El Bodegero (Ikomai)
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You'd be wise to prepare a lot when the Albertos sit down and dine together. We are a family that just like many others, will make quick work with what is placed in front of us. Last night was no different. In order to celebrate my uncle Eric's birthday, he sought out the kitchen and the people of Ikomai to bus out a six-course degustacion. I have always trusted in my uncle's discernment when it comes to the matter of where to eat so when the plan to have dinner for his birthday was put in motion, there were no second thoughts from me. Only a hearty yes.

You can watch a bit of our family's celebration in the video below:

My cousin Geline was kind enough to offer to pick me up from work. We shared quite a few laughs listening to an assortment of stand-up comedians on Spotify. When we arrived, the table was already populated by our parents and other elders as my other cousins were all coming from work and such at different parts of the metro. Promptly after my arrival, the table was being populated as well with our first course: Nagoya Style Sushi with Tuna and Salmon Sashimi. Hell yes, that's how you start a meal. Fresh as I could want it.

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The palate pacing from course to course was fantastic. Each course transitioned so well from one to the other. Next up, adding heat to our palates was the Tako Carpaccio. I'm not the biggest consumer of octopus per se but tonight was an exception. It had a very sweet burn to the tongue, more pleasant than expected. Truth be told, there was a bit of disappointment in my heart that we had to share this given that our clan was more or less at full strentgh and there were merely five pieces of beautifully prepared morsels of octopus per plate.

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We move on from a little spicy to subtly sour. We each were presented a little bowl of Asari Chan. Little clams, steamed in sake, were swimming in a sour broth. This was executed well but I've not much else to say about it.

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As the conversations on our end of the makeshift long table (also known as the "not-so-kiddie-anymore" end) turned towards career transitions, travel updates and my sister's looming graduation, the staff graced us with gorgeous plates of Tuna Poke Salad. The first course of the night that we didn't have to pass around. I must say that my family really enjoyed this in particular; so much so that my cousin more than happily accepted his child's serving when his young stomach wasn't so keen on eating it. (The kitchen graciously served him a plate of chicken skewers and a small bowl of gohan rice as a replacement.)

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As a bit of a halftime break from all these flavors, most likely in preparation for the next course/the main event, a palate cleanser in the form of a calamansi sorbet was served next.

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Truth be told, I've eaten my fair share of steaks in my life. I've had good ones, great ones and those that are nothing to write home about. When I saw on our little menus that we would be served a steak as our main, my heart began to flutter just a little bit. I will never say no to steak. Ikomai's Rib-Eye Steak with Yakimono Ebi culminated our whole dining experience so well for me that night. Chef James Antolin approached our family with the simple question "How would you like your steaks?". With such gusto, much to my pride and chef's approval, we all shouted in unision "MEDIUM RARE!" After a chuckle and a resounding "Your family will be fine in this world" from chef, he presented to each us a tender piece of rib-eye and a gorgeous fried prawn accompanied by a bowl of chahan, a litany of vegetables and some wasabi aioli. I feel like I could literally ramble about a good steak for paragraphs on end but I'll keep it short for now. It was good. There was nothing on that plate that didn't make me thankful I had tastebuds. In this life, there are a few things that compare to the experience of slicing up a steak and seeing what I call perfect pink, an indication that the meat's temperature is just as I deem it the best to eat.

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To round off our lovely evening, the dessert unit of the place called Tochi served us a Strawberry Yogurt Bavarian. It was tart, it was sweet, it was just right.

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I'm proud and somewhat astonished with myself that I managed to hold conversations, stay off social media, eat, take photographs and scurry back and forth on each end of the long table to shoot videos for this entry.

Overall, this meal was definitely worth the effort in writing about it. Some of my happiest times are at a big table with my whole family partaking in good food.

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To our hermano mayor, our hardworking man of industry. You've definitely come a long way from the stories Maimee told me when I was a kid about how you started your daily hustle when you decided to kick your heels up and buck up in order to collect and sell bottles and old newspapers to whoever would take them off your hands for your profit as a young boy. You're living proof that hardwork and persistence gets you far in life...

...and damn sir, did you get far in life. Here's to you Tito Eric.

Happy birthday, El Bodegero. 

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Ikomai can be found at ACI Group Building 147 HV. Dela Costa, Salcedo, Makati. They are open Mondays to Saturdays from 11:00AM to 11:00PM.
You can reach them at (02) 816 4588 and check out their Facebook page here.

*This dinner experience was not sponsored by the establishment and all insights above are based only from my own experience.*