Iroha: A Michelin-Starred Kaiseki Experience in Osaka, Japan

To be honest with you, I was nervous going in to this. I had seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi after all, so I was aware how important tradition and etiquette were to the Japanese. Seated so close to the chef like this with my unwieldy DSLR hanging from my neck, I didn’t want to unwittingly do anything that would offend him and get us booted out. “No sushi for you!”

Only the sous chef could speak any English, so I sheepishly pointed at my camera and asked if I could take pictures of our meal. Instead of getting the reassuring thumbs up I was hoping for, he turned to chef/owner Masatoshi Yoshimoto and relayed my question to him, making me even more nervous. Eyes widening, Chef Yoshimoto emphatically threw his arms up in an “X” and said “NO!” In that instant, my heart jumped into my throat and I expected the worst, when all of a sudden he and his kitchen staff burst out laughing. Apparently, my Japanese friend Tom had called in earlier to tell him that I was a designer looking to take pictures for my website, so he was expecting it. Whew! 😆

My nerves settled, I could now enjoy (and take pictures of) what would turn out to be the most sublime meal that either Ren or I have ever experienced. A kaiseki meal by a top Japanese chef and dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant are two of the many things that make up my bucket list. Thanks to my brother Erwin who surprised me with this impeccable dinner as a 40th birthday present during our recent trip to Osaka, I get to scratch both off on the same night.

Save This on Pinterest!

No time to read this now? Click on the red save button and pin it for later!

Kaiseki at Iroha

Blank canvas…

FIRST COURSE: Uni on a bed of unidentified vegetables – some slimy, some crunchy. That green stuff appeared to be some type of seaweed or kelp. Really nice dish with an interesting contrast in textures and flavors.

Chef Yoshimoto deftly preparing our second course. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a clue: it’s harvested in shark-infested waters.

SECOND COURSE: Awabi! (abalone) Did you guess it correctly? Unbelievably fresh, that awabi changed Ren’s life. 😆 Interestingly, that orange, translucent sphere is a piece of Toyama glass shrimp that was marinated in a light soy sauce. So good!

THIRD COURSE: Clams and spring onions on a bed of tofu skin!

Here’s Chef Yoshimoto again carefully plating our next course. Open for six years now, Chef Yoshimoto worked for ten years as head chef at a kappo in Shinchi before venturing off on his own. A holder of one Michelin star to date, Iroha is named after his daughter.

FOURTH COURSE: Two types of fish – I think katsuo (bonito) and broiled tai (snapper) – served with a green vegetable on a bed of ice. I don’t know what kind of vegetable that was, but it was very crunchy with an interesting, honeycomb-like structure. It was fascinating – watching them meticulously score that white fish showed me just how important texture is to Japanese cuisine.

Funny side story, this dish was laid down before us in the manner that you see here – wasabi to the front, bowl handles to the sides. Because that green vegetable was covering the katsuo though, I tried to turn the bowl for a better shot. Soon as I did, Chef Yoshimoto turned it right back and said that this was how it was supposed to be. Oops! 😳 Not wanting to commit any more gaijin faux pas, I didn’t dare try it again. 😆

FIFTH COURSE: Shrimp and asparagus in a nutty, earthy, black sesame sauce

SIXTH COURSE: Some type of black seaweed. A little sweet and served cold midway through our meal, I think this was meant to be a palate cleanser.

SEVENTH COURSE: A perfect piece of what appears to be katsuo sushi

EIGHTH COURSE: Grilled white fish, ginger, fragrant sticky rice, and a ground cherry. So cool!

NINTH COURSE: Japanese corn soup

TENTH COURSE: Saga wagyu beef sukiyaki. As exquisite as this meal was from start to finish, this had to be my favorite course of the evening. Together with Kobe and Matsuzaka, Saga is recognized as one of the finest beef brands in Japan.

Sliced thinly, the Saga beef literally melted in your mouth. Unreal.

ELEVENTH COURSE: A white fish that was firmer and gummier in texture than the previous fish courses. Really good.

TWELFTH COURSE: For the finishing course, they gave us a choice of either noodles or rice. Ren chose these noodles…

TWELFTH COURSE: …while I went with the rice in broth with a side of pickled vegetables. We were both full at this point so these dishes came at just the right time.

THIRTEENTH COURSE: For dessert, we had pears and tofu in simple syrup. A perfect ending to a truly bucket-list worthy meal.

Again, I can’t thank my brother enough for arranging this, and all the way from California too. You couldn’t have given me a better birthday gift Erwin, so from the bottom of our hearts, thank you! 😀 A big thank you to Tom too for calling in and making sure we were taken care of tonight. 😉

For anyone interested in dining here, a typical kaiseki dinner will run you around ¥12,000, but be prepared to pay ¥15,000 if you plan on having drinks. Pricey yes, but for a thirteen-course Michelin-starred experience as perfect as this, it was absolutely worth every cent.


5F, Kitashinchi Bldg, 1-3-19 Sonezakishinchi, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan
Tel: +06-6344-7355
Expect to spend: ¥15,000 per person for dinner with drinks
Operating Hours: Mon-Sat, 5:30PM-10:30PM (dinner only)
Reservations: Required

Where to Eat in Legazpi City

Mayon Volcano is stunning. Looming over town like a fire-breathing deity, it’s so majestic that seeing it up close for the first time will literally take your breath away.

Nearly perfect in shape, it’s about as well-formed a terra firma cone as nature can make. And to drive up to its lava flow on the backs of ATVs was an incredibly fun, exhilerating experience, one that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Legazpi.

But as rewarding an experience as that may have been, you’ll be hard-pressed to find other equally interesting things to do here. There are no nice beaches. No museums or markets selling crafts and other wares. Outside of taking snapshots with this near perfect volcano, I’m afraid there really aren’t many touristy things to do in Legazpi, not many of course, other than to eat.

Known for its heavy use of coconut milk and chilis, here are just a few delicious things you can do in between those perfect Mt. Mayon selfies.

Four Seasons

Pacific Mall Business Center, Legazpi City
Tel: +052-480-7530

I googled “must eat legazpi” before our trip and this was one of the places that popped up. Open since 1971, Four Seasons is a Chinese restaurant famous for its fried chicken.

Seasons Chicken (Half) – PHP 160 (large) / PHP 185 (XL) / PHP 210 (XXL)

When I first read about this place, I remember thinking to myself: “It’s just fried chicken. I’ve eaten lots of fried chicken. How different can it be right?” I wasn’t particularly excited to try it, but all that changed the moment I took a bite.

Deep-fried and swimming in sauce, it’s crisp, crunchy, salty, sweet, garlicky, and vinegary, unlike any other chicken I’ve tried before and definitely worth a visit. It was delicious.

As described in this post, the next four restaurants listed below – Kamias, Eatalia, Wilkommen, and Vintage Garage Bar – are all located in the same building as the hotel we stayed at – Casablanca Suites. Already Legazpi’s top-rated TripAdvisor hotel, the convenience of these four restaurants makes Casablanca Suites an even better choice for travelers. Filipino, Italian, and German cuisine all under one roof, with a killer bar to wash it all down with. Saan ka pa?! (“Where else you?”)


PVLB Bldng, Benny Imperial St. (Alternate Road), Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines
Tel: +052-481-0788
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: kamiaswithatwist

Serving Filipino food with a twist, Kamias is the restaurant of Casablanca Suites. It’s a great, less traditional place to try the local cuisine.

Bicol Express – PHP 285 – Sea cucumber, pork, shrimp paste, kamias (bilimbi fruit), tomatoes, onions, and green chili simmered in coconut cream

One of the region’s most well-known dishes, Bicol Express is a rich, creamy dish made with coconut milk. Tasty but unctuous.

Pinangat – PHP 115 – Taro leaves layered and simmered in coconut milk with minced pork

Popularly known in Manila as Laing, pinangat is another well-known Bicolano dish made with taro leaves and coconut milk.

Kandingga – PHP 150 – Pork lungs, spleen, and heart with tomatoes, onions, and kangkong (water spinach)

Referred to as bopis outside of the Bicol region, kandingga is a delicious pork offal dish made with lungs, spleen, and heart. If you’ve never had pork offal before, it has an interesting texture, something like really soft rubber. Really good!

Neapolitan Pizzeria

PVLB Bldng, Benny Imperial St. (Alternate Road), Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines
Mobile: 0915-054-2297

For your pizza and pasta cravings. This Italian restaurant used to be called Eatalia. It’s recently switched hands and is now known as Neapolitan Pizzeria.

Frutti di Mare – PHP 289 – Minced seafood with tomato sauce

I wasn’t too crazy about this one. The sauce reminded me of the bottled stuff and the seafood tasted a little fishy to me.

Meat Lover’s – PHP 329 – Tomato sauce, salami, ham, minced pork and beef, mozzarella

Not bad. The crust was thin and light.


PVLB Bldng, Benny Imperial St. (Alternate Road), Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines
Tel: +052-435-6019
Mobile: 0917-557-5058
Facebook: WillkommenCafeAndRestaurant

We loved this place. The food is great and they offer PHP 270(?) buckets of San Mig Lights with free pulutan (bar chow). Tonight, our bucket of six came with this platter of Hungarian sausages.

Grilled Squid with Spiced Orange-Honey Sauce – PHP 220

A Wilkommen special, this was an unusual dish of squid in orange sauce. It was interesting, though I didn’t really care too much for the sauce. I found it too sweet. The squid was perfectly grilled and tender though.

Farmhouse Pizza Bread with Artichokes – PHP 290

This was really good. If you’re staying at Casablanca Suites and are in the mood for pizza, then I would recommend this one over the offerings at Eatalia. The home-baked ciabatta this pizza was made with was delicious.

Vintage Garage Bar

PVLB Bldng, Benny Imperial St. (Alternate Road), Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines
Mobile: 0917-558-0605

If Mike from American Pickers would open up a bar, then this would be it. Adorned with all kinds of vintage transportation memorabilia like old bicycles, scooters, car parts, and license plates, this was one of the more interesting bars I’ve walked into in a while. So cool.

Kebab – PHP 80 (If I remember correctly)

Having already enjoyed dinner at Kamias, we were full at this point so just ordered this kebab for pulutan. It was surprisingly good! Tender and well-seasoned, it was a delicious, choice cut of meat. We drank here on our last night in Legazpi but given more time, I would have loved to enjoy a full meal here. They offer all kinds of delicius-looking comfort food like burgers, chicken fingers, and cheese sticks.

1st Colonial Grill

Ground Floor, Pacific Mall, Landco Business Park, Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines
Tel: +052-481-1212 | +052-820-0985

I’ve read online that 1st Colonial Grill is one of the more popular places to eat here in Legazpi. We didn’t get to try it but I’m sure the food is good judging from the packed restaurant. What we did get to try though was their unconventional line of Pinoy ice creams, most popular of which is the sili (red chili pepper).

Clockwise from upper left: Sili, Tinutung na Kanin (burnt rice), Laing (Filipino dish made with taro leaves and coconut milk), and Pili (Canarium ovatum nut). Interesting lineup of flavors eh?

All were good, some better than others, but the sili was clearly the best. The heat hits you like an aftertaste, not in your mouth, but in your throat after you swallow. It’s an addictive sensation, one that I wish I could have brought back with me to Manila.

More on Legazpi City

Mayon Volcano by ATV!
Where to Stay in Legazpi City: Casablanca Suites


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase or reservation at NO extra cost to you. We really appreciate your support as this helps us keep this website going. Thank you!

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan

This was easily my favorite site during our recent trip to Coron, Palawan. A mysterious, secretive lake hidden amidst a crown of towering limestone cliffs, Kayangan Lake is a stunningly beautiful body of water unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

With crystal clear turquoise waters and an almost unearthly stillness, I felt as if I had just walked into one of the Earth’s genuinely holy places.

Approaching these misty, limestone cliffs, I’m reminded of the opening scene from Jurassic Park. I wonder what secrets are kept by these beautiful, ancient formations?

As we approach the island, the fog begins to lift.

To reach Kayangan Lake, you have to do this 15-minute climb up the face of the mountain then walk down into the lake. Not too bad though the steps were uneven and a bit treacherous at parts.

A magnificent view from the summit.

Uh oh, more boats coming means more people so we better get moving…

A colorful cave along the way

As if inviting you, the dense forest finally opens up, revealing this breathtaking, wondrous secret. Known also as the Blue Lagoon, Kayangan Lake is a sight to behold.

With brackish water (part salt/part fresh) that tasted mostly fresh, the water of Kayangan Lake is supposedly the cleanest and clearest in the Philippines. No arguments here.

With nary a ripple in sight nor a sound in the air, places like this demand stillness. This is a sacred sight for the locals so please remember this when you visit.

Even these planks were beautiful.

Ren striking a pose before getting in the crystal clear, blue-green water.

With mind-boggling stalagmites rising from the lake’s floor, only the surrounding limestone cliffs really know how this mysterious lake came to be.

I couldn’t really tell, but the lake must have been around 50-80 feet at its deepest parts. Even at those depths, I could still see the bottom, which is a testament to just how clean these waters were.

Primordial soup or the last reminders of an ancient, forgotten civilization?

Floating motionlessly in the middle of the lake, I imagine how I must have looked from up above, this small, wading speck of a human being enveloped by this immeasurable expanse of blue-green stillness. No matter what you’ve done in your life, no matter what you think you’ve accomplished, places like this remind you of your insignificance.

My arms tiring, I stare down into the abyss and think how this lake could at any time swallow me, soundlessly, without anyone noticing. Humbled by its quiet power, I swim back to the safety of the dock.

More on Palawan

Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Palawan Mangrove Forest
Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa
Tamilok, the World’s Longest Oyster
The Edge of the World
Ay kay Layo ng Lamayo!