Actor-entrepreneur opens fifth Japanese concept resto
Actor Marvin Agustin shot to fame in show business via teen flicks that always showed his sweet, boy-next-door demeanor. It seemed that acting—and the occasional song and dance in variety shows—was the sole niche perfect for this Star Circle alum.
It therefore came as a surprise to the public when in 2005, the ever boyish Agustin ventured into casual Japanese dining along with his non-showbiz partners Ricky Laudico and Raymund Magdaluyo.
In the succeeding years, Agustin transformed into a bona fide restaurateur and entrepreneur when the same trio went to open eight more restaurants within Metro Manila.
Realizing that their strength and competence lie in Japanese cuisine, Agustin and his partners launched their 10th brand called Banzai early this year. A Japanese buffet restaurant located at the SM MOA By the Bay in Pasay City, it is now the actor’s biggest and grandest food venture to date.
In May, Agustin officially introduced Banzai while launching the restaurant’s special weekend treat for diners, a Japanese cultural performance helmed by multi-awarded director Floy Quintos, with costumes by one of Philippine theater’s favorite designers, Gino Gonzales.
Dubbed “A Festival of Japan,” the program is inspired by different periods of Japanese history, featuring the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group in such traditional presentations as the kabuki and noh dances.
After SumoSam, Agustin, Laudico and Magdaluyo developed Mr. Kurosawa, John and Yoko, and Akira, which are all upscale Japanese restaurants. While both Mr. Kurosawa and John and Yoko are classified as Japanese fusion restaurants, Akira offers an authentic teppanyaki dining experience.
Fresh from the success of opening Akira in 2013, they realized that there was indeed a clamor for teppanyaki dining.
He said, “We basically experimented with a teppanyaki place that is not as high-end as Akira. To make it affordable, we came up with a teppanyaki buffet concept.”
Thus, Banzai’s main event is a live teppanyaki station where skilled chefs cook dishes for an extensive menu with highly entertaining knife and spatula exhibitions.
Quality over quantity
While buffets usually bring to mind endless food choices, Agustin and his partners guarantee that while Banzai may have the widest Japanese menu in the metropolis to date, they still prioritize “quality over quantity” both in the ingredients they use and how the dishes are cooked.
“We have the biggest selection for a Japanese buffet. But at the same time, it’s not just about quantity here at Banzai but we really make sure of we offer quality, because authentic Japanese cuisine is known to be such and even very artistic,” Agustin explained.
To ensure quality, Banzai commissioned three Japanese chefs to lead its culinary team. They are Chefs Hiroshi Ishikawa, Norimasa Masuda, Kimwori Iwabuchi who have built highly respected careers in top kitchens of Japan and the Philippines.
The buffet’s numerous stations comprise of antipasti, appetizers, salad bar, cold soba, sushi and sashimi, hot selection, roast section, pizza, takoyaki, gyoza, ramen, robotayaki, agemono, breads, desserts, and of course the teppanyaki. The restaurant also offers bottomless beverages including soda, beer, iced tea, juices, coffee, and iced Milo.
“There are so many buffet concepts already out in the market. When we decided to have our own, we chose to take on Japanese cuisine again because that’s our strength, and our promise is to offer the public what we do best,” Agustin concluded.