Nanbantei of Tokyo holds a special spot in my heart for many reasons and good memories.Visiting it again is like seeing an old friend in the past after ages. Now that it has a branch near my place, I have no excuse anymore to miss it. Rekindling the old friendship would make you wonder if things were still the same, or it just has gotten better. Apparently, with Nanbantei, it’s a combination of both and I couldn’t get more excited.Nanbantei roughly translates to a place where guests can stay and unwind after a long day at work. Nanban means foreigner, and Tei means rest house or teahouse. It is a restaurant dedicated in grilled and skewered dishes called Yakitori, and other Japanese specialties.
I only know a few restaurants specializing in Yakitori, and Nanbantei seems to be on top of its game for showcasing the best Yakitori dishes in the metro. Yakitori originally means grilled chicken, but Nanbantei has an expansive range from beef, pork, seafood and vegetables so its diverse selection won’t leave you empty-handed at all.
Nanbantei’s ambiance is similar to the type of modern Japanese restaurants today, furnished with wooden tables and chairs and oriental lamps. Its simple, clean interiors is visually relaxing in the sense that you’d focus more on the food experience with the laid back setting. The tables are not so close to each other, space isn’t cramped up if you’re wanting some privacy.
As a frequent customer before, I used to order the platter consisting of all types of Yakitori. But the number of sticks (21 pieces) is quite overbearing and tiring to finish in the end. Good thing about Nanbantei, they already have included the Teishoku (meal sets) on the menu which is easy on the pocket, but equally satisfying and heavy on the tummy too. At the price of Php 350 you’d have soup, appetizers, Yakitori and rice.
We ordered the Best Seller Set, Yakitori Lunch Set and Maki Set. Each meal has four Yakitori sticks of your choice, two pieces California Maki, two pieces Ebi Tempura, Miso soup and a full cup of steamed Japanese rice.
While waiting, we munched on crunchy vegetable sticks with sweetened shrimp paste. If you’re not used to it, you’d find it a bit odd- tasting, but as you go along you’ll enjoy the vegetables dipped in this sweet paste. It’s like stirring up your taste buds in preparation for the big feast that is ahead.
We also had complimentary tea to warm us up after a long, tiring day at work. Tea was nice.
The Miso soup was flavored right, not too salty. I even asked my friend’s soup for my second serving since I am really into it.
Then the Ebi Tempura came, followed by the California Maki. Oh boy, the shrimp batter was great that I could hear the crisp crackle when I had my first bite at those plump shrimps. It was not too oily and airy. And when you finally doused the shrimp to the tempura sauce, you’d instantly crave for a hot bowl of steamed rice.
I love how they prepared their Maki. Its noticeable freshness can be seen in the vivid colors – no hint of staleness. You’d know the difference of that which was stored in the fridge for a long time, and that which was prepared on the spot. Theirs can be categorized in the latter, undeniably.
A friend, who’s a fan of greens ordered Kani Salad. Undoubtedly, Nanbantei banks on the freshness of its ingredients- from the crisp lettuce, crab sticks, and mangoes. The colors are just so alive. From now on, I will make sure to include this as a starter each time I’d dine in a Japanese restaurant.
And just as the waiting time is prolonged, our anticipation is heightened for the real deal. I was thinking at the back of my head that delaying the serving of Yakitori was part of their scheme to increase our excitement. We were all ready then to devour the meat feast like hungry lions all set to pounce on its carnivore meal.
And it was all worth the wait, as they would say. The meat was grilled just right, not burnt. Of all the Yakitori, I had big fondness for the Poteto Meki (potato wrapped in bacon) – two of my favorites rolled into one. I also liked the Aspara Meki (asparagus wrapped with pork). Basically, I’d like my meat paired with veggies to get a balance of taste and nutrition.
As our huge appetites toned down, we lost the battle. We weren’t able to finish everything on our abundant table spread. Rice had no room for our tummies anymore.
The service was absolutely excellent too. Our assigned server kept checking on us to see if we all had all the orders right, and if there was something missing. She also asked how well we enjoyed the food.
And just the the old days, Nanbantei has not failed my expectations of what a high- quality Japanese restaurant ought to be. Not only does it take pride in innovating Yakitori specialties and other Japanese dishes but also in upholding good customer service. It was nostalgia, really. The food unfolded good memories in the past, that which are worth keeping. I shall continue to mark it as one of my all-time favorite Japanese restaurants.