Finding good food when on a fairly tight budget is not the hardest thing to do, especially in Makati and the South where streets are lined with a sprawling assortment of restaurants that offer meals with variable price tags, depending on how much you’re willing to spend for your grub.
And when it comes to picking a restaurant, Japanese is at the top of my list. Accessible, clean-tasting, and consistently satisfying, this bunch of restaurants is almost-always on top of my list whenever someone asks “where can we eat that’s good and cheap?” Here are a few places where you can get your Japanese fix for less than 500 bucks.
1. Izakaya Kikufuji
Friends who I constantly eat out with are probably sick of me saying “Kikufuji” immediately when they ask where to eat. They roll their eyes but give in anyway. And always, without fail, I hear the hallelujah chorus play in my ears whenever we wind up at this institution along Chino Roces Avenue.
Kikufuji is a great place to get cheap, good Japanese. A notch lower than Seryna price-wise, they may have a bit of missteps in terms of the service and cleanliness of the place, but the food is damn great. My staples here are their Spicy Tuna Sashimi, Beef Cube and Cartilage Yakitori, and the occasional Chirashi. They have bang-for-the-buck lunch sets, too, where you can try out a bit of everything and cap off your meal with some overly sweetened iced coffee.
Address: Chino Roces, Makati
2. Nanbantei of Tokyo
Nanbantei of Tokyo is always a good choice. I like going here when I am immensely hungry and ready to pig out on their extensive yakitori selection. It’s not the best in Metro Manila, but if you’re looking forward to a delicious dinner that’s easy on the wallet, then this is the place to be. They have great service, and you can have all the sticks and rice you want without feeling bad about the pricetag.
My Nanbantei favorites include the Tofu (ask for extra sauce), Chicken Hearts, Liver, Skin, Pork Garlic Yaki, Shiso Maki—heck, just order everything on the menu. They also have seasonal specials every once in a while that are worth checking out. Best enjoyed with double orders of onigiri.
Nanbantei of Tokyo
Branches: Greenbelt 3 and Bonifacio High Street Central
Kagura is located inside Little Tokyo, and they are well-known for their Okonomiyaki, or savory Japanese pancakes. One look at their menu and you will have a hard time choosing—I personally like the octopus and chicken skin okonomiyakis, but they also have okomiyaki that’s stuffed with noodles, topped with cheese, and loaded with different kinds of meat. Don’t make the mistake of ordering one okonomiyaki each when you’re dining here with friends—unless you’re planning on having them taken out (or have a crazy-voracious appetite).
Kagura at Little Tokyo
Address: 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Legaspi Village, Makati (beside Hana)
4. Nihonbashi Tei
Who can talk about cheap Japanese food in Makati and not include Nihonbashi Tei? This is our go-to Japanese joint after a late night movie run at Greenbelt. There is beer and sake to binge on, and almost everything on their menu is delicious. I really love spicy tuna sashimi, so I’d tell you to order that. We also did a hack of Nihonbashi Tei’s Spicy Tuna Sashimi a few months back, if you’d like to try making at home instead.
Their noodles also come in huge servings and are good for sharing, while their rice bowls are quite filling as well. Come here with your good friends and split a bottle of sake while gorging on Nihon’s delicious Japanese food.
Branches: Along Pasay Road, Makati
5. Suzu Kin
Back in the day, Suzu Kin was but a tiny store near Kamagong in Makati. It had a sign that looked like as if it was written on using a permanent marker. It wasn’t the fanciest restaurant, I admit, but it was home to one of my favorite comfort foods—their Beef Garlic, which comes an addictive brown sauce that I personally feel is some version of liquid crack.
I used to eat at Suzu Kin a lot when I was still in university. After school and the long drive back to Makati, all my taste buds would crave for was a sizzling plate of Suzu Kin’s Beef Garlic. That, and their cheap California Maki, Katsudon, Nigiri Sushi, and maybe an order of Oyster Butter if I didn’t mind risking my oyster allergy, which is, of course, always a bad decision because I find myself wound up in the bathroom. But it’s always worth it.
Address: Kamagong, along Sampaloc St., San Antonio Village, Makati
6. Mensakaba Geishu
We know this is place is loads further down the road, but if you’re in need of a ramen fix in BF without having to go to Molito for some Yushoken, then Mensakaba Geishu is probably going to be your best bet. We did a review on it in the past, and it still continues to impress with their straightforward ramen bowls and other tasty viands that the neighborhood will definitely keep coming back for.
Address: Southland Apartments, Aguirre St., BF Homes, Parañaque
A lot of people might think that Metro Manila is oversaturated katsu-wise, but not me. There are still days—a lot of them—when all I want to do is to cradle a Yabu kurobuta set in my arms or spoil myself silly with some of Saboten’s tuna katsu set. Kimukatsu is also something that crosses my daydreams, especially their cheese mille feuille katsu.
But there are times when I just need a quick, fast, and cheap katsu fix. And this is why I am beyond grateful for the existence of Tonkatsuya. None of the fancy stuff, but the satisfaction level each bowl of katsu delivers goes beyond the roof. Check it out if you happen to chance upon San Antonio Village with a wild craving for katsu to boot.
Address: Palm Tower B, St. Paul Road, San Antonio Village, Makati