Setting. Yurakuen Japanese Restaurant is tucked away behind the busy hotel lobby of Diamond Hotel. To get to the main dining hall, you enter the marble floor hallway of Yurakuen flanked by four glass-enclosed teppanyaki stations available for private booking, complete with a dedicated chef to cook on site, then pass through a mini bridge over flowing water, before reaching a brass and gold honeycomb designed door leading to the 70-seater main dining hall. Inside, a cherry blossom tree takes center stage. Book a seat by the window with a view of the rock garden, beautifully landscaped with lush tropical plants, or book the teppanyaki station for private dining. Japanese music play softly in the background. Servers are all dressed in kimonos.
Food. Authentic Japanese using only the freshest ingredients. The grouper and cuttlefish are sourced from the Visayan region. Scallops are flown in from the US, with the more premium kind imported from Japan. The steaks are from the US except for the Wagyu, which come from Japan.
Try the Teppanyaki All-You-Can-Eat and get to taste a little bit of everything or go for seconds, with the chef ready to dish up whatever you fancy. For starters, order the oyster in vinegar sauce and radish, or the wakame salad, iceberg lettuce tossed with tomatoes, seaweed, roe, Japanese cucumber in roasted sesame dressing, which is refreshing and light. Then on to the main courses, with three dipping sauces served: ponzu or lemon sauce that goes well with seafood; the garlic sauce for steaks; and miso for vegetables. The cuttlefish, similar to squid in texture and taste, is salted, peppered and fried just right. The scallops are also good and fresh. And finally, the pièce de résistance: the Wagyu steak, seasoned with salt, pepper and soy and cooked in butter, is melt-in-your-mouth buttery perfection. Brown tea is served before and in between meals.
My favorites on the main course menu include tenderloin and vegetables. For dessert, try the homemade green tea ice cream.
Dining Options. The teppanyaki gives you a choice of a la carte, set meals or full course meals. You can book the yakiniku room to do your own grilling. One of the a la carte bestsellers is the Wagyu ramen.
Service. Efficient servers. The chefs impress not just with their cooking, but with their graceful moves as they whip out various dishes.
Who dines there. Mainly Japanese clientele, dignitaries, and businessmen.
Prices. The Teppanyaki All-You-Can-Eat including of free flowing standard drinks, local beer and Kirin beer costs P2,800++ (US$60++) per person. The rate for lunch and dinner is the same.
Verdict. Good Japanese food, faithful to Japanese traditions. The drive from traffic- heavy Makati to Roxas Boulevard is well worth it.
Diamond Hotel Philippines, Roxas Boulevard corner Dr. J. Quintos Street, Manila, Philippines, tel +632 528 3000.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller February to March 2014. Updated April 2016