Sakagura: In Hearty Homage of Tasty, Time-Honored Tradition

This Nikkei Group restaurant serves up an immersive experience into Japan’s beloved izakaya-sake bar scene

Successful entrepreneurs will likely tell you that dreams, desires, drive, and determination are all deeply built into the bedrock of businesses that go the distance—Carlo Lorenzana, the visionary behind the Nikkei Group of Restaurants can surely attest to this.

With a university degree in Hotel Management and vast experience in the hospitality industry, Lorenzana and his wife Jackie dreamed of elevating the culinary landscape in the Philippines to meet the needs of the ever-evolving palate of local and expatriate diners, alike. In 2015, their dream became reality, with the opening of the group’s first restaurant, Nikkei, a masterful fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines.  Since then, the dream has dynamically diversified into an impressive portfolio of 11 restaurants, traversing a tasteful roster of culinary concepts, and counting.

“Starting new dining concepts is exciting and it’s definitely an adventure, but it’s a challenge, too, with a lot of ups and downs. You have to be very entrepreneurial, but you also have to have a strong belief in what you’re doing. You must have a good team with you, as well as a lot of commitment and dedication. Research and development are vital before opening. Delve into the cuisine and travel, to see how the concept is done in other countries,” Lorenzana points out.

Our Japanese clients dine with us looking for a taste of home, in the cooking and in the sake.

Carlo G. Lorenzana, the dynamic Founder and President of the Nikkei Group of Restaurants

Among the group’s latest ventures, having opened in August 2023, is Sakagura (which literally means “sake brewery” in Japanese), located at One Bonifacio High Street Mall in Bonifacio Global City. The restaurant has gained a steady following, as it strives to serve the most authentic izakaya-sake bar experience this side of Japan—a goal it certainly meets, in a manner that is straightforward, sumptuous, and sincere.

The total experiential package

Across all its restaurants, the Nikkei Group aims to create an entire experience for its guests; from the ambiance and aesthetic of each thoughtfully designed venue to the scrupulous service and mouthwatering menu offerings. “We’d like for diners to always have a complete experience; to be happy from the time that they enter until they leave, and that they experience tasty dishes that are exciting to them,” Lorenzana shares.

At Sakagura, this translates to an atmosphere that is charming and cozy, with the easygoing yet exciting vibe that is the hallmark of traditional izakaya-sake bars in Japan. With over 50 premium sakes, as well as a carefully curated menu of around 40-plus dishes—from sashimi, handrolls, aburi, and nigiri to robatayaki dishes and Wagyu beef bowls—it is the place to go for authentic Japanese flavors with the best in sake pairings. “When we open a new concept, the elements must align. We like to fill a void that we see in the market, and in this case, we saw the need for a really authentic Tokyo-Kyoto-style izakaya that offers a wide variety of sake,” Lorenzana notes.

Always crafted with quality

As Japanese food lovers can attest to, ingredient quality is essential in creating the authentic and always-fresh flavors for which the cuisine is most beloved. And Sakagura surely doesn’t skimp on quality. “Majority of our dishes are all very traditional, and our main ingredients are flown in from Japan, to ensure quality and authenticity. As for our sakes, we source them from the best Japanese breweries. We foster direct relationships with these breweries and brew masters, to curate an excellent collection of sakes that embody the very essence of their craftsmanship. Our dealings with Japan are going strong, as they are also eager for catalysts for their economy,” says Lorenzana.

Of course, top-notch culinary quality is also deeply dependent on who heads the kitchen; at Sakagura, the man behind the mouth-watering meals is gastronomic genius, Chef Yonemoto-san, whose culinary skill has landed him top posts in esteemed establishments across Japan and New York. Chef Yonemoto-san brings his expertise in the art of izakaya cuisine, mastered in Tokyo, to Sakagura’s tables.

Among the bestselling dishes on the menu are the Sakagura Nigiri and the Sakagura Handrolls, both of which showcase the chef’s selection of the freshest, choicest cuts of seafood on a bed of plump, moist Japanese rice. Another popular palate-pleasing seafood dish is the Hotate, super fresh and succulent Japanese scallops with uni butter, cooked and served on a tabletop konro charcoal grill. Sakagura is likewise known for its tender and tasty Wagyu creations, including its beef and rice bowls like the Wagyu Tare Tamago Donburi. Perfectly seared slices of highest grade Saga Beef A5, served over fluffy Japanese rice, topped with a golden egg yolk make for a satisfying bowl of Wagyu indulgence. For maximum pleasure, a meal like this is best paired with sake of one’s choice, such as the Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Honjozo, a classic type of sake from the Niigata prefecture, favored for its woody aroma and warm, welcoming undertones of fruit and spice that make for a smooth drink.

Guests also have the option of going on a “sake flight,” an experience which involves multiple shots of sake served in a charming variety of cups.

A taste of home and heritage

Perhaps what truly sets Sakagura apart, and what has already made it among the go-to places of Japanese nationals in the Philippines, is its commitment to upholding a hearty, homey taste of heritage—in its superior sake selection and in its appetizing, authentic array of aliments, alike.  “Our Japanese clients dine with us looking for a taste of home, in the cooking and in the sake. They look for that straightforward, balanced taste they grew up with. Their palate is very different from Filipino diners who prefer super strong flavors. Chef Yonemoto is very familiar with our Japanese clientele; he can easily whip up a particular dish for them, or adjust the flavor profiles to meet their expectations and tastes based on what they are used to. He can ‘freestyle’ his cooking techniques to accommodate these differences. That’s really pretty much how it is in an authentic izakaya, in Japan. There’s often no set menu, no rules. The chefs typically just make food that pairs well with your sake. Along with the food, our vision for Sakagura is to offer a captivating journey into the world of premium sakes, showcasing the deep-rooted heritage and artistry behind this revered Japanese beverage,” Lorenzana explains.

With its meticulous attention to every delicious detail, Sakagura is certainly committed to honoring Japanese heritage. But, beyond the mouth-watering menu and spirited sakes, Sakagura is likewise dedicated to crafting a captivating culinary culture; one in which the wholehearted service of Japanese omotenashi melds brilliantly with the warmth of Filipino hospitality. And this makes for a unique and unforgettable experience, indeed.

Visit Sakagura on the 2nd Floor of One Bonifacio High Street Mall, BGC, Taguig.
Business hours are from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Related Articles


More Lifestyle Articles