THIS is definitely the age of buffet restaurants. Not only are lunch and dinner buffets a big thing in five-star hotels. Restaurateurs are now also opening restaurants dedicated to buffets, and, to reign high in the newly established buffet restaurant scene, they’re being creative in their food concepts as well as giving value for money to diners patronizing their buffets.
The newest to join the fray is Banzai: The Great Authentic Japanese Buffet, which is the much anticipated buffet restaurant owned by actor-restaurateur Marvin Agustin with partners Ricky Laudico and Raymund Magdaluyo. Located at SM By the Bay, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, Banzai offers authentic Japanese cuisine, using imported Japanese ingredients, prepared and cooked the Japanese way, and served in a Japanese ambiance. Japanese cuisine is, after all, the strength of the restaurant group, as the owners – Agustin, Laudico and Magdaluyo – are the same owners behind such well-known Japanese restaurants as Sumo Sam, John and Yoko, Akira and Mr. Kurosawa. So, when it was finally established in February this year, Banzai became the country’s biggest, all-unlimited, all-authentic Japanese buffet.
At the helm of Banzai’s kitchen are three Japanese chefs, each of whom is assigned to his own specialty section in the buffet. Chef Hiroshi Ishikawa, backed by 40 years of culinary experience, oversees the food preparation and manages the kitchen team. Sushi chef Norimasu Masuda, who has been working as a sushi chef in the Philippines for 12 years, is the top guy over at the sushi counter. In charge of the ramen section is Chef Kimwori Iwabuchi, who has had 19 years of experience in the food business.
“We want our chefs to focus on what they’re good at so that the customers can get quality food. This is why what comes out can be akin to art – from the preparation to even small details like garnishes. The chefs have mastered them,” says Laudico.
Banzai, with a seating capacity of 500, serves a wide range of authentic Japanese dishes, including sushi, sashimi and maki, okonomiyaki, katsudon, teppanyaki, tempura, ramen, gyudon, soba, steak and salmon, among others. There are 56 stations where diners can get them: Tempura and Tonkatsu Station; Yakitori and Grill Station; Noodles and Ramen Station; Takoyaki, Kaniyaki and Gohan Station; Pizza Station; Roast Station; Hot Selections; Sushi, Sashimi and Rolls Station; Teppanyaki Station; Cold Soba Station; Bread Station; Salad Station; Beverage Station; Carving Station; and Dessert Station. Oh, yes, there’s takoyaki at Banzai. Yes, too, the restaurant features dishes of one other featured international cuisine at the Roast Station.
To create a truly Japanese ambiance for diners, Banzai’s dining areas distinctively Japanese décor, interiors and wall art. These dining areas, spread out around the buffet, are called Dotonbori Area, Old Japan Area, Castle Area, Sumo Arena, Modern Japan Area and Osaka Area depending on the design theme.
To cater to the Filipino’s love affair with selfies, Banzai has come up with the Trick Art Gallery, where the wall is lined with three beautiful murals depicting Japanese life. The murals are so realistic that diners can actually “pose” to create photos that make them an active player in the scene. Wigs and costumes are readily available for picture-taking purposes, so diners can really get into the zone.
Going a notch higher, Banzai also offers a one-of-a-kind theater production, A Festival of Japan, directed by award-winning Floy Quintos with costumes by Gino Gonzales. A Festival of Japan is a spectacular showcase of different periods of Japanese history and is inspired by different Japanese performance art forms, such as kabuki and noh. So diners shouldn’t be surprised to see actors, garbed in complete costumes, going around the restaurant portraying a role. There are also cosplay artists hanging out in the restaurant to make the place even more interesting.
Buffet prices for adults are Php699 for Monday to Friday lunch, Php899 for Monday to Friday dinner, and Php1,088 for Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Buffet prices for kids below 4.5 feet is Php499, while those below 3.5 feet tall get to eat for free.
Ongoing promos include the Power Lunch Promo for students and employees (enjoy a 15% discount on lunch during weekdays by presenting school or company IDs) and the 5 Plus 1 Promo (for every five paying guests, a sixth one gets to dine for free). Both promos are ongoing until June 30, 2014.
In addition, the Banzai Week-long Birthday Blast allows birthday celebrators to eat for free for one week with three full paying adults.
(Banzai: The Great Authentic Japanese Buffet is located at Bldg. J, SM By the Bay, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City; with telephone numbers 0916-3775357, 0999-4713597 and 552-7368.)