Japan was on the travel list. It was the next destination after Taiwan. I was in Taipei but even before I set foot on Japanese soil, I already feasting on its cuisine in a most delectable way at ibuki, Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel’s Japanese restaurant.
“And this is ibuki, our Japanese restaurant,” said Carloyn Lee, the hotel’s communications manager, to end the tour of the hotel, “This is where we are having a teppanyaki lunch.”
“ibuki by Takagi Kazuo is Taiwan’s first Japanese restaurant to operate in concordance with Michelin standards. The restaurant follows and practices the culinary concepts of Consultant Chef Takagi Kazuo, the owner and head chef of Takagi in Japan, a restaurant that has earned two Michelin stars since 2010, when the first Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara version of the Michelin Guide was published.”
The chef specializes in Kyoto cuisine, thus Ibuki prides itself with “exquisite Kyoto cuisine with a Michelin-starred approach” and leading the culinary team in Taiwan is the former sous chef of Takagi, Kudo Masakazu.
Kyoto cuisine, teppanyaki, sushi and tempura are four styles of authentic Japanese cuisine the restaurant places emphasis on to allow diners to enjoy a wide variety of delicacies prepared with a modern Kyoto touch.
The cuisine ibuki promises may be first-rate but the restaurant is relaxed, the atmosphere casual. It’s a place where an entire family can enjoy good food in good company.
I was lead to one of the teppanyaki area, a corner room with a view of the city, and was handed the menu for Hana Lunch Set, which consisted of the seasonal starter; an appetizer combo with freshly caught sashimi; a seafood pairing (I had a perfectly cooked prawn with all its parts to be enjoyed); a main course (I had the half Boston lobster with mullot roe while Carolyn had the free range chicken with miso grilled foie gras); salmon and salmon roe fried rice and miso soup; and a dessert.
The ibuki menu features freshness and quality, and changes on a regular basis to “adhere to the restaurant’s policy of using only the best and freshest produce.” But despite of the monthly changes, regular diners will still be able to find some of their favorite dishes at the restaurant throughout the year.
I may have experienced teppanyaki dining but perhaps not the authentic Japanese way. This was my first.
“Preparing each course of the meal take time,” said Caroline, and true enough, watching the chef cook the ingredients and compose each dish was almost hypnotizing.
Carolyn shares that the trick to cooking perfectly is subtly controlling the temperature. By letting the main ingredient stand for a while after it is pan fried, the meat’s interior and exterior temperature can be balanced.
The lobster dish was prepared as such. After repeating the process a few times, adding a final touch of a seasoning and shaving mullot roe over it, it was served. For the meal to present a unique flavor to suit my taste, it was accompanied by Chef Takagi’s special selection of salts: Spanish lemon salt, bamboo charcoal salt or red wine sea salt.
We opted to have our dessert in the main dining area and chose a seat by the window with a view of the Japanese garden.
Green tea ice cream with red bean and green tea, it was the perfect way to end the long yet enjoyable meal. Dining at ibuki was an experience I won’t mind reliving again.
It was my first encounter with a full-course Kyoto cuisine, “a cuisine that reflects the beauty of a season, and is prepared with harmony and care,” as Chef Takai Kazuo defines it, and having a taste of it made me more eager to visit Kyoto.
Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.