Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tanabe Japanese Restaurant: Dining in the sunset

My husband and I have different tastes in food. He loves noodles and dimsums and I adore kebabs and curries. But one cuisine my husband and I agree on is Japanese food, even if he loves sashimi and I hate eating raw fish. Japanese restaurants like Tanabeis a neutral ground for our food differences. I’ve been here twice. The first time was on our anniversary dinner celebration last February. And though we couldn’t see the ocean that night, there were lights coming from the ships and in the buildings while a gentle breeze cooled the air and a bossa nova band played nearby. Yes, it was kind of romantic. I teased my husband that if it was our first date, he would have earned a thousand pogi points.

The second time we went there the sun was setting on a late Saturday afternoon. The conditions were less than ideal. There were a lot of people in the mall, many eagerly anticipating the fireworks that happens every 7 pm and it was also very humid. Fortunately, Mother Nature amply displayed the surreal colors of the sunset and Tanabe matched this with its creativity and taste that more than compensated the little irritations that time.

I just love watching the sunset so nothing can stop me from ordering outside facing the bay, not even the almost unbearable humidity. So with my dramatic backdrop in place, I ordered the California Hana Bento (P500), a bento box that included a small salad with a thousand island dressing, tempura shrimps and vegetables, large pieces of California maki, fried dimsum, and lastly egg and pork roll-ups.

This bento box is bigger than your average bento box. It could have been eaten by two people. But since we both love Japanese food, my husband and I opted to order two of these bento boxes. Yah, I know we’re matakaw..haha.. And when my bento box arrived, I was impressed. The food inside was creatively arranged and presented that I almost didn’t want to touch it. So when they say that you eat with your eyes first, then mine definitely feasted on this, particularly on the beautiful presentation of colors and textures. And judging from what I can see, I can almost imagine how good these would taste in my mouth.

And one thing that stood out in that bento box at least, appearance wise is the fried dimsum. It looked quirky, looking like a small yellow sphere with curly tubes sticking out. I imagined some strange taste coming from it but it tasted like a regular siomai to me, oh well. The salad was a good appetizer. I’m glad that for a thousand island dressing it leaned more on the sweet side. I’m not keen on sour dressings , for me at least, it dampens my appetite. The tempura shrimps and vegetables were also good. It was lightly battered and seasoned well. You can really taste the shrimps and veggies not the flour.

I have eaten in Japanese restaurants before and it’s my first time to actually taste a pork roll-up with crunchy veggies inside. I was amused because it’s not something you see on a Japanese restaurant everyday. Biting into it, the pork tasted a little salty for me but I figured out that if you combine it with the vegetables inside, the saltiness lessens a bit and the crunch gives it an added texture. I’m not so sure what crunchy veggies were inside but I’m guessing cucumber or celery.

The California Maki is my favorite sushi. I love the sweetness of the mango and the crunch of the cucumber that is encased in sushi rice and delicately wrapped in nori sheet. It’s the main reason I ordered this bento box. But the California Maki in Tanabe is bigger than most I’ve seen in other local Japanese restaurants. Though, I’ve seen one in Hongkong. The problem with this biggie size is how cumbersome it can be. If you can’t actually stuff it all inside your mouth, the contents inside the maki just falls apart and you have to pick it up individually with your chopsticks. But since I love this Maki in whatever form or size it is, it didn’t matter to me.

Another thing I love inside this bento box is the egg-roll up with leafy veggies inside. Honestly, it’s something I’d expect from a Korean restaurant not a Japanese one so when I saw it I was pleasantly surprised. The egg tasted sweet not salty as I expected and together with the leafy and refreshing veggies inside tasted really good. It was an odd combination that worked.

I’m looking forward on my third time in this place. I just hope I would be more adventurous in what I order so I can try their other dishes. So if you’re within Mall of Asia and want a nice view of the ocean while feasting on creatively prepared Japanese food then check out Tanabe.

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