A Taste of Japan in the Philippines

Yu-Fu-In Yaikiniku and Japanese Restaurant
Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines

When I want to learn about someone I always ask them about their food choice. It’s music to my ears when I have an idea about the kind of food that they consume and understand their eating behaviours because it creates a ton of opportunities for me to ask them more questions and never let the momentum die down. Really, it will be an understatement if you say that I love food because I really do.

Leo from Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on Instagram @leosamilo!

Last August 2019, I met Leo, a Filipino-Canadian based in Vancouver, who was in the Philippines for a quick vacation with his family. Through him, I had a delightful time learning about Vancouver, how the city is known for fresh seafood and how he’s a huge fan of Japanese food.

After my work schedule, I drove from Meycauayan City, Bulacan to Quezon City to fetch him. On my way to meet him, I thought of bringing him to Manila (around Malate) but I didn’t know any good and authentic Japanese restaurants around. So I thought, why not Yu-Fu-In in Angeles City, Pampanga since that’s been my go-to Japanese restaurant ever since 2016? Boy, it did not disappoint!

Osushiya San Bento

My craving for yakiniku was left unaddressed when we got to Yu-Fu-In. Their yakiniku was only available until 10pm and we got there about 15 minutes past 10pm. They have this yakiniku set + hot pot (good for 2-3 persons) which does not cost more than 1300 Pesos ($25). We were left without a choice but to order something from their regular menu.

Since he mentioned that he like sushi and fresh seafood, I made sure to get my staple fix of Oshushiya San Bento for only 490 Pesos ($9.42). What’s nice about this bento is you get to try nine (9) of their best sushi and it gives you an idea what to order next as a starter. My personal favourite would be the Ika Nigiri Sushi (Squid Hand-formed Sushi) because of how it just melts in your mouth.

Salmon Sashimi

It would not be a complete Japanese dining experience without ordering some nice sashimi (thin-sliced raw fish or meat). Salmon Toro (Salmon Belly) was our choice but it was not available at that time. Our attendant suggested Salmon Sashimi for only 295 Pesos ($5.67) and I know that it’s good.

I was quite hesitant ordering this because I’ve had an experience in the past when the sashimi from a different restaurant was awful. Sashimi has a recognisable smell – a stingy, fishy one – and you would only get it if you smell it directly. However, if you sit upright and notice this smell, then that might be an indication that the sashimi isn’t good for consumption anymore. Luckily, that wasn’t the experience we’ve had at Yu-Fu-In!

More than its freshness, the sashimi was flavourful. I like having it with fresh wasabi but without the sauce. As much as possible, I would always avoid having sauce in any food. Japanese food has a distinct flavour which I love – not savoury but extremely mouthful.

I could eat Omurice (Fried rice wrapped in omelette) everyday for my entire life and not feel bad about it. I know other Japanese restaurants have a cheesy version of this which, by the way, is good but I like mine simple, plus this is cheap! I only got mine for 170 Pesos ($3.27) and it’s actually good for 2 persons already.

We didn’t know what kind of tempura (battered and deep-fried) to get so ordered this mixed tempura for only 380 Pesos ($7.31) which could already serve 2-3 persons. Aside from Ebi Tempura (battered shrimp), my favourite would be Ika Tempura (battered squid), and yes, you can already tell by now how much I love squid!

Kushiyaki Set

Kushiyaki is Japan’s version of BBQ. However, theirs aren’t limited to specific meat, like pork, but it could be any poultry and non-poultry items. This set has six (6) different kushiyaki and is already good for 2 persons. Each set costs 295 Pesos ($5.67) only and you have the choice whether to smother it in their homemade sauce or just have a dash of salt and pepper (our choice, by the way).

What I love about Japanese food and the Japanese dining experience is how they put premium about sharing food. You are sharing a portion of who you are to the person you’re with and you experience this satisfying connection that only a good food can create. It’s as if sharing your food with someone is a journey of mutual understanding and discovery. Maybe this is what we miss when we get too preoccupied about ‘adulting’ and we miss the chance of experiencing this connection, who knows? When was the last time you created a meaningful relationship with someone over and through food?

Yu-Fu-In is located at 1st Street corner 2nd Avenue, Balibago, Angeles City, Pampanga, 2009 (view map here). You may contact them at (045) 635 5537 / 0908 874 2847 / 0917 842 6627.

*$1 = 52 Pesos

Above Sea Level: Home of the Giant Butterfly Squid is Taking Your Seafood Experience to the Next Level

Above Sea Level - Home of the Giant Butterfly Squid

Above Sea Level – Home of the Giant Butterfly Squid. Photo taken at Above Sea Level – The Gate.

A good sight to see: those hand-painted murals at Above Sea Level – The Gate branch.

We come from a family of seafarers. From my grandfather (+) down to my dad and uncles, every older male in our family is a seafarer. So when we see these miniature life rings, it instantly makes us happy.

I grew up in a land locked province, and we are from a town that’s totally far from bodies of water. We weren’t famished because we’ve been considered as one of the top rice producing places in the country, but one thing is for sure, and my mum can attest to this – we are totally fond of seafood!

I guess it’s obvious to say that we’re in love with seafood simply because we don’t get to eat them anytime we wished to. If there’s a chance for us to have it, we wouldn’t let it pass. I’m not kidding at all – my mum can eat a whole casserole of steamed crabs in just one seating; my brother can down a platter or two of buttered shrimps; and I can devour huge fried butterfly squids without flinching. This is probably one of the best reasons why we love dining here at Above Sea Level.

Super Giant Butterfly Squid for 250 Pesos ($4.63) per piece, good for sharing (2 persons) and comes with free two (2) Java rice.

It was my grandma who invited us at Above Sea Level – The Gate branch. When we dined in here last 1 September (our second time), it was actually Nanay’s fifth time already. I’m not joking, it’s probably the first time, for a very long time, that I saw her get so fond of a restaurant, apart from our usual Hap Chan weekend family dinner. She said, one of our close relatives discovered this and brought her here. From then on, Above Sea Level has always been our go-to place for the past 3-4 weeks.

In case you’re wondering, there are different sizes for the Giant Butterfly Squid. So it’s not just a giant Butterfly Squid but there’s actually a bigger size than what we call as giant. I find this very interesting because where the heck do they get these bigger squid sizes!? I’m dying to get one. Anyway, here’s the list of the Giant Butterfly Squid sizes:

  • “Giant” – 190 Pesos ($3.33), good for 1-2 persons, comes with one (1) FREE Java rice;
  • “Super” – 250 Pesos ($4.63), good for 2-3 persons, comes with two (2) FREE Java rice;
  • “King” – 350 Pesos ($6.48), good for 3-4 persons, comes with three (3) FREE Java rice;
  • “Groot” – 450 Pesos ($8.33), good for 4-5 persons, comes with four (4) FREE Java rice.

Above Sea Level – The Gate Barkada Treat. For 1000 Pesos ($18.52), you can enjoy four (4) Giant Butterfly Squid, four (4) Java rice, and one (1) Seafood Festival platter. Photo courtesy of Above Sea Level – The Gate Facebook page.

One good thing about Above Sea Level is their Barkada Treat which comes four (4) Giant Butterfly Squid, four (4) Java rice, and one (1) Seafood Festival platter. You can enjoy this for only 1000 Pesos ($18.52), not a bad price, especially if you’re dining with your family and friends. I highly suggest that you get this instead of single orders to save a lot of money.

Seafood Festival platter, good for sharing (2-3 persons) for only 380 Pesos ($7.04). Tip: Get one (1) serving of this for FREE when you order a Barkada Treat!

I kid you not, the Seafood Festival platter really looks and tastes nice! As what the owners have shared to us, the Seafood Festival platter is not only cooked in butter but with crab fat/meat (alige, in Tagalog), too. The toppings include kernel corn, crab, mussel (tahong, in Tagalog), and shrimp (hipon, in Tagalog). So to those people who have high cholesterol count, who are prone to high blood pressure, and who are on a diet, this dish isn’t necessarily what you’d like.

Above Sea Level – The Gate also offers other à la carte options such as Squid Overload (all-squid platter) which is good for sharing (2-3 persons) only for 250 Pesos ($4.63), Firecracker Shrimp for one (1) person and it comes with FREE Java rice for 180 Pesos ($3.33), Bacon Wrapped Shrimp for one (1) person + FREE Java rice for 240 Pesos ($4.44), and Squid Fest which is good for sharing (3-4 persons), comes with three (3) Giant Butterfly Squid, and with FREE three (3) Java rice for 490 Pesos ($9.07).

For drinks, they serve HUGE towers of either a Blue Lemonade or a Red Iced Tea. You can choose whether to get a 16 oz. individual order for 50 Pesos ($0.93), a Jar (1 liter) for 100 Pesos ($1.85), good for sharing (2-3 persons); or a Juice Tower (2 liters) for 180 Pesos ($3.33), good for sharing (4-6 persons).

Fact: in our family, it’s only me who eats squid tentacles. So when we dine in here, I’ll be the one to finish everything off.

More than its affordable price, availability (as of writing, Above Sea Level has more than 50 branches across Luzon) and its sumptuous food, our family likes an excellent customer dining experience. To the owner of Above Sea Level – The Gate, Ms. Monina Lindo, thank you for always welcoming us with big smiles and open arms. These days, it’s so rare to find such a hands-on owner who makes sure all of our requests are attended immediately. I look forward to more visits soon! X

Above Sea Level – The Gate is located at The Gate (beside Walter Mart), Baltao Compound Ortigas Avenue Extension, Bgry. San Isidro Taytay, Rizal and they’re open from Monday to Sunday between 12pm and 10:30pm. I highly suggest you visit them on weekends around 7pm-8pm and on weekdays to avoid any queue. For any advance orders, reservations, you may directly coordinate with them on their Facebook page.

A Dining Experience Like No Other at KOS Greek Ouzeri

Complimentary flat bread and fresh baguette

This was our first time to dine in a Greek restaurant, and boy, KOS Greek Ouzeri at UP Town Center did not disappoint at all. We’ve known Greek food through dad when he makes Galaktoboureko, a Greek dessert of semolina custard in filo, and being the adventurous family that we are, we didn’t hesitate to try it out. One thing we’re sure about Greek food, though – there’s no rice! They served a complimentary basket full of flat pita bread and oh-so-good slices of baguette.

Tiganita – deep-fried zucchini and eggplant with yogurt dip. 195 Pesos ($3.65)

We started our food adventure with Tiganita – deep-fried zucchini and eggplant with yogurt dip. It pretty much resembles a Japanese tempura but the yogurt dip was what makes it different. The dip wasn’t strong and it helped us clear our taste buds before being served with the main course. I bet this was mum’s favourite because she’s a big fan of vegetables.

Gyros – roasted meats wrapped in pita bread with garlic sauce, tomatoes, and onions. 250 Pesos ($4.68)

Mum’s main course was Gyros – roasted meats wrapped in pita bread with garlic sauce, tomatoes, and onions, served with chips, and opted for the lamb. Due to the number of Tiganita serving she had before her food, she was not able to finish the serving. Luckily, being the one who always finishes off leftover food, I was able to taste it and it was a sumptuous. The slightly toasted pita bread goes very well with how those finely sliced, well-done, and juicy lamb chops. The garlic sauce was such a delight because it gives a good kick to the already-good dish.

Whilst my brother opted for Arnisia – grilled lamb chops with roasted vegetables and mint yogurt sauce, I decided to go for a Kotopoulo – herb roasted chicken served with potatoes and roasted red bell pepper sauce. Of course, being the brothers we are, we often share and trade insight about each other’s food.

Arnisia – grilled lamb chops with roasted vegetables and mint yogurt sauce. 450 Pesos ($8.43)

The Arnisia – a well-done lamb chop – can give any steak run for its money. I thought this was the highlight of our dining at KOS Greek Ouzeri. It wasn’t my first time to taste lamb meat, but with how they prepared the meat, it made me feel like it’s my first time to taste one that day. The meat was so tender that each time the fork would piece its way to the meat, the meat juice would just ooze out of it. It was such a delight to see that moment happen.

Kotopoulo – herb roasted chicken served with potatoes and roasted red bell pepper sauce. 315 Pesos ($5.90)

The serving of Kotopoulo was already good for sharing. For someone who does not eat a lot, I would recommend that you share this with someone. It wasn’t just the thigh-leg part of a chicken but it’s actually bigger than what’s expected. I’m a big fan of herb-roasted chicken meat. I couldn’t recognize the herbs that used for the dish but would definitely guarantee that the taste does not end from the chicken skin. Usually that’s the problem with grilled chicken, where only the chicken skin and some portion of the white meat would have the taste (earth calling, Mang Inasal and Bacolod Chicken Inasal!) but with Kotopoulo, the taste actually goes as deep as the chicken bones! The bell pepper sauce provides a tangy flavour that goes very well with the grilled potatoes. Just don’t forget to dash the chicken meat with a slice of lemon on the side and your dining experience will be in the heavens!

KOS Greek Ouzeri at UP Town Center

As much as we wanted order some Galaktoboureko, we simply couldn’t because we were all full and fixed. More than being served good food, it’s the overall dining experience that made our visit a good one. I recommend that you visit KOS Greek Ouzeri on a weekday to avoid long lines and any hassle, and you may want to call them before going for reservations, especially on weekends. The service wasn’t as bad as what the online reviews say. I thought it was rather understandable that the food may take a while to prepare. Without a doubt, for a reasonable price you are going to experience a dining like no other at KOS Greek Ouzeri.