Most of the time, Japanese restaurants tend to get pricey and posh. The level of dedication and discipline the Japanese chefs put into their practice is considered as an art form, one that many try to imitate but plenty are unable to. In order to recreate a dish as exquisite as that of the Japanese cuisine, one needs to be trained by a professional. Never (at least, in my book) has there been an authentic Japanese restaurant served in the downright simplest forms of Filipino dining-- a carinderia. Until a few months ago, I never thought it would be possible but one such establishment exists.
Along one of the busy highways of Cebu City, lies a simple yet highly patronized establishment called Joed's. Proudly, it bears the tagline as the first Japanese Carinderia; and rightly so. Contrary to traditional establishments, this Lutong Hapon carinderia is owned by a Filipino couple-- Edgar and Joan Malapitan. Working as a chef in Japan for 10 years, Edgar was able to learn the art of Japanese cookery and decided to serve it to his fellow Bisaya at a price everyone could afford. With its delicious flavors and affordable prices, it is better than most Japanese fast food chains found in malls! And surely, the Cebuanos know their Japanese food.
Entrance at night
By far, I have visited Joed's on a couple of occasions-- one during a busy work day lunch and the most recent one, for dinner with a girl friend. I have to admit, my first visit was quite disappointing. Reading about previous posts on the carinderia, I gathered that their service was not that great. On my first visit, I was quite disappointed that the waiter forgot my salmon sushi order. I did receive my Beef Tendon order early but did not enjoy the overpowering taste of local seasoning products.
Beef Tendon (P120)
The next visit was a different story. After spending a lazy afternoon at a nearby cafe, my friend and I decided to eat dinner at Joed's so we wouldn't have to go elsewhere. Still full from our rich hot chocolate orders, we decided to split our meal and opted to get the Okonomiyaki and the Gyoza.
Lately, I've been having a fascination for Gyoza. After visiting a ramen place in Cebu, I started to enjoy gyoza, particularly the variety that had a fried portion on one side. With Joed's, a serving of Gyoza consisted of four fried pieces and a serving of the usual shio dipping sauce. Although the Gyoza tasted decent and was packed sufficiently, I found the sauce unusual as there was a lot of oil swimming on top of the shio. Based on my experience, the oil made the sauce slippery and not cling onto the meat inside the Gyoza so it was a little bit difficult adding flavor to the dish.
Reminiscing on our Okonomiyaki days at Little Tokyo, Makati, Sekki and I decided to order a dish and split it between us both. I found it enjoyable, its serving size a bit smaller than the Okonomiyaki I typically have. Also, I still have to get used to the idea that not all Okonomiyaki dishes come with noodles on its bottom portion. Ever since I left Makati, I still have yet to come across an Okonomiyaki dish that served it with noodles. The closest thing to doing that was the homemade Okonomiyaki that my friend Ella (of Sunoy Adventures) cooked. Together with the serving of noodles, I made them try the dish with homemade Okonomiyaki sauce (Otafuku). Back to Joed's version, it was priced reasonably for its serving. I just found the taste a little floury for my liking, due to excessive flour in the batter.
All in all, I really can't complain about Joed's food. The serving was better during my second visit and its interior is good. It doesn't come as an intricately decorated establishment, but based on its notion as a carinderia, it would be useless for it to do so. More importantly than the decoration, Joed's was surprisingly clean for a carinderia.
If you are looking for affordable Japanese food where you can sample all your favorite dishes, a visit to Joed's in Cebu is a must! It's not dirt cheap prices but it's well worth a story to your friends back home. Just remember: you get what you pay for!
Joed's Lutong Hapon is located in front of Sarrosa International Hotel, F. Cabahug Street, Mabolo, Cebu City. For deliveries, call 09435707419. They are open everyday from 11am - 1am. * Phone Number changed February 19, 2015.