food + drinks by Alyssa Castillo

Hamaru is a Modern-day Izakaya that’s Worth the Traffic

“We’re confident that our Tsukune might be the best one in the Philippines.”

You won’t find many Japanese restaurants to choose from along the lengthy stretch of Visayas Avenue. But behind a busy food park called The Food Hive, we found Hamaru: a modernized take on authentic izakaya of sushi rolls, yakitori, and sake. And in all its modern-day Japanese gastro pub setup, it whispers eat me a little louder than your grumbling stomach.hamaru-1Co-owner Tadeo Chua and Sous Chef Joma Sanchez tell us that a good friend, Chef Niño Laus of Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge, had influenced the steps taken in fostering their creative take on authentic Japanese cuisine. The Sous Chef shares, “As a culinarian and as a customer myself, taste matters most. From this, you can tell if what you’re getting is worth it. The dish can look really well-plated (or not) but it all boils down to the question: masarap ba? I’m proud that all our dishes are of high standard.”hamaru-2Oyster Motoyaki is Hamaru’s version of baked oysters, which are traditionally salty and loaded with heavy cheese, but instead use cauliflower puree for a healthy alternative that’s equally tasty nonetheless. The Hamaru Soft Shell Crab Roll is their take on the classic California Maki–replacing kani with soft shell crab, then topping the roll off with kani strings and aligue mayo.  hamaru-3Their Tsukune Shiso is chicken meatballs infused with different herbs and spices that give a burst of flavor once you bite into it, especially when paired with its egg yolk sauce. The team themselves believe that it might just be the best Tsukune in the country.hamaru-4The Corn Croquettes is made out of Japanese corn puree. Since it has a naturally sweet taste, it’s balanced out with umami flavors, salt, and edamame hummus. And the Butabara, an original recipe, is garlic pork belly skewer in sweet potato puree, pickled eggplant, and chili strings.

Among their array of desserts, we swear by their Tofu Cheesecake. It’s made with Yuzu cheese, which has a mild sour taste that’s complemented by the tofu – making for a light take on the sinful cheesecake.hamaru-5Behind the bar, bartender Armand Kiyoumarsi makes a special sake – a favorite for an adventurous crowd of drinkers. But if you don’t identify as one of them, his lemonade is made up of lemon juice, honey, cucumber, and butterfly pea flower tea – a tall, refreshing glass rich in antioxidants.hamaru-6Authentic Japanese izakayas are known for their eat-a-little-then-drink-a-little routine. Here, you can do that too, but we’re warning you now: Hamaru’s servings are relatively huge, but that’s only because the fullness in flavor that their dishes hold can’t simply allow for normal bite-sizes—not that we’re not complaining, though.

Produced by Alyssa Castillo
Sittings by Sam Potenciano
Photography by Renzo Navarro

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Alyssa Castillo
Alyssa Castillo is a freelance writer and is concurrently Rogue Media's Editorial Assistant for The NBHD. She reads for fun, writes for a living, and wastes too much time entertaining the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Find her on Instagram as @lysscstll.
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