The best thing about having a food connoisseur for a friend is that she takes you to the greatest food spots in town. I happen to have one and I am very fortunate that she lovingly shares with me all of her food discoveries. Ma’am R is one of the few people I know whose fine taste for ambrosial food cannot be faulted. Almost, if not all, of the best restaurants that I know in Baguio, I discovered them through her.
One of the restaurants that she introduced to me when I went back to Baguio this year was Chaya. It’s a restaurant along Legarda Road that serves contemporary Japanese dishes, which I think is the best of its kind in the city. She took me to Chaya last August and I fell in love with its food!
I initially wanted to write a full-length article on it. After some time negotiating though for an interview with the owner of the restaurant and not getting a positive response from them, I somehow forgot about Chaya.
Until last night, when Ma’am R and her husband took me to Chaya for dinner, my interest in the restaurant was rekindled.
While some food establishments are located along Legarda Road, it may be hard for first timers to easily spot Chaya because it is actually off the usual food spots found in the area. You have to drive farther to where the once-upon-a-time swanky Europa Hotel is, near the Marcos Highway.
Save for the green signage, no one would really assume that it’s a restaurant since it is actually an old Baguio home converted into a food hub. The owners also run a bed and breakfast business.
I haven’t been to an authentic Japanese house but the log cabin feel of the place rendered a warm atmosphere to the restaurant. When I first went here though, I got a little bit confused of its character. On its walls were Hawaiian quilts (which I heard were made by the Japanese owner who is married to a Cordillerian) and the staff members were all sporting a Hawaiian-inspired skirt. Last night, some popular Christmas songs were playing I think I heard a Jose Mari Chan piece for a time.
Nevertheless, the place, which easily gets jampacked with Japanese guests, is not just cozy but intimate as well. I think it can seat around 30 people at a time. Better to reserve a table ahead of time (it has a strong Japanese following so the food must be really that good!). When we went there last night, the place was crowded. Fortunately, there was a group which was already done, we got a table inside.
Chaya’s menu is uncomplicated, it’s easy to choose among the contemporary Japanese dishes that are in the offering. Price is cheaper compared with the prices of Japanese restaurants in Manila but relatively pricey for a restaurant in Baguio. Juanderkid says it’s actually inexpensive given the quality of authentic Japanese meals that one gets to enjoy here.
When I first went here, Ma’am R and I ordered Beef Salad, Mixed Tempura, and Mint Tea. We ordered the same thing last night plus Mixed Sashimi and Baguio Vegetable Stick (with a really delicious special dip). I also had Beef Yakiniku with Green Salad. I forgot to bring my camera last night so what I have here now are photographs of my first taste of Chaya.
Appetizers were served first. Just like my first visit, we were served tuna. It was really good.
Now, their Mint Tea is something that I think diners should always order in this restaurant. I never had mint tea this good before! It was flavorful but not overpowering. It had a soothing taste actually. I was told they use wild honey for their tea.
Next on our table was the Beef Salad, which is Ma’am R’s favorite. It was so appetizing I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself back in the restaurant soon and order only this. There was a rich taste to it: sweet and sour at the same time, a little bit tangy, never dull. And the beef was just scrumptious.
I didn’t know you can pair this with rice (which you have to order separately) but Ma’am R did. I think it’s not a bad combo.
All raw fish looks the same to me so I didn’t bother check what comprised our Mixed Sashimi plate but the freshness of each slice of fish cannot be missed. I am staying away from spicy food these days, so no wasabi for me. But even without it, the sashimi was just plain delicious. Probably not the melt-in-your-mouth variety, but you really don’t expect that in Baguio.
The Mixed Tempura which had shrimp, squid, squash, sweet potato, and okra (gumbo) was what you’d expect your tempura to be. Tasty and filling.
What really surprised me was the Baguio Vegetable Stick that came with a special dip. The sauce was just heavenly. I don’t have the right word for it, but it was just the right flavor to bring out the freshness of cucumber, carrot, and radish.
The Beef Yakiniku, which came with a serving of green salad, was succulent and really soft. You may want to order this if you’re not very familiar with Japanese cuisine. I wanted to order something else last night but because I was observing a strict diet these days, I settled for yakiniku. It wasn’t a bad choice.
Another touch that just endears me to this restaurant is that they serve, albeit sparingly, their guests with their homemade green tea ice cream with red beans. I just love its taste!
I guess the secret to their good food lies in the freshness of every ingredient that they serve. You literally taste its freshness. Food may take a while to be served, depending on the number of guests who are dines at the same time, and maybe because (I am assuming this) they have to cook from scratch. This way, the freshness of your food is assured.
The restaurant is quite small but during my visits, it wasn’t chaotic or noisy even when it’s overflowing with guests. If you’re driving, you may find it hard to park as space is really limited here.
I will definitely come back soon and I will make sure I will taste all the other dishes on their menu. And yes, I will gladly share with them with you. 🙂
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- All photographs taken in August 2012 with a Canon 550d.
- This is not a paid post.