Beloved cosmopolitan Japanese restaurant John & Yoko shakes up the scene with bright new interiors and a revamped menu, truly making things “bold and exciting” for the Makati dining crowd.
The update comes after 8 years in Greenbelt 5, in which time John & Yoko gained a steady following for its upscale urban cuisine, taking its cue from cities like New York, Paris, Rome, and Madrid.
“Filipinos have developed a more discriminating palate for Japanese food, from the freshness of their sushi and sashimi, the crispness of their tempura, the umami of their ramen. Cosmopolitan cuisine has also evolved from urban and trendy into more sophisticated gastronomy with global appeal,” states Ricky Laudico of the Sumo Sam Restaurant Concepts Group. “John & Yoko takes it up a notch with a new look that appeals to a wider crowd, and a more interesting menu for a truly unique flavor experience.”
Bolder flavors, twist on techniques
To match the new “Instagrammable” interiors of John & Yoko, three chefs collaborated to form the culinary team behind the restaurant’s new menu, balancing playfulness, tradition, and innovation.
Chef Chris Oronce, considered one of the rising stars of Japanese cooking in the Philippines, heads John & Yoko and lends bold playfulness to the menu, banking on his experience at Nobu New York and Shibuya in Las Vegas. Chef Benjamin “Bengon” Gonzales provides the foundation on tradition, with his extensive experience in Japanese cuisine since the 80s, previously training in Torigin and Furosato before his ten-year stint with the SumoSam group. Meanwhile, adding innovation to the mix is Chef Sonny Mariano, an up and coming chef who trained in the prestigious Setai Hotel and Miami and has won awards representing the Philippines in international competitions, such as the Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) Culinary Challenge 2016 in Singapore last April, and the First Medal at the World Association of Chefs Society (WACS) in 2015.
“We’ve infused bolder flavors into the menu for some interesting flavor combinations, and employed some new techniques on the bestsellers to bring out more flavors,” Chef Chris says.
“The dishes showcase different culinary traditions, both Asian and Western, with premium ingredients and sauces that offer new flavor profiles,” adds Chef Bengon.
“There are more textures on the menu now, with components that add that extra crunch or creaminess, so you can savor each mouthful,” Chef Sonny imparts. “Several dishes also showcase a combination of temperatures, with both hot and cold components.”
From appetizers to dessert
Start with Salmon Carpaccio, thin slices of Norwegian salmon in soy truffle ponzu, topped with arugula and shaved parmesan; or Truffle Prawns in Asparagus, grilled prawns sautéed with asparagus and crabfat, drizzled with truffle oil and yuzu.
Go green with the Spicy Tuna Salad, mixed greens tossed in onion dressing, surrounded by spicy tuna tartare over seared sushi rice nigiri.
For sushi and sashimi, try the Salmon Lasagna, a bed of crispy fried nori and Japanese sushi rice topped with torched ground Norwegian Salmon, Japanese mayo and teriyaki sauce. The Unagi Chocolate is chicken fillet, lightly dredged in cornstarch and deep-fried, seasoned with salt and pepper, brushed with unagi teriyaki sauce and served with wasabi cream sauce on the side. The Salmon Aburi with Mango Salsa is torched Norwegian Salmon sushi, topped with a salad of mango, onion, and cherry tomatoes and filled with a white cream sauce. The Dragon Roll is cucumber and unagi with teriyaki sauce, topped with sweet mango.
Check out John & Yoko’s selection of Mini Tacos in Crab – softshell crab tempura topped with tomatoes and mango miso dressing and salsa, drizzled with truffle oil; Tuna – tuna tossed in wasabi mayo, with chopped jalapeño and pineapple salsa, garnished with sesame seeds and shredded togarashi; and Salmon – salmon tossed with miso dressing, topped with ebiko, tempura flakes and microgreens, drizzled with truffle oil.
For seafood and chicken, John & Yoko showcases Scallop Dynamite: minced scallops blended with kani and ebiko in a spicy tuna sauce, baked on top of teppan scallops in shell; Oyster Overload: oyster teppan topped with Japanese Hollandaise sauce and melted cheese, served with ponzu sauce; and Crispy Chicken Teriyaki, crunchy chicken fillet tossed in teriyaki sauce, garnished with spring onions and togarashi served with wasabi mayo.
Pizza lovers will enjoy Uni Truffle Pizza, thin crust pizza topped with béchamel sauce, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, uni, and button mushrooms, garnished with arugula and drizzled with truffle oil.
The Euro Soba is inspired by Beef Stroganoff, where ramen noodles and sliced US beef are sautéed in olive oil and asparagus and topped with béchamel sauce; while the Shoyu Chasyu Ramen is a hot thick broth with a soy sauce (shoyu) base, topped with slow cooked pork (chasyu) and onsen tamago.
The Chicken and Shrimp Japaella is a crowd-pleaser: stir-fried Japanese rice with chorizo, grilled prawns, and chicken. Try also the Braised Buta Kakuni, slow cooked pork belly, deep-fried and served with cucumber, lettuce and a side of steamed buns; and the Ropponggi Steak, US Beef teppan served on a bed of three kinds of sauteed mushrooms, topped with fried shallots and sesame teriyaki on the side.
Round off the meal with the Dessert Bento, which has tasting portions of Crepe with chunky strawberry preserve and vanilla ice cream; Molten Green Tea; Banana Chocolate Pudding; Earl Grey Crème Brulee; and vanilla Ice Cream with cereal crunch.
Making way for new favorites
Even with the various changes to the menu, the team has also made sure to retain the essence of each dish.
“At the heart of each dish is still the well-loved classic. For example, tempura – that’s basically battered and deep fried meat or vegetables. You can play with the sauce and the cuts of meat, but you have to remember that it still has to be tempura,” Chef Chris explains. “The new dishes are simply exciting takes on old favorites, and we hope our guests find a new favorite dish on the menu.”
“We hope our guests appreciate the new dishes, still rooted in tradition, but served up in modern ways,” notes Chef Bengon.
In keeping with John & Yoko’s young, playful and inventive vibe, the restaurant will be rolling out more new dishes in the coming months.
“We’ve decided to update the menu every so often so there’s always something to look forward to. It’s going to be exciting for the diners of the restaurant,” promises Chef Sonny.
John & Yoko is located at the 2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Makati City. For reservations, contact 623-7255, firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to the official Facebook Page (John and Yoko Cosmopolitan Japanese).