Today, only those in Japan's lumber industry measure using koku, though the word still symbolizes abundance. Hence, it lends its name to Salcedo Village's newest restaurant, which harks back to its origins by incorporating a bushel of rice into its purple-and-white logo.
Owned by the same people behind Fireside and Kettle, Koku is a Japanese restaurant with a modern, millennial twist. That's the vibe you'll get from the interior, as well as menu items like sushi pizza, oyster papaya and Japanese carbonara. If that sounds like your kind of thing, here's what you need to know before you check this place out.
One of the first things you'll notice about Koku is a section separated by wooden sliding doors.
Otherwise, Koku is a modern establishment through-and-through. The bright lights give it an open and welcoming feel, while the tables and chairs won't look out of place in a high-powered business meeting. Clearly, it's designed for busy professionals on the lookout for new, reasonably-priced cuisines within a stone's throw away from their Makati offices.
Since many others have already written about Koku's fusion food, we decided to take a different track and sample their simplest, most basic dishes. After all, if they get those right, it's no stretch to say that their other offerings will be worth your while too.
First, we had their Cheese Korokker as an appetizer.
As far as appetizers went, this was a good one. The Cheese Korokke melts in your mouth, and the salty umami flavor goes well with the tonkatsu sauce. However, the pieces were a bit too small, and too few, for our preference. Still, we recommend it as a meal starter.
Next, we chose their shoyu, or soy sauce-based, ramen. Since it's the most common type of ramen, and the waiter suggested it as one of their bestsellers, we thought it'd be a good measure of how proficient Koku is with this type of dish.
To cap off our meals, we had the Crème Brulee ala Mode.
Of all the dishes we tried, this was the one we liked best. The lemon custard and caramelized sugar had just the right amount of lightness, tartness and sweetness, while the vanilla ice cream complemented both of them really well. Also, it's fun to slide the ice cream through the strawberry-and-chocolate "path" before dipping it into the crème brulee.
Unlike in other Japanese restaurants, Koku's staff don't greet you "Irrashaimase!" as soon as you enter. Instead, they usher you straight to your seat, and give you a pitcher of water so you can help yourself to it as you please. Afterwards, you'll be given a tea-light floated in water to enhance the ambience.
The service isn't what you'd call "fast," but it is reasonable for the type of dishes Koku offers. Also, the waiters were professional, but they weren't as friendly as you'd expect from a Japanese restaurant. It would've helped if they showed a little more warmth to their customers.
Lastly, there was one more thing that bothered us about the service. Some customers had the privilege of being assisted when they made their exit; others (including us) had to show themselves out without so much as a "Thank you, please see us again." Had they been more consistent about how they treated their customers, we would've let their relative lack of friendliness slide.
Overall, our experience was a mixed bag. On the one hand, Koku is a great place to stay and eat. On the other hand, their offerings and service still have room for improvement. If they change what needs to be changed, we're sure they can win over more Japanese foodies — purist or otherwise.
Address: G/F Two Central, 109 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City
Opening Hours: 11:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M. (Monday – Sunday)
Telephone Number(s): (+63 2) 625-5197