As I was going to be in Global Bonifacio City (affectionately referred to as BGC by Pinoys), close to Manila, my research for dinner with my wife landed on an interesting modern omakase restaurant in that area earning rave reviews. The omakase, which only accommodates 8 people, was fully booked; but we went anyway to for the ala carte menu. Imagine my delight when 2 slots opened up for us when we arrived.
“Global cuisine with Japanese inflections whilst paying respect to the ingredients”, proclaims Chef Bruce Ricketts, the man and talent behind Mecha Uma, a collaboration with Philippine’s Moment Group’s founders – restaurateurs Abba Napa, Eliza Antonino and Jon Syjuco. The name Mecha Uma is an abbreviation of a Japanese expression: mechakucha and umai meaning absurd, unreasonably delicious, and a good mess.
The design of Mech Uma is by Yorge Yulo Architects & Associates: a minimalistic look with stark concrete walls softened by liberal use of wood; shelves of sake bottles; and stitched together by an enormous ceiling ornamental structure that shelters a good part of the cosy and intimate space.
We opted for a flask of hot sake to go with the evening. Feeling hungry, we ordered the grilled chicken to pass time while waiting for the next seating of the omakase. The chicken was succulent and full-flavoured; only wished it was served hotter.
We were seated at the counter right where Chef Ricketts was performing, with the jovial chef explaining each and every dish, and the inspiration behind them.
True to Chef Ricketts’ words, Mecha Uma dishes out innovative Japanese-accentuated food, but the masterpiece is the seasonal 10-course 2-hour omakase tasting menu that blends air-flown specialties from Japan with a liberal mix of local organic produce and flavours.
The omakase dinner started with sashimi of Sea Bream (Tai) and Mackerel. Both were freshly, gently sliced by Chef Ricketts; I’m not a big fan of mackerel but the pieces we had were not fishy, and well complemented by the grated ginger and wasabi. There was another mackerel dish that I forgot to take a photo of. It’s an applewood-smoked Sawara (a large Spanish mackerel) served with stock made from the bones, and sake jelly.
The Aburi Perch was nicely torched, and delicious with the spring onions and ponzu sauce.
Monkfish Liver with squid-ink seaweed cracker was a good juxtaposition of textures and flavours.
The Belt fish with crab meat, finished with the Filipino touch of aligue crab roe, was a good example of fusion well executed.
The next dish was Buri, aged Hamachi; the molten flesh was luscious. Chef Ricketts said the aging process lends the flesh more full-bodied.
This dish is whale sperm sashimi. I’m still thinking of an adjective to describe this virgin experience – and the only word that comes to mind is “interesting”.
The Unagi and beet is cleverly crafted and scrumptious too – the paste you see is cauliflower and mancheco cheese, and the sauce is an extract of desiccated coconut.
No omakase meal is complete without the quintessential Toro. Simple and heavenly!
Being a carb-man, this rice bowl ranked very high for the evening. The fluffy rice is cooked with yuzu and wasabi stems, and topped with slices of slow-cooked rump given a quick grill over the charcoal fire. The dish is rendered little nice touches like the popped rice grains that add a crunchy texture to the softness; and a piping hot flask of seaweed and salt broth. The recommended way to enjoy this dish is to eat half the rice, and then pour the stock into the rest to finish.
And finally dessert. My wife named it the 6-chefs dessert as that’s the number of people working on it concurrently, with Chef Ricketts orchestrating. A mouth-watering and creative sweet of sliced pear, tofu soy-milk and white chocolate topped with ice-cream made from sake lees, accompanied by a sauce of sake that Chef Ricketts concocted on the spot. A yummy end to a great evening.
Chef Ricketts has done stints with several famous restaurants in California before returning to the Philippines to start his own restaurants. When I asked him where he learned his trade, his reply was “Google and YouTube”, confessing that he had never worked in a sushi restaurant before. Mecha Uma is an apt name, the food that Chef Ricketts turned out was a wonderfully good mess, fusing Japanese concepts and ingredients with a blend of Pinoy ingenuity, local produce and flavours.
What’s amazing is that this jovial and humble trailblazer is only a tender 26 years of age. This talented young man is one to watch!
25th street, between 5th & 6th Avenue
RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center
Bonifacio South, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig,
Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone; +63 28012770