Dining Out

Lunch at Sumo Sam

The most memorable Japanese meal I have ever had in a local restaurant was in Furusato along Roxas Boulevard. My father brought my brother and I there for lunch a long time ago and, to this day, I still remember the incomparable sukiyaki. There would be other Furusato meals, and I would become a patron of Sugi, Kimpura, Kamameshi and even the old Suzukin Restaurant along Amorsolo Street in Makati, but nothing would be as nostalgic as my first Furusato meal.

It shouldn’t be surprising that my love for Japanese food would be imbibed by my daughters especially since their father is just as crazy about Japanese cuisine as I am. From the time the girls were toddlers, Zensho along Tomas Morato has been a special place for us. Curiously enough, during our first two or three visits to the restaurant, we were ushered to the same table so that, subsequently, the girls would automatically go to that table because it was “our table.”

This love affair with Japanese food would later induce my older daughter, Sam, to learn how to prepare sushi and maki at home. My younger daughter, Alex, on the other hand, would become the miso soup expert. And it was my husband, despite his never-ending obsession with red meat, who would introduce us to the wonders of home-made kani salad.

Yet, the ability to prepare Japanese food at home has not prevented us from trying more and newer Japanese restaurants in Metro Manila. Some turned out to be horribly disastrous experiences and a total waste of money but there have been gems too. We became Teriyaki Boy regulars because the food is good and the prices are reasonable. But our most recent favorite is Sumo Sam.

casaveneracion.com sumosam

It was my daughter Sam who tried Sumo Sam first (no, despite my daughter’s name, no one in my family is in any way associated or affiliated with Sumo Sam). She has gone there with friends and, for months, she had been insisting that we eat there as a family. She would steer us there every time we were at the Shangri-La Plaza to see a movie but we could never get a table. The place was always packed, mostly with young people, and I became wary as I am naturally wary of “fashionable” restaurants where the hip crowd flocks because it is considered cool to be seen there and to be able to tell friends that they have dined there. Sumo Sam hasn’t been mentioned in months until last Sunday Saturday.

After her UPCAT, Alex announced she wanted a Japanese lunch. Since we were going to Shangri-La Plaza to see a movie and to hunt for a decent teapot, Sam suggested Sumo Sam and Alex picked up her suggestion. Fortunately this time, we were able to get a table immediately. I ordered miso ramen and fried gyoza, my husband chose katsudon and the girls ordered a variety of dishes, some with very unfamiliar names. The attendant said our orders would take 15 to 20 minutes and we prepared ourselves for the rather long wait by taking photos of each other and of just about every item on the table. We were pleasantly surprised when the food started to arrive much sooner.

The miso ramen with its wakame, bok choy, generous pork slices and halved hard-boiled egg was delicious. The gyoza was perfectly fried and the filling was wonderfully but subtly seasoned. My husband finished his katsudon, not a morsel of rice was left, so that should be sufficient testimonial as to how satisfactory it was.

Sam”?s Japanese carbonara (a huge serving so she split it with Alex) was fantastic. Instead of Italian pasta, it was ramen prepared a la carbonara with bacon and mushrooms, served with shrimp tempura and garnished with shredded dried seaweed. The Arigato rolls came rolled in black sesame seeds and topped with succulent paper-thin slices of beef. The Rainbow Rolls, so-called because the tops were of different colors and seafood varieties, were topped with generous slices of salmon, tuna, squid and Japanese omelet. There was another item that the girls ordered but couldn’t remember what it was called. And despite the feeling that we ordered too much, we finished everything. The meal was that good.

Expensive? A bit. The bill was a little over P2,000 so that would make an average of P500 per person. Still much lower than what one would ordinarily spend in a hotel restaurant but slightly higher than prices in joints like Teriyaki Boy. But considering the quality of the food, I’d say everything was worth its price.

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