This restaurant is sought out not just for its food but also for the privacy it affords its guests. One of my lengthier reviews. Read at leisure.
Once I find this place, I know that I’ve eaten here before during one of its previous incarnations. It used to be Abbondanza Pizzeria Ristorante, and it makes enough of an impression on me to warrant a brief mention in 2008. But there’s no indication now if it still exists.
Marufuku has been open since last August and once its massive wooden door slides shut behind me, it’s as if I’m ushered into a hushed enclave: palpable anticipation. There’s none of the customarily shrill, “Irrashaimase!!!” shrieked at other restaurants of this ilk and I’m quickly led to a table.
Wooden accents predominate and each place setting is set with a lacquer tray upon which rests a tea cup, heavy plate, and a chopstick rest, all of it quality ceramic ware. The open kitchen takes center stage here and it’s primed for presentation, decked out in stainless steel equipment, finishings, and an exceptional exhaust system – I never leave here with malodorous memories of what I’ve just eaten.
Marufuku’s menu isn’t indicative of the edible gems on offer; it’s an unwieldy collection of laminates held together by a sole metal ring. I find menus fascinating reading but even this is too much. I resist against throwing it (and my hands) up in frustration, so I plod along and with many tastes and trials and talking to other people who frequent this place, I can recommend some things.
First, for those who are visually-oriented, there’s a very helpful tarp or standee positioned outside the door of Marufuku. I can safely say that there won’t be any regrets if you order among those that are illustrated, and I’ll mention some in this post.
Marufuku excels in its selection of robata items. Food is charcoal-grilled on a sophisticated contraption that’s smokeless too, and it’s infinitely appealing to order and then watch it being grilled up front. Anything wrapped in beef is good as Marufuku prides itself on its beef supply, so I regularly order the Gyuniku Enokimaki (P90), and the Gyuniku Asparamaki (P80). The former is enoki mushroom and the latter is asparagus, both wrapped in sheets of beef. I watch the cook up front grill it and she only occasionally bastes the food. Because of this, my Bin finds the robatayaki tasty but dry so if you’re “saucy” like him, then order sides of chili oil and teriyaki sauce. Both will be whisked to your table posthaste. When my Bin asks why sauces aren’t served with the robatayaki, he’s told that the Japanese prefer it that way. Whether that’s true or not, I like it just the way it is (sans sauce[s]).
If you come to Marufuku by yourself or with a small group and you’re in the mood for drinks and sticks, I highly recommend that you sit up at the bar, the way the Japanese do it. Up there, you can see the display of food available for grilling (photo above) and the cook will pass it over to you when it’s ready. All you have to do next is let the saké and beer flow and you’re set for the night.
Speaking of beer, there’s one dish that Marufuku serves that’s so outstanding that I believe its reputation can rest on this one and one alone. Called the Kaki Motoyaki (P240/2), these are medium-sized oysters flown in from Hiroshima, Japan. Exposed to the heat just ‘til it absorbs the grill’s exhalation of warmth, it’s then lovingly lavished with a glaze made of miso, Japanese mayonnaise, togarashi, and a sprinkling of sugar. I don’t exaggerate when I use the word “lovingly” here because that’s exactly what I witness as I watch the cook hover over my kaki orders. Once the mixture is laid on the oyster, it’s then finished in a salamander where the cook’s watchful eye will pull this fine creation off the heat at the precise second. It comes to table resting on a dimsum spoon that’s held aloft by a smudge of fine salt. Tempting as it may be to scoop and suck that oyster off the spoon, don’t – unless you want a saline shock from the salt below; best to use your chopsticks to ferry the oyster from vessel to watering mouth. Then lick the residual cheese from the top of the spoon. Alternately briny and salty, with overtones of smoke, the oyster’s body is slick and smooth, a parallel to the slippery lushness of its creamy crown. And where does the beer come in that I mention at the start of this paragraph? I’m told that during a beer-drinking session with his friends, there was a Japanese customer who ordered 20 Kaki Motoyakis, so enamored was he of them. Like I say, it’s that good. My Bin has at least three when we’re here.
When you come to Marufuku, let go of your routine orders and your tried-and-tested. Shun your sake (salmon) and maguro (tuna) and your ho-hum California Maki. They have their place but here, go big and go for the Marufuku Roll (P550). Big and showy enough to merit stares of envy from the next table, this is a futomaki (fat roll) that reminds me of a dragon boat: one end showcases a shrimp tempura head, the other end, its tail. Mimicking one long cylinder, each sushi piece is stuffed with (among other things) cucumber shreds, tamago (egg), menma (bamboo shoots), tempura crumbs, and kani (crab). As its glorious finish, each section of the roll is laced with a strip of unagi (eel) that reclines languorously above a strip of yellow mango. It’s excessive, it’s massive – and I must cut it with a knife – I can’t manage it into my maw otherwise, even though I pride myself on my mouth’s large circumference.
Marufuku consists of one large space where diners can see the kitchen and vice versa. Nevertheless, it affords the luxury of privacy with tables set adequately far apart from one another and good acoustics to soften sound, quite the rarity in local Japanese restaurants. Service here isn’t perfect but it’s accommodating. I like to come to Marufuku when I don’t want to deal with people and I’m sometimes surprised to see some local celebrities have already discovered this place, eating quietly in their own corners as well. (I’m told they like it here because they’re left alone).
I judge a Japanese restaurant by the quality of its rice and Marufuku uses some of the best Japanese rice I’ve tasted – short grained, fluffy, and cooked perfectly. They do masterful things with it. Rice finds its majestic pinnacle in the selections of kamameshi rice (P350-P650) cooked in the traditional kama (iron pot). If you order this, you’ll be advised that it’ll take 45 minutes but I’ve never waited longer than 20. Whatever it may be, it’s worth the wait. When it arrives, let the lid stay on to encourage further formation of the tutong (rice crust). I find that Marufuku’s kamameshi is quite bland compared to Kamameshi House (who else serves this dish?), so order a viand to go with it. My Bin, needless to say, orders yet another Kaki Motoyaki – its saltiness plays well against the rice.
Ramen is all the rage now, but don’t come to Marufuku for it. Order the Tantanmen Ramen if it’s available though. It’s not on the menu and I’ve not even tried it since it’s always “out of stock” when I’m here. But my Bin has tried it and I trust his taste. He did marry me after all. (wink)
One last thing. I left my love for tempura in my 20s, along with my Filofax and small appetite. Unless it’s squash or sweet potato tempura, I won’t even bother looking at it. But the tempura at Marufuku blows all others out of the water, as sworn by those who have tried it plus my Bin and Boo. A product of large shrimp dredged in an ice-cold batter and fried in clean oil calibrated to an optimal temperature, this stuff is astounding. And I know that it’s verboten, but it speaks to the quality of this tempura that it’s still resoundingly crispy when we reheat leftovers in the toaster oven that evening.
G/F Crescent Bldg.
29 San Miguel Avenue,
Ortigas Center, Pasig
0917 528 6150
*Parking available in front and plenty outside UA&P.
11:30-2:30 / 6:30-10.30
On Facebook: Marufuku Japanese Restaurant