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‘Ginataang Ampalaya, Adobong Pusit, Lechon!’: Mrs. Okada shares favorite dishes, new Yu Lei menu | Philstar.com
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Food and Leisure

‘Ginataang Ampalaya, Adobong Pusit, Lechon!’: Mrs. Okada shares favorite dishes, new Yu Lei menu

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
âGinataang Ampalaya, Adobong Pusit, Lechon!â: Mrs. Okada shares favorite dishes, new Yu Lei menu
Okada Manila’s Vice Chairperson Takako Okada and Yu Lei’s Michelin-starred Chef, Mikiya “Miki” Imagawa at the unveiling of Yu Lei's new last quarter menu.
Philstar.com / Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

MANILA, Philippines — Every year, Okada Manila’s Vice Chairperson Takako Okada and her family gather for their Mid-Autumn Festival thanksgiving tradition to celebrate their native Japan’s harvest season.

“In Japan, we celebrate it (Mid-Autumn Festival) differently,” recalled Mrs. Okada to Philstar.com and other media guests via a Japanese-Filipino interpreter at the recent dinner in Yu Lei, Okada Manila.

“Our family loves autumn because it’s the harvest season – there’s good rice and plenty of fish and vegetables,” she shared.

In Japan, the Mid-Autumn is when they gather to appreciate the roundness of the moon, she added. They fill a pyramid with bamboo shoots and wishes. 

To share a part of her Mid-Autumn Festival thanksgiving tradition to the Philippines, Mrs. Okada recently welcomed the media and influencers to the launch of Okada Manila’s new last quarter menu for its premium dining Chinese restaurant Yu Lei.

Mrs. Okada and their family love to travel, and when they return to their home country Japan, they always appreciate the lotus flower’s beauty. As such, according to Mrs. Okada, the “Yu” in Yu Lei means “ball” or “gem,” while “lei” means “bud,” because she envisioned her favorite Okada Manila restaurant to serve cuisine that “blooms like a bud.” This also explains why the luxury dining hub is replete in flower motifs and décor, punctuated with private rooms named after flowers, Instagram-worthy hallways designed by a Japanese architect, and grand follower-shaped chandeliers by a Czech artist.

Some Japanese elements and ingredients from the “Land of the Rising Sun,” with regard to its seasons, are also incorporated into the dishes, resulting into a colorful menu, so diners could “appreciate not only the taste but also the presentation of the food,” Mrs. Okada vouched.

The restaurant unveiled its well-curated special menu for the last quarter of 2023, composed of exquisite dishes by Yu Lei’s Michelin-starred Chef, Mikiya “Miki” Imagawa.  

“Chef Miki is not only into the taste of the food, but also into its design. He always think from the diners’ perspective and he always links back to the meaning of Yu Lei – delicate and sophisticated – unlike other Chinese restaurants that come in strong with images of dragons, etc.,” Okada explained through an interpreter.

Chef Miki first crossed paths with Mrs. Okada in Beijing, China, little knowing the culinary journey that awaited him. The chef’s passion, diligence, and culinary talent led him to helm Yu Lei, earning a coveted Michelin star within six months of opening the original Yu Lei restaurant in Hong Kong.

Chef Miki drew inspiration from the grace and elegance of flowers for Yu Lei’s name and concept, symbolizing beginnings and growth, elements reflected in the restaurant’s culinary philosophy. Yu Lei's intricate design and gentle name encapsulate the essence of a fresh start and continuous evolution in the culinary world.

Transitioning Yu Lei from Hong Kong to Manila posed unique challenges and learning curves for Chef Miki. The diverse culinary landscapes required astute adaptations in flavors and ingredients while maintaining the integrity of his dishes.

Described by Okada Manila as “Modern Shanghainese Gastronomy,” the new collaborative menu between Chef Miki and Mrs. Okada offer a symphony of flavors and come in small, bite-sized portions because Okada loves eating in small portions so she could share her food.

The degustation portions were also inspired by the bento boxes that became popular for take-out from Yu Lei when the restaurant had to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new menu, said Mrs. Okada, is composed of dishes that are delicately flavored so they can be paired with wine, since Okada herself loves to appreciate good wine.

Yu Lei has its own cellar with around 2,000 wine bottles representing 1,500 labels, including vintages like a 1986 Chateau Petrus Pomerol.

Chefs Choice 7 types Appetizer

Clockwise: Chef Choice 7 types Appetizer, Remy Mistral cocktail, Jasmine tea, Steamed Seafood Dumpling Soup
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo; Okada Manila/Released

This curated appetizer platter set offers a tapestry of flavors and textures. Each meticulously-chosen morsel comes in bite-sized but filling and nutritious portions balanced with vegetables and harmoniously complementing the restaurant’s cocktails selection, which includes Remy Mistral, Remy Ginger and Royal Sidecar. 

Steamed Seafood Dumpling Soup

The pear-shaped dimsum swims in a soup inspired by traditional Chinese culinary practices, combining the rich taste of Jinhua ham with sun-dried scallops and select seafood. 

Baitang soup, whose broth is made from bone marrow boiled for many hours, is known for its smooth texture and deep flavor, reflecting the simplicity and versatility of Chinese cooking. It's valued not just for its taste but also for its role in creating a balanced culinary experience.

Marinated Wagyu Sirloin with Caviar and Vegetables, Beef Tenderloin with Paprika in X.O Sauce 

Clockwise: Marinated Wagyu Sirloin with Caviar and Vegetable and Beef Tenderloin with Paprika in X.O Sauce; Grilled Lobster with Sesame Butter Sauce and Pan-fried Japanese Scallops; Peking Duck Fried Rice
Okada Manila/Released

Diners are treated to two remarkable beef dishes that showcase distinct flavors. The first highlights a marinated Wagyu, complemented beautifully with a touch of caviar. Its counterpart, an American tenderloin, is enhanced with the chef's signature XO sauce. For the best tasting experience, the chef suggests alternating between the two dishes to appreciate their unique flavors and textures. 

Grilled Lobster with Sesame Butter Sauce and Pan-fried Japanese Scallops with Zucchini

At Yu Lei, diners can savor the tender and sweet lobster, enhanced by a smooth sesame butter sauce. This creamy addition balances the spiciness of the earlier XO sauce. Alongside the lobster, the menu features the subtle sweetness of Japanese scallops, paired nicely with the fresh taste of zucchini. The creaminess of the lobster balances the XO sauce’s saltiness.

Peking Duck and Lettuce Fried Rice

In this dish, the crispy, flavorful Peking duck harmoniously pairs with refreshing lettuce and aromatic Jasmine rice. Each bite is a fusion of savory, sweet, and umami notes, highlighted by a whisper of smoky wok hei and fine soy sauce.

Oolong Tea Pudding with Fresh Fruits, Black Sesame Dumpling in Jasmine Tea Soup

Oolong Tea Pudding with Fresh Fruits, Black Sesame Dumpling in Jasmine Tea Soup
Okada Manila/Released

As for the dessert, the Oolong Tea pudding, topped with fresh persimmon and grape, captures the essence of autumn. Accompanying this is the sesame dumpling in a light Jasmine tea broth, providing a refreshing contrast. Exploring the entirety of the menu allows diners to truly appreciate its culinary range and depth.

“Actually, simple: Pan-fried noodles topped with vegetables and seafood,” Okada said of her favorite Yu Lei dish alongside Chef Mki’s own X.O. sauce recipe – made of scallops meticulously shredded by hand.

The X.O. sauce, said Mrs. Okada, makes everything tastier.

As for Filipino food, you’d be surprised what her favorites are.

“Ginataang Ampalaya, Adobong Pusit and Lechon!” exclaimed the Japanese business tycoon.

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