Pleasing palates with small bites and sake

Cassandra C. Poculan
·2 min read

The Dychangcos are no stranger to the restaurant business, so while Ori Izakaya is the new kid on the block, sisters Christelle and Holly most certainly are not. Spearheading this leap, the two are bringing one of Japan’s quintessential experiences to Cebu, in a rather upscale setting but still with the let-loose atmosphere that is typical of izakayas.

“To the family, Japanese food is a staple for Sunday lunches that everyone—from the grandparents and parents to the children and grandchildren—enjoys. The children grew to liking more fastfood-style Japanese cuisine, which includes more westernized rolls and bento boxes. So we wanted to create a restaurant where we keep traditional tastes and also have quick and trendy options including more vegetarian and vegan options to cater not only to us but to the growing health-conscious market of Cebu,” shared Christelle.

Interestingly, Ori Izakaya opened earlier this year, just a few weeks before the city was placed on lockdown. The family initially wanted to open a hut-style kiosk with small dishes and sake. “The small dishes for snacking while drinking remained, but the space grew to what it is today and with the pandemic, the outdoor, open-air seating worked out perfectly,” Christelle added.

As “ori” can translate to “cage” in Japanese, the design of the restaurant was made to look like a glass cage. The place can accommodate 50 guests at a time, both indoor and al fresco. It also has a private room for a party of 25.

Expect to see traditional izakaya fare like Japanese skewers on the menu, as well as grilled and fried food, but with technique and presentation on the more creative side. It’s casual enough for dining out with a group, yet refined enough for date nights.

Ori’s signature rolls and aburis are much raved about. “We bring tasty and filling rolls which are not only pretty to look at but high-quality for the price you pay. We’re Cebuanos so we know that we want quality for the lowest price possible and so at Ori, we do our best to offer quality food and quality service,” said Christelle.

The Ori Special Roll, cut into eight generous pieces, is a combination of tempura, crabstick, tobiko, sushi tamago, nori, leeks and a “secret crunch” that makes it a bestseller.

Don’t count out the aburi sampler, served with an umami-explosion miso sauce. Ori is also the first in Cebu to offer foie gras aburi, probably the only esoteric item on the menu. Partially broiled goose liver with a balsamic teriyaki glaze sits atop sushi rice. It goes without saying that all these should be washed down with Ori’s stellar selection of beers and sake.

Ori Izakaya, located on Nivel Hills in Lahug, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and until 9:30 p.m. on weekends. Limited items are also available for delivery.