Pepper Guide: The Best Chirashi Under P500 in Metro ManilaJune 8, 2016
Is chirashi one of the best things on this planet? Disagree with us, but we say absolutely. The primal pleasure in raw fish, on top of slightly sweet, vinegared rice is transportive, and undeniable; even the art of sushi is one of the most revered practices in the culinary world. Because the quality of good, fresh fish often means big bucks, it’s difficult to find chirashi that delivers without draining your pocket. Here, we’ve scoured far and wide to find the best takes under P500 in Metro Manila, from ones with perfect rice, to ones with a surprisingly wide selection of cuts, to ones that go well with a cold one.
If you’re an avid visitor of Little Tokyo, chances are, you’ll overlook stellar little shop Jyukai. Located a stone’s throw away from the popular Japanese compound, and tucked away in the side of one of Makati’s greying forgotten buildings, it is overshadowed by the large grocery to its left, and is hardly mentioned in best of lists around the city. This place however has some stunning gems that rival the more well-known Japanese restaurants in terms of both quality and flavor. While this chirashi lacks a little rice, the quality of fish is the best you can find in both selection and grade for under P500. Ribbons of squid have no funk, and are instead an exercise in delicate chewy texture. There is even hamachi and aji, and tako that is far from rubbery. On days without uni, they substitute with more of your preferred fish.
Best In: Fish selection and quality.
Address: Marvin Plaza Bldg, 2153 Chino Roces Ave cor. Herrera St, Legaspi Village, Makati
There are many well-established Japanese haunts in Malate, but Izakaya Kenta is where you’ll find the only chirashi in the P500 range that is worth visiting. The place itself gives you all the ambiance you need from an izakaya, with moody lighting and secret spaces that are a common theme in the area. The choices of fish in this chirashi include standard sake, maguro, and ebi, but they occasionally thrown in some slightly fattier pieces of tuna, or a white fish to even out the bowl.
Best In: Malate
Address: Ground Floor, Malate Bayview Mansion, 1781 Adriatico St, Malate
Found along Arnaiz St and eclipsed by more famous establishments Nihonbashitei and Isshin, Azami is a welcome surprise for anyone looking past the norm. The well-lit space is neat and clean, and better for a sobering lunch than its aforementioned neighbors. Their lunch special is the cheapest you can get anywhere (P290 using local fish), but their regular bowl also has much to make it special. It has a well-rounded selection including uni, saba, and unagi, and has a dollop of that divisive pink denbu.
Best In: Arnaiz St (let’s all forget about Nihonbashitei)
Address: 808 Arnaiz St, San Lorenzo, Makati
A few of Kessaku’s more fusion-leaning offerings are confusing and off-putting, but they put together a pretty visually-appealing chirashi. Crabstick is probably everyone’s least favorite sashimi, and it makes a bigger appearance here, but the amount of tuna and sake make up for its inclusion. There is also sweet, well-cooked and fluffy tamago, and a generous helping of uni.
Best In: The south, when looking for an abundant chirashi fix.
Address: Ground Floor, The Commercenter, 1780 Commerce cor Filinvest Ave, Filinvest
Mogu Bar & Grill
The best thing about Mogu Bar & Grill is its relaxed atmosphere which makes it an easy destination if you’re in the area, and need a drink. Their chirashi is not as loaded as most, but does the trick if you need a Japanese fix in the Fort. There is an abundant amount of rice though, if you’re about a bigger rice to fish ratio.
Best In: Dinner options, if you want to have a sake cocktail with your fish.
Address: Ground Floor, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City
When it comes to late nights, Isshin trumps the other option down the street, at least when it comes to the fish choices in chirashi. Isshin packs a lot into a compact offering, managing to pile on unagi, saba, tako, ika, maguro, tamago, and crabstick with an assortment of Japanese pickles and denbu. While the quality can vary from great to middling, on most days, this is the best bowl you’ll eat while drunk on bottles of sake.
Best In: The open late-night category.
Address: 1024 Arnaiz St, San Lorenzo, Makati
Tonchaya is far from authentic, but many a good, casual meal can be had here. It offers a range of Japanese staples at prices that are relatively cheap for the area, making it both a favored eating spot and watering hole for those who work in the Fort. The chirashi bowl varies according to what’s available, but the standards include mackerel and generous slices of maguro and sake.
Best In: Quick fixes for the hungry worker.
Address: The Fort Strip, 28th St, Bonifacio Global City
While mall restaurants are now generally much better, it is still often difficult to find one that is well-rounded and gives you bang for your buck. Sandaime’s brooding interior makes it the best-looking and least gaudy of Agustin’s Japanese empire, and home to a satisfactory chirashi bowl that may not be incredible, but is the cheapest we’ve found in any mall restaurant. The addition of sesame seeds on top doesn’t do much to the dish, but there are slices of maguro and sake hidden beneath each other which does make this more of a quantity over quality situation.
Best In: A mall location.
Address: Ground Floor, Eastwood Mall, Libis
It’s always a good indication when the guy behind the counter is Japanese, and to find one in a commercial-looking, unassuming space is a delight. The bowl at Zipang wins with the warmth and seasoning of its rice, and the texture of its ebi, which was just cooked through, leaving it silky instead of rubbery. This also had the most amount of maguro and sake, but docks points with the unnecessary cubes of cucumber.
Best In: Quezon City.
Address: 6 11th Jamboree cor Scout Fuentabella St, Sacred Heart, Tomas Morato
If bang for your buck is what you’re after, Saika is the best and most delicious answer. The variety and caliber of fish is pretty stunning considering its price, and comes with more sides than just miso soup during the lunch hour. The uni was fresh and appropriately briny, the saba with just the right acidity, the kampachi toothsome and delicate. It’s a wonder why people aren’t clamoring more loudly for this version of chirashi.
Best In: Overall quality and value for money.
Address: 2282 Carmen Bldg, Chino Roces Ave, Pio Del Pilar, Makati
Special Mention: Hanakazu
Hanakazu’s chirashi just misses the P500 mark by less than a hundred bucks, but does so much more with that extra bit of dough. There is a dizzying array of fish here, from hamachi to the chewy and slippery engawa, to fatty cuts of chutoro, to silver-skinned aji. It is gorgeous, studded with coral-colored pearls of roe, and the quality of each piece of fish is undeniable.
Address: 108 Aguirre Ave, BF Homes, Parañaque