Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Midas Hotel & Casino: Yanagi Cosmopolitan Japanese Cuisine

I have a love-hate relationship with hotel buffets. I love that they have such a wide array of food to offer. I hate that my tummy can only hold a finite amount. I also hate that I always seem to panic, simply being overwhelmed with so much good food that I don't know where to head for every time I stand up for a new plate. Which is why I like small buffets that concentrate on quality versus quantity, like that of Spectrum. But thanks to The Mommist, I have now found a new favorite small buffet place that serves up excellent Japanese cuisine!

Yanagi, located at the Mezzanine at the Midas Hotel, is a Japanese buffet that doesn't feel like a Japanese buffet. Priced at a very affordable P1,088 per person, it doesn't cost like a Japanese buffet either. I thought this demanded a bit more investigation, and so a few folks from my foodie fambam and I headed over there one sunny Saturday afternoon to enjoy a spot of lunch.

The restaurant's enchanting name was hailed from a mystical Japanese willow tree that legendarily boosts the essence of love and dreams. This is pretty apt in my case, since I love and dream about good food! Coinciding with its enthralling name, Yanagi put forward a bracing catch on authentic Japanese fine dining, inviting guests to its homely-pondered setting.

There is no rush going about the buffet stations, and it feels like you simply must take your time and savor each of the individual flavors of all the dishes that have been painstakingly prepared for your enjoyment - it would be blasphemy to the chef, otherwise.

I made a beeline for the raw fish station first, in awe of all the fresh slices of sashimi and the beautiful colors of the sushi and makis on display. Let's just say, I had more than my fair share of fresh salmon that afternoon.

Look at all the pretty slices of dark pink and deep apricot! There were also slices of fresh squid, but those were one of the first to disappear from the table. I enjoy my sashimi with a lot of wasabi, and I probably came back three more times just for the sake, and a few more times again after I had dessert. Really, you've already gotten your money's worth at this station alone.

They had all kinds of makimono on display, too. You have your simple tamago rolls to the more complicated fare. I was looking for something on the spicier side, like a dynamite roll, but they didn't have that so I ended up skipping this altogether and sticking to the sashimi side of the table.

There's a small station for salads for those who want to cleanse their palate before diving into the meatier dishes. I like the simply dressed kani salad, with a sweet ponzu glaze and lightly salted bonito flakes for added texture and flavor. I kept going back for the potato salad as well and used that in lieu of rice.

The prettiest dish at Yanagi is probably the a la carte Aburi Sushi. There are five kinds of sushi rolls on the plate that is actually quite arousing when presented, with slices of hamachi, eel, salmon, tuna, and Grouper torched on the outside yet raw and firm on the inside, topped with tobiko and fresh fruit. Jericho couldn't get enough of the eel.

The Tempura Maki is another a la carte dish that looks like one delicious hot mess. Thick rolls with a prawn tempura center is topped with colorful tobiko, and drizzled with Yanagi's signature sauces, with a side of pickled ginger to cleanse the palate with each bite.

The Kaki Papaya Yaki was one super sexy a la carte item. Imagine a fresh papaya slice covered with a torched sweet, creamy miso sauce, hiding fresh Japanese Oysters underneath. If this doesn't just turn you on, I don't know what will.

The teppan station is surrounded by bowls of deep-fried Japanese deliciousness, like croquettes and almond-covered salmon, as well as two kinds of Japanese rice. As tummy-filling as these options were, I opted to skip most of it and concentrate on the star of the station - the teppan!

You can choose from a variety of seafood and steak, with a very serious-looking chef guarding the station, making sure you get your requested meat done exactly the way you want. Everything was so fresh and so clean (clean). This was how it looked right before my friends and I pounced on everything. It was a long and bloody battle - the prawns were the first to go.

I loved how efficient the chef was - and how he managed to memorize everyone's orders and where they were sitting! Check out those beautiful red slabs of steak. As you can see, nobody paid attention to the chicken. Poor chicken.

The prawns ans squid were juicy with a nice bite, and not too chewy. This came with a light soy sauce for dipping, but it wasn't necessary, really. Same goes for the delicate cubes of medium rare steak. I wish they'd change the thick gravy-like sauce to a lighter steak sauce, as this just doesn't do the meat justice and coats the flavor rather than highlight it.

Yanagi also has Ebi Tempura on the a la carte menu for those craving for their usual Japanese cuisine dishes. Fresh prawns are dunked in a cold batter and tossed into a deep fryer, coming up puffy and golden, crunchy on the outside while keeping juicy and meaty on the inside. This was good, but not as awesome as what you'd get at the teppan station!

There's a soba station with other Japanese pika-pika as well, but I didn't really it much mind - I was distracted by the other more colorful stations. But just so you know, they have a station for soba and other stuff.

Just looking at the sukiyaki station was such a turn on! Perfect slices of carpaccio-thin beef are arranged neatly on a plate, with cut up vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles, and other sukiyaki essentials. Of course, there's a chef that puts everything together for you as well!

I enjoyed my beef-laden sukiyaki bowl a lot! Ask your server for a bowl of fluffy, beaten eggs to dip the tender beef strips in for the win! I could eat this all day if it wasn't for all that darn sashimi. Foodie problems.

They have a simple assortment of desserts to end the meal, with an assortment of fresh fruits, mango panna cotta, chocolate mousse, and a strawberry trifle. I liked that dessert wasn't too sweet, and was a nice, light end to our long, relaxing lunch.

Not on display, but a part of the buffet is Yanagi's ice cream that they make in house. I loved the Wasabi Ice Cream, that has just the right amount of heat that settles on your tongue, promptl disappearing after a few seconds, making you go right in for another scoop. Jericho like the nuttiness of the Black Sesame Ice Cream more.

I had such a wonderful time at Yanagi and have the Executive Chef Kimito Katagiri to thank for the ingenious, greatly-savored flavors of all Japanese dishes I tried that afternoon, gathering his experience from the restaurant kitchens of Japan and the Philippines' 5-star hotels for the past 30 years.

When mucking around Pasay, treat the fambam to lunch at the super nice Yanagi! I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much of Midas Hotel & Casino, located at the former Hyatt Regency Hotel, but everything in it - including this lovely Japanese buffet place - just left me dumbfounded. Misono days are back! What a brilliant idea!

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+63 2 902 0100
Mezzanine, Midas Hotel,
2702 Roxas Blvd., San Rafael, Pasay
Open Daily: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 6pm - 10pm