The first time I saw construction work starting on this building right across the street to where I work, my curiosity got piqued when I saw the sign saying “Naruto”. I thought an anime-themed store is going to open real soon, and that it was such a weird location for one.
Then the sign changed to “Naruto Japanese Restaurant Soon To Open”, and I thought it was a pun or a play of words. “Naluto”, in the local dialect, means “cooked”. And since Japanese does not have the letter “L”, and “R” is used instead, “Naruto” can be something like saying “cooked” the way the Japanese would.
I’m not sure if that’s the reason behind the name, or I may be overthinking it, and it is actually inspired by the anime character of the same name. *shrugs*
(Disclaimer 1: I am not a foodie; just one who enjoys eating. I am not picky with food, and generally have no problems trying out anything. I am not an expert or a connoisseur of any sort on anything related to food, so do not expect a critique from me. I do not aim to influence you in any way because I am well aware of tastebuds’ differences and preferences.
Disclaimer 2: This is a first impressions review, meaning it’s my first time visiting the place or trying out anything on their menu.)
So let’s get right to it, and check out the Naruto Japanese Restaurant.
It is located at Shuntug Street, at the first level of the Travelite Express Hotel, right across the Baguio City Hall.
Look and Feel
If the restaurant’s name did not give it away yet, a glimpse of the interior of the restaurant from the outside will immediately tell you that it’s got that Asian Japanese theme going on. Wooden floors and walls that seemed to battle between rustic and stately, but still very much sophisticated. Oh, and the uniforms of the servers were an immediate giveaway that this is a Japanese restaurant.
Once we entered, my eyes were immediately drawn to an area enclosed by what looked like rice paper. I immediately got excited, thinking that it had low tables where you could sit on the floor on tatami mats to enjoy your meal.
Alas, a quick inquiry with one of the lady servers proved that wrong. I took a peek and there were just regular tables and chairs inside. *shrugs* So we just opted to get one of the longer tables on the dining hall.
In true Japanese resto fashion, the staff would chime out “Irrasshaimase~” whenever diners come in, but maybe it was just me and my Arashified ears thinking it sounded a bit off…? Must’ve been the pronunciation. Kudos to them for trying to give diners the whole experience, though.
On the walls were knick knacks and other decorative items that just screamed JP. Collectors of items like these may find themselves envying what’s on display. Personally, I coveted that figure of the sumo wrestler. XDD
The real reason we (or most of us) enter restaurants: to dine.
Naruto Japanese Restaurant pretty much offers most signature Japanese dishes, from starters and salads to all-day bentos comprising of ramen varieties and grilled to fried stuff. Aside from the usual beverages of coffee and juices, they also have Japanese beer varieties such as Kirin and Asahi Super Dry, and they also have umeshu. Personally, I am gunning to go back to try some of their chu-hai because, if you read any of my Japan blog posts, you’d know how addicted I got to the stuff.
For starters, we tried their Philadelphia Roll (P228) and their Dynamite Roll (P188). Loved the freshness of the ingredients.
I realized just how much I missed Japan when I found myself inwardly squeeing at the pickled ginger and bonito flakes. I know, I know. I had no idea I’d have such a strong reaction at seeing bonito flakes quiver and shrivel. Go figure.
One thing not to be missed (and, according to the lady who served us, a bestseller of Naruto) is the karaage, which is basically Japanese-style fried chicken. One serving of 6 pieces costs P158. If you’re a larger group, you can inquire on a larger serving to accommodate everyone.
I have long given up trying to figure out why Japanese and Korean fried chicken is soooo tasty, even if their breading isn’t as thick as the ones usually served in Filipino fast foods.
I didn’t get to taste their Katsu Ni (P188), which is basically simmered tonkatsu with egg. Mostly because it looked like there was too much egg, and I was already busy with other items on the table. This was ordered by one of my dining companions.
It was at Chaya’s, another Japanese restaurant in Baguio City, that I got to taste yasai (vegetable) tempura. So we also ordered Naruto’s version.
I liked how “un-oily” it was. That’s usually my problem with tempura, in general. They are deep-fried, I know, but most of the time they are not drained enough. I did not have that problem with this one.
When I saw the tebasaki on the menu, I was immediately reminded of our after-con meal-hunt in Nagoya, where I got to taste this Nagoya delicacy, matched with some beer. But I decided not to order it when my companions went for the Buffaro Chicken (P168).
It’s just… chicken wings cooked the buffalo style. Nothing spectacular about it.
Several weeks before, we almost had lunch at Naruto, but when we saw the menu, we knew it’d be UNJUST to rush our lunch in the less than one hour allotted to us, which is why we decided to just go here for a leisurely dinner later on. But when I first scanned the menu during that visit, what caught my eye immediately was their okonomiyaki (P228).
Bad news: they only have one okonomiyaki recipe on their menu, and it is the classic seafood pizza. When I asked if they had any cheese one, the lady just smiled indulgently and said nope, they don’t.
You should have seen me deflate a little when told that.
And yes, I already mentioned the thrill those shrinking bonito flakes gave me. Does that make me weird??
We cleaned it up in no time. There were 7 of us, but we worked through it effortlessly, and managed to be so full afterwards.
Our Just Desserts
No matter how full you get, there will always be room for dessert.
Especially when it comes with some anmitsu or matcha.
So we each got their Matcha Parfait (P128), while one of us ordered their Mochi Anmitsu (P98).
I only have one word for it: YUM.
Here are some behind the scenes photos… of people taking photos, while one person is most likely thinking “Will I get to eat them before they melt? More importantly, WHEN WILL I GET TO EAT IT?!”
My Honest Thoughts
The place is very nice. Interior is A+, location gets a major thumbs-up because of how readily accessible it is, and the service is also very good. The wait wasn’t long, and the staff were friendly and accommodating.
The food was definitely good, although I’d have to try a few more of their offerings to have a more conclusive judgment on how it truly fares. But from what I’ve tried so far, it’s a thumbs up for me.
To be honest, though, I am very easy to please. If I am satisfied by their chu-hai, I’d be sold solid. Probably.
The price is probably a sticking point. Because on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the crazy-expensive), I’d say it’s on a 3. But hey, it’s Japanese food, and my bias for anything Nippon makes me a bit more forgiving in that aspect.
Go back, or never again?
I’ll definitely go back. Somewhere in there is a tall glass of chu-hai with my name on it.