Can’t Decide Between Japanese or Korean Food? NIKUYA Offers the Best of Both Worlds: Ish Eats WAGYU

The amazing food spread at Nikuya

If you’re indecisive like me, or you really just want to taste as many things as possible in one meal, Nikuya at Estancia Mall in Pasig City (Philippines) is a good choice.

The place offers a mix of Japanese and Korean dishes, two of my favorite cuisines. To narrow it down a bit further, Nikuya specializes in Shabu-Shabu (hot pot) and charcoal grilled meats. Depending on how you look at it, you can call it a Korean grill or a Yakiniku (Japanese) place.

Normally I don’t like confused restaurant concepts. However, Japanese and Korean cuisines are very similar and combining the best elements from either side of the Sea of Japan is one of the best culinary innovations.

Modern oriental interiors

Upon walking in, the edgy oriental interiors invite you to gather around a table that has the customary round openings at the center. These are meant to house either your hot pot or your charcoal grill. For this particular visit, I was able to try both.

Let’s start with the appetizers. We didn’t get an insurmountable amount of “banchan” or Korean side dishes. However, we did get some kimchi, pickled radishes and sweet, crispy anchovies.

To go with those small bites, we had a pile of deep-fried crispy shrimps called EBIASHI KARA-AGE. These were beautifully seasoned and fried without taking away the natural sweetness of the shrimps.

Ebiashi Kara-age Php218.00 (pictured with banchan)

We also tried the NIKUYA EGGROLL, a house specialty. Think of this as something similar to a Japanese maki roll, except that instead of rice, it’s a large omelette rolled around some mozzarella cheese, and nori. It’s also generously topped with a lot of bonito flakes. For me, that’s a winning combination. Because it’s an appetizer, I also appreciate the fact that the egg is lighter than a roll of Japanese rice. Nevertheless, it’s a big serving and I would recommend it if you’re sharing with a big group.

Nikuya Eggroll Php358.00
It’s a large eggroll!

Our final appetizer is the familiar Korean HAMEUL PAJEON. If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant, you’ve probably tried this dish. Nikuya’s version does not scrimp on the seafood and leeks. It’s very flavorful and is enhanced even more by the dipping sauce that comes with it. My only issue would be that I would have preferred it to be slightly crispier.

Pajeon Php338.00

Moving on to the main dishes: We first tried out some of the options for Nikuya’s LUNCH SET MENU. These are basically rice toppings that can be enjoyed by solo diners or employees who are stopping for a quick lunch break. Because I often find myself eating lunch while I’m in between meetings or on the go, I appreciate restaurants that offer lunch sets like this one. All sets come with the rice meal and a choice of soup or salad and the dessert of the day.

Lunch Set Menu Options: from top: Kimchi Bokkeumbap, Chukkadon, Jjajangbap, Php250 with soup/salad and dessert.

Among the three lunch sets that we had, my favorite is the JJAJANGBAP. Good luck trying to pronounce that. Hehe. It’s basically deep-fried pork belly and veggies glazed with a sweet black bean sauce. I see this as something similar to tapa or tocino, two of my favorite Filipino rice meals. All the rice meals are generous, quite filling and very affordable at only Php250.00

Now, it’s time to discuss the SHABU-SHABU options. I mean it when I say that this calls for a discussion. We tried not one, but four different broth options. Again, indecisive and just a major case of FOMO.

Basic Shabu-shabu set Php658.00

A Shabu-Shabu set consists of a pot of up to two kinds of broth. This comes with a platter full of assorted veggies, fish balls, squid balls, dumplings and O-deng (Korean rice cake) sticks. The set typically goes for Php658.00 but you can a choice of different meats for an additional price. The curry and spicy seafood broth also come at an additional premium.

Our first pot had the Pork and Chicken broth on one side and the Spicy Seafood broth on the other. The pork and chicken broth reminds me of a light Japanese Paitan ramen. The spicy seafood broth was a clear favorite in the group. It was spicy but not overpowering. We had to ask for a second helping of this broth because everyone can’t get enough of it.

While everyone was preoccupied with the spicy broth, I was lucky to be left with the other pot in front of me. This one had the sukiyaki and the curry broth. Sukiyaki is one of my favorite Japanese dishes so I really enjoyed this one. The sweet soy broth was really good and I had to stop myself from sipping too much lest I get too full. The only downside is that the glass noodles for the sukiyaki wasn’t enough. I think the servings of the egg noodles for the other variations were a tad bit more.

Sukiyaki Set

The curry tasted good but not really a shabu-shabu option for me. I would eat it but given the other options, I would choose the other ones first. That’s a personal preference and I’m sure curry lovers will drool over this. I like curry but perhaps I like it better if I was having Indian/Malay etc. If it’s Japanese/Korean there’s just so many more dishes that I would choose over it.

Speaking of top choices, the GRILLED WAGYU came next. Yes sir, we had ourselves a platter full of A5 grade wagyu chuck roll. Nikuya uses these interesting round brickettes in their grill and the meat was cooked very quickly right in front of us. Even without seasoning, the beef tastes amazing. However, a dash of salt and pepper didn’t hurt either. I also tried it with a light soy dip and garlic chips. Absolutely divine.

A5 Wagyu Chuckroll Php1,288/100g

I’m glad we had this at the end of the meal. Otherwise, if we weren’t already full after everything else, we might have had some violence.

The restaurant serves a selection of premium cuts of wagyu beef. Their chiller displays what’s available for the day and you can ask your server for assitance. They also have a certificate on display stating that high quality of the Omi Beef that they serve.

Finally, it was time to cap off the meal with some Korean Bingsu. These shaved ice desserts have become very popular lately and Nikuya’s version didn’t disappoint. We shared bowls of their original red bean mochi bingsu and the en vogue matcha bingsu.

Matcha Bingsu Php240.00
Original Red Bean Bingsu Php160.00

The shaved ice was so fine, it was like eating clouds! A perfect sweet ending to an amazing meal. Now, I’m off to renew that gym membership.
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