Tagaytay City remains one of the best weekend destinations for city slickers being only about two hours away from the bustle of of Metro Manila.
Surrounded by the scenic view of the Taal Volcano and Taal Lake, foodies flock to Tagaytay for awesome food finds and the cooler weather. But we must admit, for those of us who absolutely love Japanese cuisine, there’s really no viable option in Tagaytay… until Aozora came along.
Bringing Japan to Tagaytay
Addressing the need for an authentic Japanese restaurant in Tagaytay, entrepreneur Christine Villongco teamed up with Japanese chef Seiji Kamura and opened Aozora Japanese Bistro and Cafe in May of 2015.
“Aozora” means “sky” in Japanese, the perfect name for a place that serves heavenly Japanese food and showcases the gorgeous blue sky over Taal Lake.
The interiors also reflect Japanese minimalism, shifting the focus to the food instead of the decor Chef Kamura, with over 30 years of culinary experience under his belt, shared that about 90 percent of their ingredients are imported from Japan or suppliers from Metro Manila where other authentic restaurants get their goods.
“We make sure our ingredients are fresh and authentic, we [spare no expense],” Chef Kamura tells Expat.
When you want nothing but the best, finding the right supplier could be a challenge. But with Chef Kamura’s connections—some of which come all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun—they were able to find a viable source for their ingredients, making every dish at Aozora taste like a meal right out of Japan.
“Since we are the first and only authentic Japanese restaurant in the area, we wanted to set the bar really high,” Chef Kamura said. “We do not [skimp on ingredients] and we prioritize [taste over convenience].”
One visit to Aozora won’t be enough to try everything on their menu, but Chef Kamura suggests trying their best-sellers when you visit.
To start the meal, Chef Kamura recommends their Tuna Avocado Salad—served in a hollowed out avocado shell, the salad is a generous serving of creamy and spicy mixture of avocado and fresh tuna.
After the salad, be amazed by their signature dish: Dragon Maki – a giant prawn tempura wrapped and rolled into a maki. Served with its tail and head for additional wow factor, the sweet fresh prawn goes great with the salty nori (seaweed wrapper) and bits of crispy tempura batter. The tangy Japanese mayo completes the dish and provides a creamy background for the crunchy texture.
For the main dish, make sure to order their signature Bulalo Ramen—the delicious marriage of Japanese and Filipino favorites. Firm ramen noodles and a soft-boiled egg are served within the warm and flavorful bulalo broth with tender beef chunks and sweet corn. The hearty meal is served over a candle warmer to make sure the dish remains warm despite the frequently cooler Tagaytay weather.
The Mango Sherbet is a delightfully light and simple palate cleanser to end the meal.
“Aside from our great food, we also take pride in our friendly staff,” sous chef Homer Aseneta shares with Expat. “We try our best to give all guests an authentic Japanese food experience and our service also reflects that.”
So, next time you find yourself in Tagaytay looking for a place to try, make sure to drop by Aozora Japanese Bistro and Cafe for a taste of Japan in Tagaytay.
Aozora Japanese Bistro and Cafe is open Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is located at Domicillo Design Hotel, Km. 58, Gen. E. Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City. For reservations, contact (0936) 980-9656.
By CHING DEE