Sparkling wine glasses peeking through the glass window caught my attention as I entered the tall wooden doors of Magosaburo, a new addition to the gastronomic fanfare in Bonifacio Global City. My gaze quickly turned from a glass cabinet filled with wine bottles to the remarkable contemporary furniture and the demure but dramatic light fixture hanging from the high ceiling. The staff was extremely attentive, and the table setup had no piece of cutlery or folded napkin out of alignment. These first few impressions gave me a feeling that Magosaburo was distinct from any other Japanese restaurant in Metro Manila.
The three-floor structure was elegantly clad in neutral tones that made the overall ambiance warm and intimate. There wasn’t a seat in the house that was not charmed by the aesthetics alone. The massive structure was definitely a place for one to explore. From the high-ceilinged main dining hall I took to the stairs to view the second floor mezzanine where the function rooms are, each big enough for a group of eight. One floor higher and I had arrived at the wine lounge where a showcase of fine wines and Victorian furniture greeted my entrance. To the right was the spacious VIP portion of the lounge.
I imagined myself sinking into the cozy chairs, having a drink and catching up with friends without having to compete with any loud, obtrusive music. The third floor wine lounge allowed guests a top view of the main dining hall, as well as a glimpse of the busy city outside. After peering through each setting it was finally time to return two floors down to see if their cuisine was just as sumptuous as what the ambience had already served up.
A Flavorful Fusion
Magosaburo originated from the Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan and was founded in 2009. Today, the restaurant franchise has extended its reach, opening branches in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok, and most recently in the Philippines. In masterful fashion, the restaurant pursues a daring selection of dishes in its celebration of Japanese-French fusion. Although modernized and adjusted to the Filipino taste, Magosaburo draws inspiration from the fresh seafood and mild climate of Kumamoto.
Typically, sake is the alcoholic beverage fitted with a Japanese meal, but here, the marriage of the Japanese and French cuisines is made complete with fine wine from Magosaburo’s world-class selection. A wine dispenser is located in the main dining hall where guests can sample different bottles of red and white wine on display. I was excited to see how the wine would pair up with their Japanese cuisine.
Magosaburo’s extensive menu made it paradise for anyone with a love for Japanese food. We were introduced to the flavors of Magosaburo with the nine-course meal known as Mago Kaiseki. A specialty of the house, the Mago Kaiseki is delightfully pleasing to the palate. It is also a perfect full-meal sampler for newcomers. The course starts with assorted namuru, or Japanese pickles. This small appetizer was a trio of spinach with sesame oil, radish and some particularly delicious cherry tomatoes. The cold appetizer, which followed shortly after, offered the Magosaburo’s specialty – Wagyu. In fine dining style, a tray of Caprese salad, Seared tuna with vinegar jelly, Wagyu Sushi with Vinegrette sauce, and Wagyu Tataki with onion artfully decorated the table. For the hot appetizer there was the Wagyu Beef Shank Stew, which was reminiscent of Filipino bulalo. Boiled for 24 hours, the beef shank was tender and delicate.
With a few sips of wine, the food did in fact make a beautiful union in my mouth. The smooth yet balanced taste of Lupé Cholet complemented the variety of flavors and textures throughout the course.
Next came a soup dish that was absolutely delectable, the Foie-gras Chawanmushi. This was French and Japanese cuisine coming together to bring heaven to our taste buds. Chawanmushi, which means “steamed tea in a bowl,” is an egg mixture with several flavors. In this fusion, the tasty custard was perfectly complemented by the rich and tender foie gras.
Afterwards, a unique array of rock salt, wakame, nori and egg white dome on hot lava stone made its way to our table. Inside it was a slow-cooking king prawn which had soaked up the seaweed flavor by the time it was cut open from the dome and set on our plates. While other Asian franchises of the restaurant use a Yakiniku grill, Magosaburo Philippines uses lava stone imported from Japan.
Just before the main course, a fresh Basil Sorbet was served accordingly to cleanse the palate and refresh the senses. The first of the two main courses was the Lava Stone Ox Tongue Steak, skillfully cooked by the Chef right before us on the lava stone.Magosaburo makes use of the special prime cut also known as the softest, least used part of the Ox Tongue. The Ox Tongue was thick yet juicy and soft. With only my chopsticks to hold its other end, the soft meat broke apart easily with my first bite. Garnishing of Himalayan salt, foamy soy sauce and house steak sauce for dipping was also prepared for both of the main dishes.
The second main dish, the Lava Stone Japanese Wagyu Sirloin Steak, was cooked to perfection with barely any seasoning. Made from premium Japanese A4-grade Wagyu, the steak had just the right amount of meat and fat. Although it was impeccably paired with foamy soy sauce, the quality Wagyu Sirloin Steak was also extremely flavorful on its own. In traditional Japanese fashion, rice was eaten after the main meal. The Japanese Style Chicken Rice in a Hot Stone Bowl accompanied the hearty mains left on our platter.
To bring the Mago Kaiseki nine-course meal to a sweet end, we were treated to Dessert Paradise. A colorful tray of eight different desserts was brought out for us to choose from. On board were the Earl Grey Crème Brulee, the Rare Cheese Tart (made with almond crust instead of graham), the Matcha Pound Cake, Grapefruit Jelly, Japanese Shiratama Anmitsu (fruits topped with red bean), flourless chocolate cake, Tiramisu and coconut blanc (Panna Cotta).
Interview with Ms. Abigail Sumida President and CEO
Wine lover and businesswoman, as well as Magosaburo Philippines’ President and CEO, Ms. Abigail Sumida delivers her brand with utmost care, confi dence and passion. Of Filipino-Japanese heritage, she first fell in love with Japanese cuisine in Fukuoka, Japan where her father lived, but it was while she was in Singapore that she was captivated by Magosaburo’s Japanese Wagyu.“The concept is mainly focused on the Japanese Wagyu from Kumamoto, Japan. Magosaburo is an old Japanese term which advocates authenticity of taste, even though we put in a bit of French touch.” Ms Sumida shares. The restaurant chain has four branches in Japan, and one each in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Shanghai, and most recently in the Philippines.
Magosaburo brings Japanese cuisine to a whole new level with dishes specifi cally paired with wine, a defining attribute instigated by Ms. Sumida herself. “It’s the wine pairing and the way we serve it. We are not only a Wagyu specialist but we are also a wine sensitive restaurant. Here in Magosaburo we make our dishes complement our wines.”
The restaurant usually fi lls with customers at dinner time, but recently they released a special lunch menu, which they hope to see customers try as well. “Our menu changes from time to time. If you see it now it might not be here after a month or two because we want to impress and satisfy our customers so that they will keep coming back. We do have seasonal menus and very limited dishes such as our special Wagyu of which we inform our clients if they would like to reserve for them.”
With the restaurant in full swing, the vibrant and hands-on Ms. Sumida only wishes for guests to enjoy every moment of their stay. “Magosaburo is a place for people who demand high quality food and excellent service. On our part we promise them an exquisite dining experience that they can look forward to coming back to.”
Interview with Executive Chef Takashi Motomatsu
To ensure the quality and authenticity of the Japanese franchise, Magosaburo Philippines’ kitchen is led by none other than a local of the Kumamoto Prefecture – Chef Takashi Motomatsu. He moved to the Philippines in February 2012 to spearhead what would soon be Manila’s version of the brand.
With strong knowledge and skill in French cooking, Chef Motomatsu is himself a fi tting representative for French-Japanese fusion. His culinary experience started in Japan when he was 20 years old. After meeting the original Magosaburo president in Japan who told him about an opening in the Singapore branch, he moved to Singapore in 2008 and later joined the company in 2011.
New concepts always come with new challenges and for the newly opened Magosaburo Philippines, the task of executing its tasteful pairings falls on the shoulders of its Chef. “The Magosaburo Philippines was a new challenge for me. The original Magosaburo served its meals Yakiniku style, but in the Philippines we are using lava stone instead of the yakiniku traditional grill.”
In the end, the challenge of blending wine with Japanese-French fusion cuisine had been successfully met. Magosaburo’s dishes are served with only the finest ingredients and are beautifully paired with wines from all over the world, with the Japanese Wagyu taking centerstage as the restaurant’s trademark specialty. In the future, Chef Motomatsu hopes to introduce more variants of the Kaiseki course as well as call in more of that high quality Japanese Wagyu the local crowd has been raving about.
CHEFʼS RECOMMENDATION: JAPANESE WAGYU TENDERLOIN
Magosaburo specializes in its pairing of wine and Wagyu. That being said, the Japanese Wagyu Tenderloin, found on the a la carte menu, is a splendid choice for whatever wine is to your liking. The rich taste of the tenderloin isn’t masked by too much oil or seasoning. Rather, the care put into Magosaburo’s preparation brings out the real fl avor of the premium Wagyu. It is cooked on Lava Stone, prudently set to 180-200 degrees Celsius in order to avoid stressing the meat. Tenderloin contains less fat than sirloin. It is also what seasoned gourmands would argue is the finest cut of beef. A specialty of the house made with quality imported Japanese beef, the Japanese Wagyu Tenderloin is a dish that truly captures the Magosaburo experience.