It all started with a phone call from Toru-chan (regular SybDive readers will remember him as my darling Vigan empanada-crunching / Xocolat Azteca junkie friend) who was in the country recently and was raving about this “totemo subarashii kissaten” [way-cool teashop] not too far from my office. Then, about a month or so ago, the amazing Lori of Dessert Comes First wrote this particular entry. After vacillating for a few weeks, I decided to trot myself out of the office and actually sample what everyone was raving about at Kozui.
In Kansai-ben, the dialect of Japan’s southern provinces, kozui means “fragrance” – the primary factor considered when judging green tea. This recent addition to the Morato area’s already-stellar roster of eateries is the brainchild of Anthony So who got the idea whilst working in Shanghai, China. Apparently, green tea shops are quite the rage over there and to open yet another coffeeshop along QC’s restaurant row just didn’t cut it with the young entrepreneur. Amazingly, it’s an idea that works.
Interiors-wise, the shop will remind you of those gorgeous teashops from shows like Hana Yori Dango, Hanazakari no Kimitachi E, and GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka – LIVE. You know, the cafes where all the cool characters hang out. According to Anthony, he’s never actually been to Japan (I found that hard to believe.), but he did extensive research on cafe interiors and got ideas from various places, particularly the popular and oh-so-chic O’Sulloc teashops of South Korea.
Everything about Kozui seems so simple and wholesome, yet deliciously so. The menu is quite extensive with various fresh offerings that run the gamut from starters to desserts. While I was, to be perfectly honest, tempted by the tendon and chilled hiyashi-chuka soba on offer, the Japanese food fangirl in me seemed to squeal in delight upon seeing takoyaki (P 98.00) on the menu.
Takoyaki is known in the Philippines as samurai balls which were, once upon a time, sold by food stalls in major supermarkets. But Kozui’s take on these spherical dumplings aren’t the wimpy lumps of griddle-fried dough most urban Pinoys are familiar with. These takoyaki are on the large size and are stuffed to the gills with good things. Only, unlike the real thing sold in the food carts of Osaka, these aren’t filled with chunks of octopus [tako in Japanese, hence the name]. Instead, they’re stuffed with a moreish combination of squid [ika], shrimp [ebi], and leek [tamanegi]. These came to the table dressed with Japanese-style Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, bits of nori, and katsuoboshi [dried bonito fillet] shavings that fluttered gracefully in the draft. Totemo oishii, ne! [Very delicious, indeed!]
Kozui’s beverage menu has to be the most mind-blowing one I’ve seen in ages. I mean, I never knew tea could be the base for so many fascinating drinks! The iced POM Tea (iced green tea flavored with Torani pomegranate syrup) and the creamy-looking Korichio variants were tempting, but I’m a milk-tea loyalist so the Roasted Green Tea Latte (P 90.00 for a large mug) did it for me. It was full-flavored but not too strong, rich but not cloyingly so. I thought, That’s it; I’m a lost cause and am hoplessly in love with this mug-full of creamy goodness!
Anthony recommended the anmitsu, Kozui’s take on a traditional Japanese dessert which involves sweetened red bean paste [an], bits of mochi [pounded rice cake; think bilo-bilo only smoother and chewier], some syrup [mitsu], and matcha-flavored ice cream. This dessert is said to have been inspired by the one served at Koots, Japan’s hippest chain of green tea shops. Unfortunately, the takoyaki had been quite filling so the anmitsu will have to wait for my next visit. Instead, I bought some of the shop’s green tea cookies and black sesame cookies (both P 30.00 apiece) for late-afternoon munching. (I’m nibbling on one now and it’s really quite good: deliciously nutty though there aren’t any nuts.)
Those who want to take the Kozui experience home can find a number of tea-related knick-knacks for sale. Tea stirrers, mug covers, and infusers are available, but I was certainly impressed by the jars and canisters of tea on display. Indeed, I’m just so happy I finally found a can of real matcha for one of my Oriental-inspired cake recipes. Thanks again, Anthony; it really made my day! 😀
Kozui is a regular culinary eye-opener and I definitely will stop by again one of these days. I just hope Anthony opens a branch in the Alabang area; it’s much closer to home, really.
Kozui: 250-B Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
Incidentally… YOU-san, rhythm guitarist for GacktJOB wrote about his KOOTS experience in his online journal sometime ago. Meredeth of Robot Clones translated that particular entry here for those who can’t read Nihongo.
Have you seen the video for L’Arc~en~Ciel‘s latest single Seventh Heaven yet? Check it out; it’s surreal but oh-so-cool. Oh, and Gackt looked so cute and funny with that darned eyepatch when he guested on Music Fighter recently!