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Watami bets on Bacolod food scene

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• CARLO LEONARDIA

Watami Bacolod GM Kiko Estioco (2nd from left, standing), with the restaurant staff*

When one thinks of the new Bistro Group restaurants in Bacolod City, the first to come to mind would probably be Italianni’s and TGI Fridays, as that is what they are most known for. However, the group actually has 23 concept stores all over the country, and the good news for Bacolodnons is that they brought in more than just their well-known ones.

Watami is their Japanese concept that also recently opened at the Ayala Capitol Central second floor Alfresco.

Originally from Nagoya, Japan, and in the Philippines led by Chef Masaaki Ishikawa, who brings his take on flavorful and classic Japanese cuisine steeped in culture and history, this amiable culinary expert has over 30 years of experience gained from working in his own restaurants and from various stints in some of Manila’s top-rated hotels.

The satisfied writer, with Watami GM Kiko Estioco (right)*

Their specialties are ramen, tempura, premium sushi, sashimi, Teishoku dishes, and aburi, among many others.

I recently sat down for a meal with Watami Bacolod General Manager Kiko Estioco, and was quite impressed by the quality of their food. Since Japanese restaurants serve raw fish, the sourcing and quality of the ingredients is a major factor, and from the initial sight of the color and sheen of their sashimi, I knew I would be coming back with friends and family.

Salmon sashimi and assorted sashimi*

Aside from the impressive and reasonably priced sashimi selection, their sushi and aburi rolls were also pretty good. Aburi is flame seared, so even picky eaters who don’t like their fish raw will find something interesting to order.

Gyoza, skewers, sushi rolls*

Aside from the sushi and sashimi, their menu and drink list was pretty extensive. They had yakitori skewers, ramen, set meals, and even a happy hour where cocktails are 30 percent off from 2pm.

I had so much sushi, sashimi, salad, starters, drinks, and skewers that my tummy didn’t have room for a main dish, but based on what I saw, I’ll certainly be coming back one of these days, with family in tow.

The Bistro Group, which also recently opened two Italianni’s, a TGI Friday’s, and a Modern Shang, is putting a lot of faith in the Bacolod crowd. That is more evident with its opening of Watami, which according to Kiko, is the first outside Metro Manila and Cebu. That’s a massive vote of confidence in our eating and spending ability, and I hope we don’t disappoint so even more restaurants and food concepts also follow suit.*

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