Ikomai & Tochi: A Neighborhood Izakaya, Refined
June 6, 2018
Ikomai & Tochi, Salcedo’s hip new eatery, marches to the beat of its own drum as it serves up great food and good vibes to the community at large.
At a time when there seems to be a frenzy of restaurant openings every month, the team behind Ikomai & Tochi has taken a more relaxed position amid all the chaos and focused their attention on fully developing their restaurant concept of being a friendly, welcoming space where people can meet and exchange ideas while enjoying great food and drinks. This is, after all, the result of the informed research done by partners Chef James Antolin, Taro Hori and Chef Hideki Saeki, having set up shop at the Salcedo Weekend Market to test their dishes, interact with customers and get feedback. After a great reception from the community, the search began for a place they would call home.
Not the Usual Japanese Eatery
One of the first things guests notice upon walking into Ikomai & Tochi is the absence of the ubiquitous, “Irrashaimase!”. Instead, one is greeted with a tempting display of Chef James’ cakes, pastries and cookies. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a whiff of something delicious wafting from the on-site bakery, where all Tochi cakes and pastries are made fresh, every day. Further inside, a long table dominates the scene. Having encountered a similar one in a dining establishment abroad, Chef James intimates that he loves the communal feel of counter seating. “Here, at Ikomai, I think it really makes the place feel cozier, because it brings the chefs and the diners closer together. Cold food preparations are assembled and plated at the counter, while hot dishes are cooked behind framed glass panels. “We want to be able to share the action in the kitchen with our guests, without them leaving the restaurant smelling of food.” A lush urban wall garden just outside the main dining area entices guests to enjoy an al fresco experience. Manager Taro elaborates on plans to showcase community artists’ works and already, several functions have been held here as word has spread about the welcoming vibe and good food that Ikomai & Tochi offers.
Having lived in Melbourne for more than five years before coming to Manila, Taro says he experience a true melting pot of cultures that influenced his way of viewing restaurants. “For us, it is more important that our individual personalities are reflected in the restaurant. James, Hideki and I are part of the design of the space, and the character of each chef comes out in the way they prepare and present the food. We don’t actually envision ourselves as a traditional Japanese restaurant. We are simply Ikomai & Tochi.
Innovative Culinary Creations
Chef James, a familiar figure in Philippine culinary circles, is known as a master baker, chef and educator. He embraces innovation, constantly pushing the envelope and expressing his creativity and talent in baked creations. Hailing from Nagoya, Japan, Chef Hideki was raised around food, as his parents operated a restaurant for many years. It was only upon arriving in Manila when he began flexing his chef skills. Now, he lends his own style of cooking, interpreting dishes that can be described as modern with a touch of nostalgia, in homage to his late father.
The menu is straightforward and there is something for everyone. To start, the Tuna Wafu Salad has just the right amount of unami to awaken the taste buds. Follow that with a house specialty Tebasaki (Nagoya-style chicken wings), or make the difficult choice between the Tuna or Salmon Poke—each one a complimentary marriage of raw fish, Japanese mayo and silky avocado slices topped with crisp wanton shreds. There is also a selection of lunch sets to excite palates and satisfy appetites. Feast on the Tochidon, a generous helping of succulent raw tuna and salmon cubes with crunchy cucumber over rice, topped with salmon roe. Worth trying is the Kakunidon—Japanese pork slices braised until tender then laid on a bed of rice.
The dinner menu is distinct with mains like Duck Aburi, broiled juicy duck beast slices served with flavored salt, yuzu paste and a ponzu dipping sauce; and the Ikomai Taco, a choice of tuna, salmon or shrimp ensconced in a crispy battered nori “taco” with sushi rice, siracha mayo, and tempura bits. Those with a hankering for Izakaya, or street food, will find Ikomai’s variety of Yakimono and Kashikatsu far from disappointing. For the uninitiated, the Moriawase or Assorted Kishikasu features choice of morsels of seafood, vegetables and meat on sticks, battered and fried, to be paired with a Highball or ice-cold Sapporo beer. Sweet endings are a must with such luscious Tochi cakes and pastries as the Lemon Citron, lemon mousse with gelee of lemon on an almond streusel, and the Black Sesame Matcha cake, matcha sponge cake, black sesame mousse and azuki. Let’s not forget the wonderfully sinful Espresso, Matcha, Double Chocolate Chip and other cookie variants that are to die for.
Ikomai & Tochi is located at ACI Group Building, 147 HV Dela Costa Street Salcedo Village, Makati City