Food is art at Geisha
There is no shortage of Japanese restaurants in the Philippines. Nowadays, all-you-can-eat yakiniku smokehouses and places that serve raw food on a hot plate are especially popular with the sushi and sukiyaki-loving crowd.
But few Japanese restaurants offer that quiet elegance that Japanese culture is often associated with.
Geisha on the upper level of Bonifacio High Street Central might just be one of them. The new Japanese restaurant which launched last March 22 is exactly what you’d expect when you hear the name.
The restaurant’s sleek grey-and-silver exteriors punctuated by the streak of hot pink that is its name, have the same effect as bright red lips blooming on a stark white face — they call to mind that subtlety and sensuality that is a geisha’s signature.
Inside, the understated sophistication continues. There is nothing dowdy or quaint about the interiors, which are an artwork in their own right by Japanese designer Hisako Hirayama of Design HQ. The dim lights, dark colors, and punches of dark wood, glass, chrome, and neon purple lights recall a geisha’s coy smile as she pours tea or plays the shamisen.
“A geisha is an artist and if you see geishas, they’re so well put together, every hair in place. Their make-up, the way they dress — they really put a lot into their appearance,” owner Michael Dargani told GMA News Online.
“So we sort of mirrored that in the way not just the restaurant looks, but also the way we present the food,” he explained.
True enough, more than the décor, it’s the food that echoes the geisha, which is said to be an icon and embodiment of Japanese art and culture. Each dish was colorful like a geisha’s kimono, but not chaotic — the main dish served to anchor the garnishes, which tended toward pink and purple petals, bright green leaves, and orange sauces.
“Diners who come in and dine here ala carte will really see the time that went into the preparation. It’s like a parallel of a geisha, that’s why we say it’s art,” Dargani said.
Clearly, appearance is paramount at Geisha, not just in the décor, but in the food presentation. The question is, does it come at the cost of taste?
The delicious answer is no, it does not. At Geisha, the food tastes every bit as divine as it looks.
Japanese with a cosmopolitan twist
The menu, a product of the collaboration between chefs Tom Hines and Ramon Austria, includes all the Japanese restaurant staples with a cosmopolitan twist.
Of course, they have California Maki (a Japanese restaurant is never complete without it), which was tasty but certainly not the most memorable dish on the menu, which is to say that you don’t go to Geisha for the California Maki.
You go for the Wasabi Mash Korokke, which are bite-sized potato croquettes served with a honey mustard sauce. Altogether, it’s an explosion of the creamy, spicy, and sweet — a perfect way to wake up your palate for the rest of the meal.
Stuffed with pork and served with a tangy miso infused tomato sauce, the Kurobuta Gyoza manages to be both silky and crunchy, making it another good starter.
On the sushi menu, the Salmon and King Prawn roll reigns supreme, with the sweetness of the prawn piercing through the velvety salmon. The spider roll was more one-dimensional in terms of flavor, with rice acting as a buffer between the saltiness of both the deep-fried softshell crab and nori. It did, however, provide a compelling play on textures, combining the sticky-softness of the rice with the crunch of the crab and the crispiness of the nori.
Of course, the most celebrated item on the menu is the Japanese A5 Wagyu, which, as the menu claims, is “top grade, melt-in-your mouth Japanese Steak.” To highlight its importance, a gong sounds each time it is served, as if announcing royalty.
The Wagyu definitely lives up to the hype — but only just. As promised, it does melt in your mouth and is well-seasoned besides, but lacks a certain charm that will make you want to order every time you visit.
In fact, it’s the Skewered Pork 72 that is the unexpected star — pillowy-soft cubes of pork belly served on a bed of rice and sesame seeds that tickle your tongue with flavor at each tender bite. Perhaps it’s because the name itself indicates its prep time (72 hours, to be exact), but here is a dish that really reflects, more than any other dish, the effort and care that goes into its creation.
The servings at Geisha are relatively small and the prices certainly not easy on the pocket, but still fall within a reasonable range. Art, after all, doesn't come cheap. –KG, GMA News