Izakayas are fast becoming a popular venue for people to hang out and unwind, and Soru Izakaya in Maginhawa Street aims to be one of those places that can provide both great ambiance and good food to go with it. While the general impression of people on izakayas is a gastropub that mainly serves alcoholic drinks and small snacks, Soru Izakaya also has a casual vibe that’s good for a meal with family and friends. And so this is where my family and I ended up last week to celebrate my birthday.
I read that Soru Izakaya’s interior design was inspired by the mixture of traditional Japanese art, the Tokyo nightlife, new wave speakeasy cocktail bars, plus a touch of bishoujo manga. That’s kind of a lot to project all at once, but somehow they make it work through the large artworks on the walls. I can see bits and pieces of all these concepts reflected in the restaurant, and I guess depending on what mood you’re in, it can be one thing for you and another thing for someone else.
However, Soru Izakaya does stay true to its izakaya roots in that it provides a little bar area where you can enjoy your drinks while watching the chefs prepare your food. You can watch them make anything from teppan to sushi, and you can even witness how they design their dishes.
The focus of Soru Izakaya is something they call “the taste of New Nippon”. It’s basically their contemporary take on Japanese favorites, mostly in the form of torched sushi and unique maki rolls. They even have some interesting tempura choices. Looking through their menu, you can still spot some traditional Japanese favorites like yakitori and donburi, plus a bit of ramen.
I decided to pick a mixture of contemporary and classic dishes, just to see how Soru Izakaya fares in both categories. The variety of their maki and aburi is pretty impressive; at the same time, I also wanted to know if they can make a bowl of ramen that’s worth writing home about. They do only have like three or four of them on the menu after all. Let’s get into the review now, shall we?
Spicy Maguro Salad (Php 290)
The classic fresh tuna dressed in spicy mayo and miso, with bits of crisp tempura bits thrown into the mix. There are some greens underneath, plus some tobiko and nori on top.
I’ve eaten a lot of spicy tuna salads in my life but this was so umami I was savoring even the aftertaste of it. I think this might have been one of the most flavorsome spicy tuna salads I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it has to do with the addition of miso into the mix. Starting with this felt like a good sign of things to come since it was pretty yummy. It is a bit of a small serving though, and I say this because I’ve eaten at restaurants that serve a little more at the same price.
Hiroshima Maki (Php 290 for 8 pieces)
These rolls have spicy mayo-flavored salmon at their center. Added crunch is provided by the fried gyoza wrapper on top that holds fresh salmon cubes coated with spicy Soru sauce.
Okay. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how good looking this is? I give this dish an A+ for presentation. The dragon is made using colored mayonnaise, and it reminds me of a Japanese tattoo. Aesthetically, this as a whole is just impressive. It provides quite the build up for the maki themselves, and I was expecting nothing less than to get blown away.
While these were good, they might have suffered from my overly high expectations. The flavor of the salmon blended nicely with the sauces, and the gyoza wrapper adds a little texture to the maki, but taste-wise it’s like something I’ve had before. I was expecting to be wowed, and all I got was, “oh this is okay”.
Kuro Dragon Maki (Php 480 for 8 pieces)
Rolls made with freshwater eel, cream cheese, and asparagus, then topped with mayo and fish roe, plus a drizzling of teriyaki sauce.
I’m not sure if it’s my love for unagi that makes me like this so much more than the other maki, but I loved this! Every component of these rolls worked so nicely together. Somehow they even boosted that unique flavor of unagi more. My tastebuds were super happy.
And I just want to mention as well how cute the plating of this dish was. Their concept is that of a kuro dragon (black dragon), and they even made a little dragon’s head for the rolls aside from the mayonnaise dragon design. This one delivers in both looks and taste!
Aburi Moriawase (Php 480)
A combination platter of five types of Soru Izakaya’s aburi– shake (salmon), maguro (tuna), saba (mackerel), aji (horse mackerel), and tako (octopus).
Having a hard time deciding which of Soru Izakaya’s aburi options to try? Just get their mixed platter! Especially if you are eating solo and you’re up for discovering different flavors, this is something I would recommend trying out. We ordered this to share so I wasn’t able to taste each one, but the general consensus was that everything on here was good.
Shake Belly Aburi (Php 220 for two pieces)
Torched salmon belly with a generous brush of teriyaki sauce. Japanese mayo, truffle mayo, and some ikura are the final touches.
Here’s another one of the dishes that fell a little short for me. The salmon had a nice texture, but I can barely taste that torched salmon flavor because the teriyaki and mayo toppings overpowered everything else. I was looking for something a little more complex, I suppose. This was just okay. I also found that the rice needed to be packed a little tighter, because the whole thing would break apart as soon as I picked it up with a chopstick.
Uni Aburi (Php 190 for two pieces)
Torched sea urchin flavored with spicy Soru sauce, wasabi mayo, and a bit of cheddar cheese.
Ahhh uni… One of my favorite things to eat at any Japanese restaurant. It is also one of the things I am most critical about. (To the point where I never return to restaurants I have bad uni experiences with.) Eating this uni aburi, the pleasant burst of sweet and juicy fresh uni melded well with the deliciously seasoned rice. However I was also getting this strange unknown flavor in there, which I later on found out was cheese. I’m not quite sure I like the idea of cheese and uni together since I might be more of a traditionalist when it comes to uni. Focusing on the uni itself however, the quality here was good. I would order this again.
Beef Sukiyaki (Php 380)
Classic Japanese beef nabemono with shirataki noodles, tofu, veggies, mushroom, and egg.
This sukiyaki is a strange one. On one side, I think it really captures the sweet-savory flavors of a classic sukiyaki so well. But after you’ve been eating it for a while you’ll realize that it gets saltier and saltier.
Tantanmen (Php 290)
Spicy miso and peanut based noodle dish with slices of chashu, mixed veggies, and a soft boiled egg.
This is the part where I figure out Soru Izakaya is way better at their maki and aburi than their mains. I was disappointed with this ramen dish mostly because of what it could have been. The first sip is a tasty mix of miso and peanut broth, but once you start eating in earnest, it becomes too salty it’s almost difficult to finish everything without needing some water to wash it all down. The saltiness even seeped into the noodles. I think it’s a shame because this could be a good dish if perhaps the miso part of the broth wasn’t so overpowering. Like with the sukiyaki, I feel like a small adjustment is all it will take to make this dish more balanced.
Tori Karaage (Php 190) + Chahan (Php 65)
Japanese fried chicken with torched cheddar cheese and mozzarella, paired with the classic beef and veggie Japanese fried rice.
These two dishes are sold separately with the karaage positioned more as an appetizer. It actually does seem a bit more like finger food than a viand, but this was what my mom was in the mood for so she ordered this. My first impression on the karaage was good because once again they nailed the presentation! I just wish there was more substantial chicken meat on this plate because it seemed like mostly fried skin. The combination of the chicken and torched cheeses was a good idea though.
Luckily the chahan was flavorful enough on its own that even though the chicken wasn’t as great as we were expecting, it wasn’t entirely dissatisfying.
Tiramisu (Php 220)
Layers of frozen coffee-flavored ladyfingers and cream cheese frosting, topped with cocoa powder, more frosting, blueberries in syrup, and chocolate squares. The mint leaves add a nice touch.
I was looking to the desserts to redeem the main dishes, and I was right to do so. This tiramisu is a frozen version so it’s not necessarily my favorite kind of tiramisu to eat, but I enjoyed it well enough, especially with that blueberry. (I don’t even care if it’s canned blueberry filling. It just works for this dessert as a whole.) It’s like eating cream cheese ice cream with bits of coffee-flavored cookies and chocolate.
Rising Sun Takoyaki Dessert (Php 180)
White and red velvet cake balls with cream cheese are drizzled all over with chocolate, then topped with marshmallows and fresh fruit slices.
This was a fun little concept! The dessert is clearly patterned after takoyaki (also as the name suggests) and it’s actually a rather straightforward option– deep fried cake balls! It’s a mix of white cake and red velvet cake, so when you bite into each ball you get this duo-toned effect. It’s simply a yummy end to the meal. Make sure to eat each bite with the chocolate and fruits!
In a world full of modern-Japanese restaurants that boast a repertoire of unique sushi and rolls, Soru Izakaya has a lot of tough competition. However I feel that it can hold its own as far as that aspect is concerned. There are a lot of maki and aburi dishes here to try, and it will definitely take you several trips to figure out which your favorites are.
On the flipside, my rating would’ve probably been higher if I had gone exclusively for their maki and aburi offerings, plus their desserts. The main dishes aren’t memorable in the way that I hoped they would be, but then again this restaurant doesn’t claim to be an expert at those kinds of dishes. Their desserts are much better than their main dishes though, and there’s a definite effort to make them unique but still familiar.
Despite my qualms, I did honestly enjoy my birthday lunch here. It gets really packed on Sundays so I highly suggest getting a reservation. (There were people lined up outside waiting!) I think their pricing is at par with other izakayas that also specialize in makis and aburi. I also really appreciated how good they are at their presentation. If it wasn’t so far from where I live I would probably go back with my friends really soon. As it is, a plan is in the works.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Ground Floor, 140 Maginhawa Street,
Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
Hours: Monday to Thursday, Sunday 11 AM to 11 PM / Friday to Saturday 11AM to 1AM
Contact Nos: (02) 246 9069 ext.819
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Full disclosure: This post is partially sponsored by my friend Winslow from Soru Izakaya. However, all opinions stated above are my own.
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