Hotel Okura Manila’s signature restaurant serves contemporary Japanese cuisine with Filipino tenderness and international flair

Simplicity and complexity find a modus vivendi in Japanese cuisine, revered in the culinary world for its attention to detail, steadfast focus on its craft and honour to its produce. Japanese chefs and food are considered without equal, particularly in the level of their precision in culinary arts.

Founded in Tokyo, Yamazato has branched out to Amsterdam (where it became the first Japanese restaurant in Europe to earn a Michelin star), Shanghai, Macau, Bangkok, Taipei and Manila. In every place in the world, it makes sure to replicate this essence of true Japanese cuisine.

The home of Yamazato in Manila, Hotel Okura, remains steadfast in maintaining the restaurant’s reputation as a culinary destination, a must-try in the metro. The essence of Yamazato, an epicurean philosophy dedicated to quality produce and exquisite execution, makes this goal attainable. Jan William Marshall, general manager of Hotel Okura Manila, proudly says that this philosophy resonates in all Yamazato restaurants across the globe.

“Yamazato serves only the freshest ingredients that ensure supreme taste and unmatched quality by applying the traditional Japanese cooking methods and techniques while meticulously tailoring the final touch to the local palates,” says Marshall. He explains that all executive chefs come from Japan, chosen among experts who have been trained on the brand in the original Tokyo flagship restaurant.

“We also send team members to other branches for training,” he adds. “Manila’s team has been trained by the service leaders from Amsterdam, Taipei, Macau, Fukuoka and Tokyo. Our kitchen team has been trained in Okura Tokyo. And our chef was sent by Okura Taipei.” The bar has been set high and the Hotel Okura group ensures that there are little to no difference to an authentic Yamazato experience.

In its Manila home, however, thoughtful nuances have been added to Yamazato’s core values to appeal to Filipinos and spotlight the bountiful local culture. While remaining true to Japanese tradition, Marshall says the culinary team makes sure to be “attentive to local preferences and the charm of the fresh local products is the source of our inspiration”. He adds that “the restaurant [also] embodies the essence of omotenashi [which means] the service from the heart”.

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Yamazato likewise recognises the celebrated Filipino hospitality and uses this to bring the dining experience forward. Marshall describes, “In Manila, we are delighted to deliver the refined Japanese dining experience, [but] enhanced by Filipino warmth.”

Freshness is key to serving the best meals. This is the reason why Yamazato’s chefs focus on seasonal produce to showcase what is freshest at the moment. Marshall underscores the utmost importance to “make the most of [ingredients'] natural flavours [because they are] blessings from nature”.

Honouring produce has always been central to Japanese gastronomy, playing a major role in achieving
the sophistication of their cuisine. “We never compromise on the food quality,” Marshall says, adding that before the pandemic, most of the products were imported from Japan. “Under the current situation”, he continues, “we combine the imported ingredients with carefully selected local products.” Such ethos is suggested by the restaurant’s name that translates to “mountain village” and pays homage to a classical Japanese landscape that hints of a natural land’s rich harvest.

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Steering the kitchen is a passionate gastronome who has had 33 years of experience in the industry: Chef Rinnosuke Mouri. “Traditional Japanese cuisine is a harmonious blending of ingredients for a nutritious and beautifully presented meal. Washoku reflects the respect for nature's cycle, by preparing seasonal produce in a way that maximises the natural flavour of the ingredients as much as possible,” he remarks.

A restrained and refined perspective can be seen in all of Yamazato’s dishes, with each plate being a work of art. “Japanese cuisine is beautiful to the eyes. Most of the items on the plate are edible. Every item is carefully selected,” the chef explains, confirming that visual elements contribute greatly to the overall sensorial journey each diner embarks on at Yamazato.

And yet, each component is not merely for decoration but plays a role on the plate so that both eyes and palate can feast in harmony.

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