’m working my way up to it. There is also Wagyu sushi, raw slices of fatty beef on nuggets of rice. This one is not so scary, but it isn’t my favorite way to have Wagyu, which I feel benefits from the brief encounter with heat, making the fat melt down a bit.
Although the place has been around for a while and even the famously carnivorous President Aquino has visited, it still seems to be a bit of a secret. The restaurant says it is affiliated with a Japanese chain, but it does not seem to be a franchise, as the menu is in a constant state of flux.
I know that rent is very expensive along the Jupiter Street restaurant row, so I hope it manages to achieve the groundswell needed to achieve profitability and to keep up the quality, and that everyone manages to experience the glow of the buruu raito Yokohama.
Yokohama Meat Kitchen is at 16 Jupiter Street, Makati City. Call tel. 8316546.
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