There are a lot of foodies down south, and with the recent boom of new restaurants in Molito and The CommerCEnter in Alabang, as well as a new wave of excellent bistros and coffee shops in BF Parañaque, things are definitely looking up!
One of the newest Japanese restaurants in the south is Kessaku, that serves up traditional Japanese favorites with a delectably delightful twist. Owned by the ridiculously talented Chef Rob Goco and his partners, they offer the Alabang crowd an interesting take on Japanese cuisine.
The new CommerCEnter in Alabang is an up-and-coming hang out for people in the south – they have The Black Pig, an awesome watering hole that serves really good food, an “express” version of Rockwell’s popular Kulinarya Kitchen, and now, the sister of it’s popular Japanese spot in Greenhills, Yumi.
While perusing the menu, one may want to try their temaki, otherwise known as sushi on steroids. For something simple, choose from the likes of cones of fresh tuna Tekka Temaki (Php 110), brightly colored California Temaki (Php 120), and a creamy salmon Sake Temaki (Php 110). I favor the more complex temakis more, like the flavorful eel Unagi Temaki (Php 187), rich sea urchin Uni Temaki (Php 110), and something with a little heat, the Spicy Tuna Temaki (Php 130).
One of the highlights at Kessaku is definitely the Foie Gras Roll (Php 395) – creamy little pieces of foie is served atop a little rice roll and bound together with a strip of nori. No need to dip this into any sauce, just take it from the plate and take a big bite, enjoying the feel of the rich, creamy duck liver covering your palate. This is pretty badass, if I do say so myself.
If East-meets-West makes you zen out, you mustn’t skimp on the Foie Gras Roll (Php 395). This can be quite cloying if you eat too much of it too fast, so pace yourself with this and enjoy the delicate flavor with the other meatier dishes.
A prettily plated dish with softshell crab being the main ingredient is the Spider Roll (Php 285). I found the overall presentation pretty interesting, although I mostly enjoyed the end bits with the crunchy crab legs than the middle rolls as you get more flavor and texture there.
The Ebi Tempura Crunchy Roll (Php 225) is a must order every time I go back to Kessaku. Always one for texture, the contrast between the soft sushi rice, nutty black sesame seeds, prawn tempura, and crunchy tempura batter makes for a really nice maki combination.
Another favorite of mine that afternoon was Kessaku’s special makimoni they call Symphony (Php 380). Starting off with a base made of fried sushi rice, this is then piled on with layers of spicy salmon, spicy tuna, shredded kani, and two kinds of fish roe. It was like a grenade of Japanese spiciness that lingered on the tongue and made you want to go in for “just another bite”, something of an upgraded spicy tuna salad. If you plan on ordering just one dish at this place, order this!
Celebrate a birthday, christening, or christening at Kessaku with their Party Tray (Php 988) laden with five types of maki. This one had Beef Teriyaki Rolls, Philadelphia Rolls, Smoked Salmon Rolls, Dragon Rolls, andParadise Rolls.
I’m usually not one for tempura, but the Ushi Ebi Tempura (Php 650/ 8 pieces) was crispy and crunchy with surprisingly less oil than I assumed it would be dripping with. Here’s a top tip when eating tempura: instead of dipping it in the tentsuyu, squeeze lemon juice on it instead and sprinkle a little bit of salt on top. Bam!
Wanting to try the same lemon-salt tip on something else, I attacked the Softshell Crab Tempura(Php 395/ 8 pieces) with gusto, my seasoning weapons at hand. This was definitely a lot more enjoyable with the fresh citrusy flavors and a hint of salt than soaking it in the usual tempura dipping sauce.
For those looking for a meatier dish that also had the equal amount of vegetables, the Mixed Kamameshi (Php 450) is a good option, served with beans, sprouts, and julienned vegetables as well as chunks of beef, pork, shrimp, and mushrooms with all the short-grain Japanese rice hiding underneath. Give it a good toss up before tucking into its mishmashed form.
If you work nearby and are looking to get a quick lunch in before heading back to work, Kessaku’s selection of Donburi bowls will not disappoint. The Tendon (Php 265) is a mix of ebi and vegetable tempura served with a tentsuyu dipping sauce. You can hear all the crunching happening from across the room.
I particularly like the thin pieves of beef sirloin in Kessaku’s Gyudon (Php 240) donburi, topped with an egg yolk to make for a creamier meal when everything is mixed together, much like how they serve meat at sukiyaki restaurants.
The glistening glaze and slight char on the Tori Teriyakidon (Php 215)is hard to resist as well. The sweet sauce that covers the lean grilled chicken breast, allowing for just enough of an indulgence for those watching their waistlines.
Winding down from your meal, a classic favorite at the Japanese establishment is the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée (Php 120). Simple and straightforward, it is nothing out of the ordinary, but makes for a nice reprieve from all the tempura and sticky short-grain Japanese rice.
Something that I thought was very Rob Goco in character – bringing out the best of both cuisines – was the Crispy Banana & Jackfruit (Php 155). Wrapped in a thin wrapper and fried then served with vanilla ice cream, this is quite the Filipino twist on the usual tempura’d banana split.
Lastly, for those like myself who equate Japanese dessert with matcha, Kessaku has a devilishy good Green Tea Tempura Ice Cream (Php 165) made with matcha green tea, coated in tempura batter and drizzled with chocolate syrup.
Kessaku is located at the ground floor of the CommerCEnter, Filinvest City, Muntinlupa and is open daily from 10am – 10pm. For inquiries or reservations, please call +63 2 403 3445.