The Little Tokyo Experience

The Little Tokyo Experience


In between the busy streets of Makati, there lies a secret that only few talk about. The orange arch acting as a gateway between this town to something quite different. You can say it’s just like Narnia, the enchanting feeling of being somewhere else totally different than what you thought it would be.

The dimly lit hanging lanterns guard the entrance to this secret place. They plants acting as the guard as you walk through the narrow brick road.

You’re here, you’re home. Beneath the wooden fixtures and strange writing on the wall, you’re not quite sure how to act. The scent of the burning coal, the sizzle of the grill, the sound of clay glasses clicking, the strange language, and the different clothing. Yes, you’re in Tokyo. The fare ranges from your typical Sashimi and sushi to Yakinuku and Takoyaki. Each of the different restaurants has their own specialty dishes and I will share them all with you.Note that majority of the restaurants don’t have an English menu so you will need to ask the servers who are more than eager to help you with your choice.

Little Tokyo Map
Little Tokyo Map

In the center of Little Tokyo, there is a courtyard with a small garden surrounded by Christmas lights and lanterns. Restaurants around this area offer Al Fresco dining. This is the best place to sit down if you plan to cross order between different restaurants. You will also notice that most of the servers are wearing traditional Japanese outfits.

1. Hana

Hana is the first restaurant inside the compound when you come in from the Chino Roces side entrance. They have a 15 seater space with an al fresco dining area outside where they cook their famous Takoyaki. If you want to see how they make it try it Alfresco.  Takoyaki is a Japanese snack made of batter with select vegetables and octopus bits cooked in a unique mold that gives its shape. It is then topped with takoyaki sauce. Japanese mayonnaise, seaweeds, and bonito flakes. I like mine with a dash of chili powder for an extra kick.  Be ready to wait 15-20 min, since they make this fresh.

Remember that they’re extremely hot when you bite into it but it’s all part of the Takoyaki experience. It’s hot, chewy, tasty and all the different flavors blend together to produce this delightful snack.
They also have an extensive menu of ramen, sushi and maki’s but I find that this is really their best dish. For dessert try their kakigori, which is the Japanese version of halo-halo.

2. Kagura

Kagura Japanese restaurant prides itself on having the best Okonomiyaki available in Manila. If you want to see how they make their famous Okonomiyaki, get a seat at the bar or if not take a seat in their elevated tables on tatami mats.

Their Negiyaki Okonomiyaki is filled with onion, pork, and eggs. then it’s topped with the sweet okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, and nori. You can ask them to add bonito flakes for an extra bite. The whole dish is very well balanced and tasty. If you want something heavier you can ask them to add yakisoba noodles to your Okonomiyaki for only 30 PHP.

They have 2 kinds of Okonomiyaki one with the batter, cabbage, eggs, the other one with the yakisoba noodles. You can customize your Okonomiyaki by adding different variants such as pork,  squid, octopus, or bacon. Then they will drizzle it with their signature Okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese Mayo, and Nori flakes. The taste and ingredients of your Okonomiyaki are up to you, you will just need an add a bit of extra.

3. Dojo Dairy

After having your meal, you should visit Dojo Dairy. This ice cream shop specializes in Japan inspired flavors such as wasabi, green tea, miso sake, and black sesame, and even blue cheese. They use Hokkaido milk in all of their creations, you can really taste the richness of the milk in each bite.

Their latest fair is their Hokkaido milk soft serve ice cream topped with cereals, this is very similar to the cereal milk in Momofuku’s milk bar in NYC.

4. Urameshi-ya

You see the smoke coming from the end of the hall and were a lot of patrons are either standing up or seated all the way to the bathroom. That’s Urameshi-ya. This authentic Yakiniku restaurant has had a big following due to their unbeatable EAT ALL YOU CAN fare on Mondays-Fridays. They serve unlimited Wagyu cubes, shrimps, king crabs, scallops, sausages, and other items to grill.

One thing that makes Urameshi-ya stand out is that they use charcoal imported from Japan. You can taste the smoky flavor of the meat, that is complemented by their yakiniku sauce. Remember to make your own sauce, add some crushed garlic and chili paste and mix. If you are here on another day you should try the Wagyu Tokutoku Set which comes with prime cuts of wagyu beef, pork, and tongue. You will want to order a cup of rice for this.
Try ordering warm sake to go with your meal. It completes the whole experience.

5.  Oishinbo

Oishinbo is a quaint little corner restaurant has a wide selection of Japanese fare, from Sashimi, Tempura, and yakitori. Don’t be surprised if several restaurants sometimes serve the same things. For the most part, I’ve found all the restaurants that served sashimi and sushi have always been really fresh.
Their salmon and tuna sashimi are served in a bed of ice and shredded horseradish, with a side of lemon and wasabi. The salmon was very fresh and would melt in my mouth.
Remember to order their Ebi Tempura, they serve big tiger prawns covered in a light batter then deep fried. When you bite into their tempura it’s light and crunchy, this is really the star of Oishinbo.

6. Riozen

Riozen is another small restaurant in the Little Tokyo compound, the best thing to try is their Hakata Ramen, sushi, and sashimi.

This is one of the establishments that is always frequented by local Japanese businessmen.

7. Nodasho

Right beside Riozen, is Nodasho. You will notice that it is one of the biggest restaurants in the compound and it’s always full. Nodasho has a wide variety of dishes from ramen, yakinuku, yakitori, sashimis, and sushi.

The best dish, however, is the US Beef Sukiyaki, it’s served with 3 kinds of mushrooms, tofu, vegetables and a plate of beef slices. Their broth is very fragrant and tasty. Definitely, Nodasho is one of the most popular restaurants here and should not be overlooked.

8. Sekitori

One of the few places that make handmade soba/udon noodles in Manila, they are also the only restaurant in Little Tokyo where their most of their servers are fluent in Nihongo. Being in a more prominent location compared to others in the compound, Sekitori has a lot of diners. The best things to try here is their Curry, Hotpot, and Soba. For those anime fans, they also have an extensive manga collection inside their restaurant, feel free to browse.

9. Chotto Stop

Chotto Stop is a Japanese grocery where you can buy your Japanese snacks, ramen, furikake, and ice cream. They also have a small restaurant at the back where you can get great Bento boxes for a good deal.

10. Izakaya Kikufuji

Where do I start? Like other Little Tokyo restaurants, Kikufuji has a very large menu but best to try their Gyukushi, Gindara, and their Sashimi and Sushi. Locals, foreigners and Japanese expats frequent this place that it can get very crowded.

The first thing you should know is that it’s better to go to Kikufuji during lunch since they have lunch meals and no service charge. At night, they give away beer stubs after your meal. It’s a nice treat after a long day of work.

11. Shinjuku Ramen House

As its name suggests, Shinjuku Ramen House is known for their ramen. Although unconventional, try their big bowl of ramen that’s good for 2-3 people. Their noodles and broth really stand out and is perhaps the best in Little Tokyo.

12. Bun Chum

Compared to all these other restaurants in Little Tokyo, Bum Chum is the only one that serves intercontinental comfort food. Expect their menu to include sisig, spaghetti, and hamburgers.

13. Yamazaki

Yamazaki is another grocery with a small restaurant inside. You can find your Japanese ingredients and snacks in the grocery while having a quick bite in their restaurant. They have the most affordable meals in the whole compound, a meal can cost you from 150-350 PHP. After dining, you should grab some ice cream in their grocery for a taste of their classic Japanese ice cream brands.

14. Seryna

In contrast to Yamazaki, Seryna is one of the pricier restaurants here in Little Tokyo, the ambiance is more fine dining traditional Japanese, as compared to all the other restaurants in the compound. The ceiling has a wooden artwork that is very picturesque. You will notice a lot of Japanese patrons dining here.

I recommend you try their fresh sashimi and sushi, also knows to be the best in Little Tokyo, as well as, their bento boxes.

Having read, and listen to my friends and family members talk about their trips to Japan, and how the Japanese are very meticulous when being an expert in a certain craft or dish. This rings true to Little Tokyo wherein each restaurant truly exceeds in one dish or another making it their flagship dishes. This small compound truly reflects that Japanese way of thinking, at the same time, conforming to Filipino culture of having many choices. Most of the restaurants have extensive menus to cater to this need.
The Little Tokyo compound transcends your experience in its portrayal of a Japan, being there makes you feel that you are transported to Tokyo, with the architecture, the lights, aroma, costumes, and sounds. The wooden fixtures, lanterns, and garden act as an anchor that brings you to another world. There is nowhere else in Manila that you can have that kind of experience.

Little Tokyo

2277 Chino Roces Ave, Pasong Tamo Corner Amorsolo Street, Makati, Legazpi Village, Makati, Metro Manila
Open from 11 am -2 am


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