By Sol Vanzi Timpla't Tikim
OASIS IN THE 'BURBS  

PHOTO: JAPANESE ALL THE WAY --Olives beef shawarma (Image by Noel Pabalate)

This hole-in-the-wall Japanese eatery is a well-kept secret among Parañaque’s foodie elite. Parañaque, which old timers like me have always called Palanyag, has always been more hip than its neighbor Las Piñas. Maybe it’s because it’s closer to Pasay and Manila. Or does it spring from the fact that Las Piñas was once a mere barrio of Palanyag?

After many long years, I returned to Parañaque last week for a reunion with childhood friends. I had expected to eat at a fast food chain or a classier franchise; I never imagined the oasis of serenity and the authentic Japanese food that would greet me in the city. Bono Tei is a well-kept secret, guarded well by residents of BF Homes, Parañaque—the first and largest housing subdivision in the area. Even after we had parked in front of the wall that hid the eatery from passing cars and jeepneys, there was no hint whatsoever of the special treat that awaited behind it. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Dining out in Japan   

Japan has a large selection of restaurants of an almost endless variety. While every place is different, the following points will help make dining out in Japan a smooth and enjoyable experience. Entering the Restaurant Many restaurants in Japan display plastic or wax replicas of their dishes in a window near their entrance. These replicas serve both to entice and inform patrons of the restaurant's menu and tend to offer an accurate, visual description of the style and price of meals found inside. The displays are especially helpful for foreign tourists who do not read and speak Japanese. For if all other forms of communication fail, you can go outside and point to what you want to order.

Upon entering a restaurant, customers are greeted with the expression "irasshaimase" meaning "welcome, please come in". The waiter or waitress will ask you how many people are in your party and then lead you to your table. Only in rare cases, are customers expected to seat themselves. While a majority of restaurants in Japan provide Western style tables and chairs, low traditional tables where you sit on pillows on the floor are also common and referred to as zashiki. Many restaurants feature both, and you may be asked which you prefer. In case of zashiki style seating, you should remove your shoes at the entrance to the restaurant or before stepping onto the seating area.

Smoking is permitted in many restaurants in Japan. Some restaurants provide both smoking (kitsuen) and non-smoking (kinen) sections, while others are fully smoking or non-smoking. If there is a choice, the waitress will ask you about your preference before seating you. *READ MORE...


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Oasis in the ‘Burbs


JAPANESE ALL THE WAY Olives beef shawarma Image by Noel Pabalate

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Sol Vanzi September - This hole-in-the-wall Japanese eatery is a well-kept secret among Parañaque’s foodie elite.

Parañaque, which old timers like me have always called Palanyag, has always been more hip than its neighbor Las Piñas. Maybe it’s because it’s closer to Pasay and Manila. Or does it spring from the fact that Las Piñas was once a mere barrio of Palanyag?

After many long years, I returned to Parañaque last week for a reunion with childhood friends. I had expected to eat at a fast food chain or a classier franchise; I never imagined the oasis of serenity and the authentic Japanese food that would greet me in the city.

CLUELESS FACADE

Bono Tei is a well-kept secret, guarded well by residents of BF Homes, Parañaque—the first and largest housing subdivision in the area.

Even after we had parked in front of the wall that hid the eatery from passing cars and jeepneys, there was no hint whatsoever of the special treat that awaited behind it.

KOI AND BAMBOO FOREST

* Upon arrival, we were greeted by a large cobblestone-covered courtyard surrounded by thickets of tall Japanese bamboo. At one side lay a rectangular pool filled with giant colorful koi.

A few tables were set under an entrance to a Japanese inn for diners who wish to stay outdoors. Inside the air-conditioned restaurant, there were several tables occupied by elderly Japanese men and women, residents of the subdivision who not only eat at Bono Tei regularly, but also order several dishes for take-out.

IMPORTED INGREDIENTS

Our starters of sushi and sashimi revealed how meticulous the Bono Tei management was about authenticity.

All seafood, except for the tiger prawns (sugpo), were imported. We had pink salmon, crab, and Hamachi, which were flown in direct from Japan.

The fish pieces were firm with no hint of fishiness, owing to the restaurant’s practice of buying whole fish instead of fillets.

The Japan-trained staff members take the time to skin, gut, and slice the whole fish themselves, ensuring total freshness.

MAJESTIC MOUNT FUJI


MOUNT FUJI ROLL

The serving of tall mound of fusion-inspired breaded sushi rolls was quite generous. It was almost too much for our gang of four to finish. The crisp panko-wrapped sushi rolls, which are deep fried in imported oil, were hot on the outside and cold inside, just like how a sushi should be.

The only thing disappointing was that the chef was unwilling to share the secret recipe for the thick sauce that flowed down the sides of the Mount Fuji-like mound of sushi.

It was sweet but not cloying, with hints of ground sesame seeds, mirin, sake, and rice vinegar.

The tempura presentation was very theatrical, too, evoking the centuries-old pine trees on Mount Fuji as well as the traditional Japanese paper fan which nestled the giant sugpo.

FITTING FINALE

We feasted on the other dishes listed on the 12-page menu.

Saving the best for last, we had wagyu steaks, which the restaurant’s owners also sell at their exclusive meat shop around the corner.

That was a fitting grand finale to a wonderful afternoon.

It was a definite proof of the thriving “food” life in the ‘burbs.

PHOTOS FROM THE BONO TEI FB TIMELINE: https://www.facebook.com/bonoteifanpage?fref=photo

Bono Tei, at 333 El Grande St. former Jakarta, is open Monday-Sunday, 11 am to 111 pm. Call 8256330 for reservations

Dining out in Japan


Traditional style zashiki seating on the floor

Japan has a large selection of restaurants of an almost endless variety. While every place is different, the following points will help make dining out in Japan a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Entering the Restaurant

Many restaurants in Japan display plastic or wax replicas of their dishes in a window near their entrance. These replicas serve both to entice and inform patrons of the restaurant's menu and tend to offer an accurate, visual description of the style and price of meals found inside. The displays are especially helpful for foreign tourists who do not read and speak Japanese. For if all other forms of communication fail, you can go outside and point to what you want to order.


Show window displaying food replicas

Upon entering a restaurant, customers are greeted with the expression "irasshaimase" meaning "welcome, please come in". The waiter or waitress will ask you how many people are in your party and then lead you to your table. Only in rare cases, are customers expected to seat themselves.

While a majority of restaurants in Japan provide Western style tables and chairs, low traditional tables where you sit on pillows on the floor are also common and referred to as zashiki. Many restaurants feature both, and you may be asked which you prefer. In case of zashiki style seating, you should remove your shoes at the entrance to the restaurant or before stepping onto the seating area.

Smoking is permitted in many restaurants in Japan. Some restaurants provide both smoking (kitsuen) and non-smoking (kinen) sections, while others are fully smoking or non-smoking. If there is a choice, the waitress will ask you about your preference before seating you.


Modern style restaurant with Western style tables and chairs Ordering and Eating

* After you are seated, each diner is usually served with a free glass of water or tea. If it is not served, free water or tea is usually available for self service somewhere in the restaurant.

Everyone will also receive a wet towel (oshibori) which is used to clean your hands before eating. If chopsticks are not already set, you can usually find some in a box on the table. Most often, they are disposable wooden chopsticks that need to be separated into two before usage.


Chopsticks box

While many restaurants provide illustrated menus, other restaurants may only have Japanese text based menus, or the restaurant's offerings may instead be posted on the walls.


Illustrated menu at a typical family restaurant

If you are ever in doubt on what to order or find that you cannot read the menu, try asking for the recommendations (osusume) or the chef's choice (omakase).

The latter will often get you some surprisingly good, prix fix style meals, but be prepared to be adventurous and do not expect it to be cheap.

Once you are ready to order, you can signal the restaurant staff by saying "sumimasen" (excuse me), or if available, press the call button at the table.

Once you have finished ordering, the waitress will often repeat your order back to you for confirmation.

At some restaurants, such as izakaya, it is common for everyone in the party to order dishes together and share them. At other establishments, however, each diner is expected to order individually.

Paying

The bill will be presented upside down, either as you receive the meal or after you have finished eating.

In most restaurants, you are supposed to bring your bill to the cashier near the exit when leaving, as it is not common to pay at the table.

Paying in cash is most common, although more and more restaurants also accept credit cards or IC cards such as Suica.

Some restaurants, especially cheaper ones, have slightly different systems for ordering and paying.

For example, in many ramen and gyudon restaurants, "meal tickets" are bought at a vending machine near the store's entrance and handed over to the staff who then prepare and serve the meal.

It is not customary to tip in Japan, and if you do, you will probably find the restaurant staff chasing you down in order to give back any money left behind.

Instead, it is polite to say "gochisosama deshita" ("thank you for the meal") when leaving.

SOURCE: JAPAN GUIDE DOT COM


SOL JOSE VANZI'S CORNER
LIFESTYLE COLUMNIST OF THE MANILA DAILY BULLETIN & PANORAMA
'TIMPLA'T TIKIM'


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