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The Strong Suit of Ironman Steakhouse

East meets West in this new Makati restaurant.

Even a pandemic could not deter the minds behind Ironman Steakhouse. IMAGE BY ADEN MICHAEL MANALO.

The term “ironman” commonly refers to two subjects: the superhero Tony Stark or the people who showcase an exceptional amount of endurance.

In Metro Manila, when the restaurant Ironman Steakhouse was being conceptualized, its founders Sophia and Asahiko Yara didn’t have the latter in mind. The couple named their restaurant as such simply because they were fans of the marvel character. But that shouldn’t suggest that this establishment doesn’t have what it takes to endure.

Already it has showed its mettle. When it opened its doors late last year, it faced a plethora of challenges because of the ongoing pandemic. The omicron variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had just started reeling its ugly head and it was threatening the potential foot traffic the restaurant needs to survive. It’s also a place that relies heavily on imports–sourcing ingredients from the United States, Australia and Japan. Because the virus, a cloud of instability loomed over the head of their suppliers. And then there’s the matter of economic realities, the fact that people were still reeling from the fiscal effects of the virus. Food may be essential but people are less likely to spend more than what they need.

Nevertheless, I met Sophia and Asahiko before the end of 2021 and what I saw them at their new restaurant were two people who didn’t seem too fazed by challenges. Instead, they were beaming with pride and hopefulness, a pairing who relishes the potential of their new brainchild.

They’re doing more than fine, so Sophia told me. And as far as I’m concerned, that was among the first of many surprises Ironman greeted me with.

Ironman Steakhouse mixes European and Japanese flavors to provide a unique experience. IMAGES BY ADEN MICHAEL MANALO.

Upon hearing the name “Ironman Steakhouse,” I expected a rather rugged establishment and a menu of uncomplicated, meat-centric comfort food. When I went to the place, however, I realized that the only prediction I got right was the involvement of meat.
Located in Ayala Malls Circuit Makati, the restaurant opens up to understated interiors punctuated by punches of color. Its menu, meanwhile, is an experimental selection crafted by the Franch-trained chef Seiji Kamura. It mixes Japanese and European traditions to serve an overall unique experience in the country.

“For the menu, it’s a teppanyaki style,” Sophia told me. “But unlike other teppanyaki restaurants, we offer set menu; course menu. The appetizer, soup, salads, main dish and dessert. We always change. That’s why the customer or the client can just give us their budget then the chef can already decide on what course or menu he is going to serve. The cheapest for the course menu is one thousand five
hundred (1,500 php.)”

I got more acquainted with this by trying Course Set A. It features edamame, a firm salmon marnier that is complemented by a savory sauce, yakitori and kushikatsu. The chicken and pork barbecue included in this set were both jucy and tender, grilled just enough to have a mildly smoky flavour that is improved further by salty teriyaki sauce.

Then, there was the wakame salad with ASEAN sauce. This was a dish that included crisp and fresh vegetables that allow the wakame’s briny flavor to pop. The sesame sauce mixed into this plate also adds a rich and creamy taste.

Later into the meal, I tried the short ribs with mixed vegetables. Here, the ribs were medium rare and flavorful because of the fat. Again, it was a dish elevated by the salty sauce it was paired with. This is a solid precursor to the desert, peach jubilee with vanilla ice cream. While the latter was nothing to write home about, the peach did provide a tangy and slightly acidic contrast.

 The place had a lot of that going on. Contrasts, complementations, emphases–it was by no means a simple affair albeit the establishment’s visibly simplistic visage. It was an experience that doesn’t rely on convention.

“It’s a kind of trial experience,” Sophia said. And it is nothing short of a risk that appears to be working.

Asahiko and Sophia Yara, the owners of Ironman Steakhouse. IMAGE BY ADEN MICHAEL MANALO.
Since opening, Ironman Steakhouse has had a plethora of guests. Some were the usual patrons of Araya Ramen–the couple’s Japanese food brand–and members of social circles like the Rotary Club. Meanwhile, other guests are the adventurous eaters that populate the more affluent parts of Makati, foodies open to trying something fresh. Currently, however, it is targetting groups that can take advantage of the space.

“We can accommodate around 40 people,” said Sophia. “It is realy space for social gatherings; big group.”

Naturally, this isn’t the easiest to target at the moment. With COVID-19 still very much present in the country–occassionally causing tighter restrictions due to high case numbers–large groups aren’t among the goals restaurants can always strive for.

But even if it didn’t achieve much of this since its launch, Ironman still remains hopeful with good reason. It did, after all, survive a baptism of fire. Should the virus finally become less of a problem here, it could have the capacity to be more. Perhaps it might even live up to the endurance suggested by its name–even though its founders didn’t have that in mind when they opened the place.

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