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Zen in the City

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[Photo of Nadeshika and Tomyu Quroquet]Authentic Japanese dishes served in minimalistic, but rich, ambiance. Nobody does it better but Umu.

As you enter, you are greeted by people in kimonos. Inside, you see the colors of nature. The walls are lined with wooden panels decorated with the Japanese and Chinese names of fish, set off by rough granite and onyx accents. In the dim lighting, you see a Japanese restaurant straight out of a movie screen. This is Umu, a haven of tranquility in the middle of Makati's concrete jungle.

“If your tired after a hard days work, this is the place to be before going home,” says Dusit Thani Hotel's food and beverage director Gilbert Uy. Umu, Japanese for “born of nature,” does seem like a welcome break from the complexities of urban life, its minimalistic style and its motif of red, gold and dark wood evoking a feeling of opulence and luxury that one caught in the rat race can rarely afford.

Inner Beauty

No wonder, then, that Dusit Thani's Umu was a finalist at the Hotel World Global Hospitality and Design Awards organized by Hotel Design magazine, going toe for toe against Hong Kong, Macau and Miami's best restaurants at the Hotel World Expo and Conference in Las Vegas.

Uy tells the China Business Team that one advantage of Umu is its seating capacity. It has 190 seats that can accommodate everyone from individuals to large groups without being cramped like a fast food restaurant.

For people who prefer the outdoors, Umu has an al fresco area that overlooks a pond, a waterfall and an oasis.  There is also a Teppanyaki bar for those who want to see their meals prepared before their eyes. The restaurant has two private rooms covered in tatami, or mats, for authentic Japanese-style eating, while three Western sit-down pavilions are also available. No matter how packed the restaurant is, guests won't lose their moments of zen.

Umu isn't just about ambiance, either. The restaurant is particularly proud of its sushi counter, where Umu lives up to its name by serving only the freshest and finest seafood. They also have a robata, or grill, for Japanese standards like  yakitori.

For diners who can't get enough of Japanese food, Umu restaurant offers a buffet a la carte for lunch from 11:30-3pm and for dinner from 5:30-7:30pm for just 850 pesos.

Dusit public relations manager adds that Umu also has something for the after-hours crowd, with hot and cold sake, local beers and mojitos available for happy hour.

[Photo of Ishiyaki Steak]Cuisine From Kyoto

Aside from the buffet offered, Umu also offers a new menu designed by its new chef,  Chef Kiyoshi Ogawa from Tokyo, Japan. Although born in Tokyo, Chef Ogawa studies Kyoto cuisine because, he says, the city is the “hive for chefs.” He not only crafted the menu items himself, he even named them.

First on the menu is the San Shoku Domburi – a rice bowl with three different toppings. Options include Tempura Domburi, Salmon Ikura Masu Sushi and the Wafu Steak Domburi.

Also available is the Lady's Set Nadeshika. “This is one of the healthier options,” says Chef Ogawa. Nadeshikko is a large pink flower, that is also a figure of speech to describe the beauty of Japanese women. He says that the lady's set is composed of delectable and artfully arranged sushi. Chef Ogawa says that the dish is perfect with cold drinks like softdrinks, iced tea and sake. It isn't just for ladies, either,  he says that this is one of his favorite dishes aside from a seasonal fish available only in Japan.

Another item on the menu is the Tomyu Quroquet. This is similar to a croquet ball but is totally crunchy and yummy in the inside. Last is the Ishiyaki Steak. Chef Ogawa says that ishi-yaki means “to cook on a hot rock,” an ancient Japanese cooking method. He prepares it himself, deftly using chopsticks to place vegetables and the raw meat on a miniature stone grill. In a few minutes, the dish is done,  but not before the sizzling and the aroma of cooking whets the appetite.

Japanese dishes are an all-time favorite in th Philippines. But while sushi is now available at mall food courts, no restaurant has combined artfully-presented cuisine and a tranquil ambiance quite like Umu has. A feast for both the palate and the eyes, call it umami for the soul.

Print ed: 11/09

 

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