Dining Out

Tokyo Cafe: Western Japanese

One Sunday evening early last month, we passed by the Mall of Asia for an early dinner and a short trip to the supermarket before dropping off Sam at her dorm. Sam and I had been scouring the list of restaurants at the Mall of Asia all afternoon trying to decide where we should eat and where we would have dessert. We had already decided we were going Japanese and we also agreed that we were not going back — ever — to that god-awful place called Japanese Teriyaki Grill where all the dishes tasted the same and where the service was worse than lousy. Our plan was to have crepes at Tokyo Cafe but when we entered the restaurant, we ended up having a complete meal there.

This isn’t traditional food at Tokyo Cafe. Not in the same league as Furusato at all. Not similar to the food at Sumo Sam either. But that doesn’t mean the food was bad. In fact, the food at Tokyo Cafe was surprisingly good.

It’s what Sam describes as Western Japanese. Where she picked up the term, I have no idea. But it did remind me of the phrase “spaghetti western” used to describe Italian cowboy movies in the 1970s. But Sam’s use of the term Western Japanese was nothing derogatory. Rather, it was an apt description as the menu at Tokyo Cafe was exactly that — dishes made with a combination of Japanese and Western ingredients, cooked with methods that can best be described as non-traditional Japanese. The snoots will probably call it bastardized Japanese but that’s a term I use for really worse than mediocre food like the kind they serve at Tokyo Tokyo. The food at Tokyo Cafe and Tokyo Tokyo may both be non-authentic Japanese but the quality just isn’t the same.

Now, what did we have at Tokyo Cafe?

casaveneracion.com tokyo-cafe-chicken-teriyaki-salad

We weren’t impressed when the chicken teriyaki salad was served. But after pouring the dressing over the chicken, crisp spring roll wrappers and vegetables, we changed our verdict. It’s all in the dressing, baby.

casaveneracion.com tokyo-cafe-chicken-cheese-rolls

Alex ordered these chicken and cheese rolls. Newly fried — definitely not reheated. Very tasty, very inventive. But a bit too greasy for my taste. And it might have been better if the cook had used fine bread crumbs instead of the coarser commercial bread crumbs used for making tempura.

casaveneracion.com tokyo-cafe-kani-crab-sandwich

Sam’s kani crab sandwich was the real winner. Imagine kani salad with some mustard and mashed hard boiled eggs mixed in. At least that was how the filling tasted. Delicious.

casaveneracion.com tokyo-cafe-chicken-white-sauce

This chicken with white sauce, well, I can’t remember anymore what the dish is called. Speedy and I shared this, as well as the salad. Wonderful chicken dish. Marinated chicken thigh fillets grilled to perfect tenderness, smothered with a white sauce that tasted faintly of tartar sauce.

The bill was a bit over P700.00. A salad and Four dishes, including the salad, plus the girls’ drinks. Alex’s rolls and Sam’s salad cost less than P200.00 each if I remember correctly. Had we ordered the heavier main dishes rather than snack items, the bill would have been much higher. But it was around 5.00 p.m. when we ate there and we hadn’t yet built up the appetite for a full dinner.

Is Tokyo Cafe a place worth going back to? Yes, it is. Next time, it’ll be the crepes and the pasta. Pasta? In a Japanese cafe? I told you. Sam calls it Western Japanese.

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