Jingling All the Way to Bono Tei

I don’t know what it is about my family and Japanese cuisine that we decide to have Japanese food for Christmas dinner, just like we did last year. Last year’s Christmas feast was at Okiniiri, along Aguirre, BF Homes. This time, we decided to check out Bono Tei Japanese Restaurant, found around El Grande Ave.

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There are three things to love about this place: great food, great service, and most of all, great atmosphere.

Great Food

The sad thing about Japanese cuisine in the Philippine food scene today is that it’s slowly being drained of excitement, flare, and that bit of class for the sake of economical reasons. Your classic examples would be Teriyaki Boy, Rai Rai Ken and Tokyo Tokyo.

Gladly, Bono Tei reminds you that everything spent for each delectable bite is worth it.

Go ahead, sample the sushi.

Futomaki

DSC00377Your classic Futomaki, which I think is tamago, pickled daikon, kani stick and rice wrapped in seaweed. It is one of the simplest kinds of makis out there, but with good quality ingredients, Bono Tei makes them a humble delight to behold.

California Maki

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The roll that captured (almost) every Filipino’s taste is the California Maki. Virtually everyone’s had one, may it be from some dump sushi place. Drizzled with Japanese mayo, it seems that Bono Tei likes to keep things fresh but traditional.

But don’t be fooled, because they have a mountain up their sleeves.

Mt. Fuji:

deep fried salmon maki, drizzled with cheese.

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I don’t know how it is possible, but even the rice tastes better.

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One rule of restaurant hunt is to order things that are familiar to you, things that are common to every one you’ve tried before, for the sake of comparison. When it comes to Japanese, you have to test the Chicken Teriyaki.

Chicken Teriyaki

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Bono Tei serves up a mildly sweet, savory, succulent and tender dish. Comparison? It doesn’t swim in sauce. It lets the chicken be the star of the show, which is a quality of good food. You don’t kill the flavor of the meat with overpowering sauces; you pick good quality ingredients, and the sauce is there to highlight that taste. Which for chicken teriyaki, it happens only once or twice, and at least one of those times would be here at Bono Tei.

Gyuniku Teriyaki

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Which is much to say about their Gyuniku (beef) Teriyaki. Unlike most other restaurants that serve them up in slices, or even thin strips of sirloin, Bono Tei gives you that uncut chunk of meat for a really good bite of beef. Served with it is a stir fry salad of mung bean sprouts and other vegetables and corn on the side. It is served well-done, and as you take a bite, you will notice that the sauce goes through the inside of the meat, telling us that this has been well marinated.

Ebi Asupara Bacon

I was expecting prawns with asparagus, wrapped in bacon. But it was a stir fry dish of shrimp, asparagus, bacon and some corn. Still good, though. Asparagus is not at all overcooked, and the bacon is not too salty.

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Now about what I told you when it comes to the experience of taking a bite of beef:

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Wagyu.

Yes, Wagyu Beef. Hello there, you just made my Christmas.

Bono Tei serves up Wagyu Beef in two ways: a plate of the beef with a plate of sauce, or the beef barbecued with the sauce. I chose the first one.

It isn’t a plate of steak or anything, but eight humble cubes of beef, with a plate of sauce that seems to be made of shoyu, teriyaki sauce, honey and sesame oil. It’s a wild guess, but hey. The beef itself is cooked well-done, which is how my family prefers it, but not how I do things with meat. Still, it isn’t dry or hard to chew at all (but that’s just a property of Wagyu beef). This isn’t something you just eat through, but something you take careful bites of, to savor that taste of exquisite beef, and the sauce just perfectly compliments that.

If you don’t know what Wagyu Beef is, it comes from a Japanese breed of cattle, where the meat contains more Omega-3 & 6 fatty acids. So it is a lot less unsaturated fat. I know it sounds like there shouldn’t be any difference in taste, but there is. There really, really is.

And the last dish to come to our table was the one most awaited. If you love hotpot dinners, you might want to trade in your Sukiyaki for this.

Yosenabe

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Prawns, crab, I think there’s fish, I don’t know, rice noodles, shitake mushrooms, golden string mushrooms, tofu, and plenty of lovely vegetables in what seems to be a miso-based broth makes up this lovely Seafood hotpot.

Their menu also features countless other dishes, classic and otherwise. And the drinks do include alcoholic beverages and some Japanese rice wines, just in case you wanted to know.

Great Service

If you’re into the foreign cuisine restaurants where the staff dresses the native costume, and act like they’re native, then you’re in for a surprise.

DSC00385Because the Bono Tei staff is nothing like that.

There are no kimono-wearing waitresses, kneeling down to your small floor table to pour you tea. They do not act all formal and treat you like the guest of the imperial majesty, or whatever. Instead, they go with something they actually have: Filipino charm. With all their casual graces, they smile and even giggle along with the customers. I love a good cosplay as much as the next otaku, but I’d have to admit, this is refreshing.

If you do take a long meal, you’re going to hear a couple dozen mispronounced irasshaimase’s, spoken as if they’re ready to throw it out the window.

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But they do serve green tea, complimentary, before the meal.

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They have a lovely set of plates, and they prepare the hotpot set far before the meal is even ready.

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Great Atmosphere

Now the great difference of buying food, and actually looking for a restaurant, is the ambience. Dining isn’t just about eating, but the experience of eating, taking in not only taste and smell of the dish, but also the sight of the meal and its surroundings. Bono Tei completes this dining experience by paying attention to the detail in design. Here’s a shot of the inside dining space:

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Which of course, I cannot take any more of, because I couldn’t go around the restaurant like a crazy person, disturbing people having dinner to take their pictures.

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The entryway to the inner dining area is a sliding door made of bamboo, with a white cloth curtain. Right outside is a sort of patio dining area.

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Bono Tei seems like a great place for parties especially with their outdoor event space.

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With a koi pond and a bridge.

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Other than the tent, there is a roofed dining space right next to the koi pond.

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And a perfect view from the event tent is a row of lanterns.

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Let’s light this baby up, shall we?

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My family and I couldn’t resist; we just had to have a photo-adventure out here.

Great, basically everything

Bono Tei is definitely a brilliant new find, and this dinner totally made my holiday a feast to remember.

For a casual lunch out, a budget of 400-500 per head should do. But if you intend on tasting all that Bono Tei has to offer, 600-900 per head should do the trick.

Bono Tei scores an 8.5 out of 10 for me.

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Happy Christmas and a cheerful start of the year to everyone.

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