Apparently, in the past few years, Robinsons Galleria has transformed from a run-of-the-mill mall into a legit destination for hip, trendy types looking for new food and shopping options.
The Quezon City mall used to be my stomping grounds years ago when my workplace was located on the ground floor. But I have to admit — back then, many areas were dimly lit, the interiors looked dated, and there weren’t many places to eat.
Now, thanks to a refurb that was first announced way back in 2010, the old mall has shed its retro look and has finally joined the modern age.
This means, of course, that there are also more places to chow down, and eaters get the flexibility of being choosey. There’s now a variety of cuisines, representing a range of price points, from budget-friendly eateries to premium dining spots.
One of these newcomers is Kisoya, a three-month-old mid-tier chain restaurant originating from South Korea that offers a fusion of Korean and Japanese cuisines.
Kisoya’s Galleria branch is the first to open in the Philippines. Founded in 1988 in Incheon, the menu is a fusion of Korean and Japanese food — a combination that may sound strange to purists of each cuisine, but to them, we say: Keep an open mind. This place makes it work.
Let’s start with a look at the ingredients, the high quality of which is probably to thank for the chain’s intercontinental success. According to Manila branch manager Jessmary Bringino, these are all imported from South Korea, and noodles are made fresh in-house. Bringino tells us that this is why she thinks the restaurant is packed with Korean families on weekdays — it reminds them of home.
She told Coconuts Manila in a mix of English and Filipino: “They would eat side-by side right next to each other. Sometimes we have to arrange tables all the way to the exit. But they don’t mind.”
On the Saturday I visited for lunch, however, it was rather quiet. The tables and chairs reminded me of a mid-tier Chinese restaurant. Thanks to the upbeat K-pop songs that they were playing, however, there was no mistaking the kind of food I was about to dive into.
I tried the Kisoya set (PHP599/US$11.07), composed of Kimchi udon, tonkatsu, and a side of rice. I got the Kimchi udon with a “mild” spice level — the perfect level of spice for me.
The udon was certainly on the salty side (which would appeal to a lot of Filipinos) and the texture of the noodles was silky-smooth. This noodle bowl would be the perfect thing to eat on a rainy day, but it’s too bad that I was eating it on a day when it was blazing hot.
The tonkatsu, the sliced, deep fried pork cutlet, was crunchy and the breading wasn’t too thick, unlike other places that tend to go overboard. It was good. A solid, straight-forward iteration. Great? The meat itself was not quite juicy enough to hit that mark.
Head Chef of the Manila outpost, Alejandro Mirral, also created a dish just for our city’s Kisoya: the Kisoya Special Rolls (PHP399/US$7.38), a combo of salmon, mango, cucumber, and crab.
The seafood tastes fresh, and the combination of the fruit and the Japanese mayo drizzled on top brings a slightly tart and sweet flavor. It’s definitely one of the better contemporary-style makizushi in town, and one of those ‘must-try’ dishes here.
They’ve got desserts, too. We tried the Injulmee Bingsu (PHP200/US$3.69), made with almonds and traditional Korean rice cakes.
They told me this version is exactly how it’s made in Korea, but… I wish it were sweeter. I’ve been eating Filipino and Indonesian desserts my whole life — and to me, this one simply didn’t pack enough of a dessert punch to be all that satisfying. I can see, however, how this one would work better for someone who isn’t quite as fond of sugar as I am.
In any case — Kisoya is certainly worth a visit. It’s like experiencing Incheon, with a touch of Tokyo, right in the middle of busy Metro Manila.
Chef Mirral’s more than 15 years of experience in the business, combined with his training in Incheon, definitely shows in the quality of his food. He knows his stuff, and a meal at the restaurant is relatively cheap compared to some of the other mid-range, upper mid-range spots that have created a fair bit of buzz around town lately.
Kisoya is at 3rd floor, Veranda area, Robinsons Galleria
EDSA corner Ortigas Ave., Ortigas Center, Quezon City, Metro Manila
Open Mondays–Sundays; 10am–9pm (Mondays–Fridays) and 10am-10pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
Reservations: +632 6375362