Cultural Potpourri | Sumo Sam Rises Again

THE JAPANESE-American joint called Sumo Sam which opened in Davao City’s Abreeza Mall last Oct. 11, 2011, is one of the country’s leading chain of Japanese restaurants spearheaded by young and aggressive Manila entrepreneurs led by actor/chef Marvin Agustin and renowned Japanese and Filipino chefs.Sumo Sam, a Japanese-American restaurant as the name implies, boasts of a truly extensive menu ranging from the basic sashimi and sushi to sukiyaki, udon, and tempura, started serving finicky foodies and gourmands of Imperial Manila in 2005.  It was the brainchild of Marvin Jay Cuyugan Agustin and his successful restaurateur friends namely Raymund Magdaluyo, Rico Laudico, and Robert B. Tenchavez.  The Davao franchise of Sumo Sam has included the entry of the bright Davaoeno entrepreneur, Carlo Calma Lorenzana.

Those familiar with Marvin Agustin’s showbiz beginnings know that he worked hard as a waiter to support his family when he was discovered to try his luck in the movies.  Since that time, he was always dreaming of running his own restaurant or food business someday.  “I was lucky with my showbiz career.  I labored hard, matched with passion, in achieving whatever awards I got.  But the glitter in showbiz is not permanent.  There are always younger, better gifted, and good looking talents who can replace you just as easily.  Nothing stays forever,” Marvin Agustin confessed when I interviewed him several years ago.

Indeed, showbiz served as an excellent stepping stone to achieving Marvin’s dream and true passion in the more stable food business.  The guy knew what he wanted; and he knew what he was getting himself into.  The bright young man then enrolled himself at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management to better prepare himself professionally.  He started small but sure with the Ricecapades serving various rice toppings.  Happily, it was a successful and smooth start for him which inspired him to open the Oyster Boy Restaurant serving Ilonggo cuisine.  But he admitted that his real baby is Sumo Sam.  It was followed by John and Yoko, Café Ten Titas, Marciano’s, and Samurai Chef.  His business partners then added Harajuko, a European-Japanese restaurant, in Eastwood, Libis, in Quezon City.

Seven years later, there I was last May 6, 2018, at noon with the friendly Davao businessman Carlo Calma Lorenzanaand his young family at Sumo Sam-Abreeza.  “My business partners and I are renovating Sumo Sam for just a few days to have a good start once again.  The restaurant, which I thought of closing earlier this year, is fast picking up and so I decided not to give it up.  Our head chef Jamebo Borja has just returned from a refresher course on Japanese cuisine in Makati City so we have something new to offer in Sumo Sam.  He originally got his training from the Japanese-run restaurant, Furusato, whose executive chef was a Japanese national,” revealed Carlo as he added, “I am just glad that my original chefs and cooks and restaurant manager, Rose Martinez, are still with me helping me operate the restaurant with all the passion and eagerness to please our dining clients.

For lunch, Carlo treated Davao’s lifestyle writers  to such Sumo Sam delicious offerings likesalmon sashimi, dynamite roll and crunchy tuna roll, sukiyaki, fried gyoza, beef and ebi misono, tongkatsu, chicken teriyaki omurice, ebi curry don and ending  with tempura banana split for dessert.  Even on that particular Monday, the restaurant was full of diners which included Michelle Robins of ABS-CBN and son, and the beautiful Korean Dr. Lee Eun Young and company of Lee Eun Young Nature Care Center.

Hearing the good news from Carlo Calma Lorenzana that Sumo Sam will rise again with a new interior soon was such a joy for me.I can rest assured that my cravings for Japanese comfort food will always be made available for me by Sumo Sam-Abreeza.

Although Sumo Sam is pricier when compared to the other restos operating inside the Abreeza Mall, its version of Japanese cuisine is tastier and impressive.  What I miss though were the black-uniformed food servers with coloured hair of yesteryears.

“We are hoping for the continued success of our Sumo Sam-Abreeza Davao City through our loyal dining patrons who have been with us for years.  I believe Sumo Sam has been successful in Metro Manila owing to its good location, family-sized food servings, and affordability,” Carlo added.  “I am keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t fail my business partners in Sumo Sam-Abreezaespecially now that we are offering new dishes.  With this restaurant business I got myself into, I can only work hard and pray even harder that the experience would truly be inspiring enough for other food businesses to follow,” quipped Carlo Calma Lorenzana as I wished him good luck just as much as his family does.

Davao’s culinary scene has truly gone a long way.  It is really good to have many restaurants serving varied cuisines operating in our beloved city.  Matira ang Masarap at Mura! is the battlecry of foodies.

Posted in Lifestyle