A superb dish of maguro sashimi…
We have been visiting/working in Cebu much more often than usual in the past two months, and have sought out some new places to eat. One evening I had a hankering for Japanese food so we headed to the Crossroads mall to try a new noodle place. Turns out that we went into the “wrong” place, and while it didn’t seem new at all (it’s been there for several years I am told), we were hungry and decided to stay. Before even glancing at the menu, I immediately placed an order for maguro (tuna) sashimi and the server went off to get it while we reviewed the menu. Tuna sashimi is what I use as a “gauge” for a Japanese restaurant if they have it on the menu. A plain spaghetti al pomodoro or margherita is what I use in a casual Italian restaurant. The sashimi that arrived minutes later was STUNNING. I couldn’t believe it. Here we were in a mid-priced grotty joint but the sashimi looked wonderful. I added just a little touch of soy and wasabi and placed a slice on my tongue. Excellent. Couldn’t believe our luck. Ordered another one instantly. :)
Most Japanese restaurants that don’t charge stratospheric prices usually serve pre-portioned, packaged, frozen then thawed tuna sashimi. It is often paler, watery, and a bit mushy when it gets to the table. But this tuna was really fine. At PHP240 or so (the price of half a kilo of lechon!) for 6 small pieces, it was pricey, but worth it. The texture and mouth feel alone made me wonder if we just got lucky, arrived on tuna delivery day, or the owner was an avid angler or something… The very competent bowl of hot ramen that followed was nice, but I was still thinking about the tuna. To make sure it wasn’t an anomaly, we returned a couple of weeks later, with a camera, and I snapped the photo up top. This second visit yielded a tuna that was one notch below the first time we tried it, but still several notches above par for Japanese restaurants I tend to frequent to get my fix of noodles, sashimi, etc. We had several types of ramen, all good, and I had a bowl of hiyashi chukka, a cold vinegary noodle dish I really like. The cold noodles were good at Banri, but not great. The Teen had terrific dumplings or gyoza, some beef yakiniku, etc. Mrs. MM had had their tofu dishes and other specials and we were very pleased over all. Service was efficient on all our visits. Ignore the unremarkable, kind of grotty, tired dining room — just focus on the food. :)
We liked the place so much we’ve been back several times in the past 8 weeks. Count on PHP400-550 ($10-14) per person on average, depending on what you order. Banri Noodle House, Crossroads Mall, Banilad, Cebu City. Telephone 032.234.0488.