• Location: 5579 Alfonso cor. Fermina Street, Poblacion, 1210 Makati
  • Contact Number: +639171055832
  • Operating Hours: 7 pm to 2 am
  • Price per head: Php800+++ for food and drink
  • Signature drinks: Daimon Sake, highballs, Purple 60 
  • Specials and promos:

    Sake Flights: Rikyubai (traditional) Series P995–Iwafune (Tokubetsu Honjozo), Seizan Ryokusui (Tokubetsu Junmai), and Shizuka (Junmai Ginjo); Daimon (premium and modern) Series P1735–Daimon 55 (Junmai Ginjo); Daimon 45 (Junmai Daiginjo); Daimon 35 (Junmai Daiginjo)

Yoi

The list of bars in Poblacion continues to grow, with different types of bars to cater to the thirsty masses. You can add Yoi Sake Bar and Restaurant to your drinking itinerary. Located on the first floor of Agimat Foraging Bar & Kitchen, Yoi is a casual, rugged, hip sake bar that is showing the drinking crowd that there is more to Japanese rice wine than what we usually thought. There is a big world of sake out there, and Yoi is going to show us the way. 

Yoi is located at the ground floor of Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen

Yoi’ can mean good or drunk, according to owner and Japan-certified sake sommelier Tadeo Chua. “I think it describes two experiences you can get from the establishment,” he laughs. 

He trained in Daimon Shuzo in Ikoma mountain range in Katano City near Osaka. The brewery has been around for six generations, and have been producing some of the finest sake in the central region of Japan since 1826. He even got to brew a batch of Daimon Shizuka, which comes in a cool blue bottle. 

Daimon Shizuka

Various sake bottles available at Yoi. Photo courtesy of Yoi

Tadeo has a thing for Japanese drinks. He was into Japanese whisky, often frequented Lit in Serendra, and learning from Lit’s resident whisky connoisseur Francis Hasegawa. He started getting into sake, but realized that restaurants here didn’t know how to properly take care of the bottles. “And there’s no Francis Hasegawa for sake here,” he shares. “So, I decided to go to Japan and get a sake sommelier course for a more hands-on experience.”

“I thought, I could never go wrong with putting up something like this in Poblacion,” says the 25-year-old. “I think it’s a good time to put up a sake bar. People are ready for something like this. Sake’s easier to drink than beer, and we Filipinos love beer. It won’t get you bloated, it’s lighter with higher alcohol content, and no hangovers!” Plus, Yoi is an excellent companion to Agimat Foraging Bar located upstairs. Chef Niño Laus, who helped open Tadeo’s first restaurant Hamaru in Quezon City, is like his older brother and was the one who encouraged him to take the space. 

Yoi has two sections: the laid-back dining area where you can eat and drink your fill amidst an edgy graffitied wall and a view of the open kitchen, and a dark standing bar where people drink Japanese liquor surrounded by columns of string lights that is every Instagrammer’s dream. They don’t have servers here. All their servers are their kitchen staff, so they know the menu from cover to cover and can guide you in your dining and drinking experience. 

Ishichi Omachi

“Sake came first, and the rest followed,” he says about his concept for the bar and its menu. They have around 20-35 bottles of sake at a given time, so they have a range that can satisfy the more discerning drinkers as well as have more approachable choices for the less initiated. They change the lineup monthly, but Diamon Sake is a constant because that’s where he got his experience. 

There are some misconceptions about sake and how to drink it. “Some people, when they think of sake, they think of something pungent, something strong like vodka, which is far from what it is,” says Tadeo. “Some people have tried sake, but just Atsukan, which is warm sake. Actually, in my opinion, don’t heat the premium ones, because when you warm up the sake, you’re trying to cover up the pungent flavors. The premium ones are best served chilled, because the flavors are delicate.” They’ll warm up your sake for you though if you insist. 

Apart from an extensive selection of sake at different price points, Yoi also serves all kinds of Japanese liquor, like Japanese whisky, highballs, shochu (distilled from rice, barley, buckwheat, or sweet potatoes), umeshu (made from plums), and Japanese beer. Gin lovers won’t get left out as they have a steady supply of the Japanese floral gin, Roku. They also offer cocktails, but keep the cocktail selection to a maximum of three, as they want customers to focus on sake. 

The food in Yoi is a unique fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian influences. It’s one of those fusions that makes you doubt if it would work. But in the expert hands of chefs Mikko Quimora and Cris Villasor, they were able to masterly combine the two, resulting in a menu that would make your taste buds sing. Chef Mikko has worked in the kitchen of renowned two-Michelin-star restaurant Noma in Denmark, and Chef Cris has 20 years experience in Japanese cooking, having worked at Kai and Mecha Uma. “When people think of sake, they think it can only be paired with Japanese cuisine,” Tadeo says. “I thought I should put up a place to show people that it could be paired up with different cuisines.” Not only is their food a feast for the senses, but they also go well with sake. 

They don’t offer set pairings, as they get a mixed crowd who have mixed budgets; and some of their sake can put a serious dent in your wallet. Tadeo and his staff will gladly suggest some pairings for you on your visit. 

Here are some food and sake pairing suggestions Tadeo gave for us to try:

Meijo Junmai Shu (Hyogo Prefecture) is a dry sake paired with the tender, Tako (braised octopus, red paste, Havarti).

Tako

Ishichi Omachi (Okayama Prefecture), a full-bodied sake with notes of ripe pineapple, banana, and green apple on the nose, and sweet on the palate is excellent to pair with Shrimp Bisque (coconut wasabi).

Ishichi Omachi
Shrimp Bisque

Daimon 35 (Osaka Prefecture). A full-bodied, sweet and umami sake, was a perfect accompaniment to the Fish and Liver (salmon tartare, chicken liver pate, sushi rice, pickled shiitake, charred salmon aburi). The sake balances the intense flavors of the dish and makes the fish taste fresher.

Daimon 35
Fish and Liver (salmon tartare, chicken liver pate, sushi rice, pickled shiitake, charred salmon aburi)

Hakutsuru Kinkan (Hyogo Prefecture), full-bodied and balanced, was paired with perfectly cooked Salmon (ikura yogurt, spinach uni rice, enoki mushrooms).

Salmon (ikura yogurt, spinach uni rice, enoki mushrooms).

Personal suggestion: Their Kladkakka, made of stout ice cream, dark chocolate fudge cake with caramel reduction is the perfect ending to a flavorful meal. It’s not too sweet and has a rich and deep chocolate taste. Have it with Umeshu Choya Classic Highball, a plum wine highball that takes their take on a Scandinavian dessert on another level.

Oysters mushroom cream with Havarti
Rye Sourdough – house-made, served with churned butter
Egg on Egg on Egg – Japanese egg, ikura, caviar

For Tadeo and his sake passion, this is just the beginning. He is working on getting a local franchise of SSA Sake Sommelier Association, so people who are into sake who want to be sake sommelier themselves can get lessons and certification. He is also aiming to import and distribute sake in the country. There are also plans to make the part of the sake bar into a retail shop, where people can go to purchase their choice of sake. Who knows, his passion might be the start of a sake craze here.

Yoi is fast becoming one of the places people flock to over the weekends, especially since they have guest DJs playing live sets on Fridays and Saturdays. It is a great place to have a satisfying dinner accompanied by drinks, or have a few shots of sake to kick off your epic night out, or take a hot date, or get a sake education while you unwind. It’s not a big place, and can only accommodate around 25-35 people at a time, so best to make reservations, especially for big groups. As a warning, it is in Poblacion, so parking is an issue. If you don’t have a driver, just get a Grab or a cab when you visit. 

For updates and more information, follow YOI at @yoipblcn on instagram. 

Chrysmas is your go-to gal for all things involving alcohol. She maneuvers her way through the Metro's traffic in her black boots and fishnet stockings, scouring places where one can indulge one's self in libations of all kinds. From Poblacion to Pasay, Malate to Makati, Tagaytay to Taguig. Ask her where to go to get your choice of poison and chances are she's already there holding a good stiff drink in one hand and a pen in the other.

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