While recounting her week-long stay in the land of Tempura and Sushi, she showed us photos of her having this amazing dinner where she had Tonkatsu and was enjoying the experience so much. I was actually surprised as my sister is not the type who would order Tonkatsu or even Katsudon here in Manila. She's a big fan of Unagi (eel) and Ebi Tempura (shrimp) and not much of the breaded pork cutlets that I, on the other hand, truly love. I guess having the authentic kind helps a lot.
Looking at her photos, I was immediately reminded of Yabu: The House of Katsu, a new restaurant at SM Megamall where I recently had dinner with Paul and a couple of our friends.
The place was jam-packed that we had to wait a while before we finally had our table. Luckily, despite the fact that we were a big group of 15, the wait wasn't that long. In about 15 minutes, it was finally our turn and were led towards the longest table in the house. The restaurant interiors gives a very modern Japanese feel. I like the wallpaper art where it shows a comic strip of a chef preparing..what else?!...Katsu!
On each table is a ceramic tray that contains all of the sauces and condiments that you'll possibly need for your meal. There's the sesame dressing and vinaigrette for the salad, the Tonkatsu sauce, the Japanese salt for the Edamame and a lot more. As my sister told me, in Japan, they work so efficiently that while dining at a restaurant there is no need for you to ask the waitstaff for an additional piece of napkin, some salt or pepper or even your utensils. Everything that they think you'll need will immediately be served to you. Amazing huh?
Browsing through the menu, I noticed that the prices were pretty reasonable where a 100g Pork Tenderloin Set is just Php. 295. Not so bad given that it will be served in a set.
Paul and I decided to get our own set meals but also agreed to share an appetizer. We chose the Wakame and the Potato Salad (Php. 175). I enjoyed the Wakame, which are shredded cold seaweed topped with ebiko (fish roe). The Potato Salad wasn't so bad either but since it's something you can easily make at home or purchase elsewhere, the Wakame made the whole appetizer duo extra special.
Paul chose the Hire (Pork Tenderloin) 100g set (Php. 295) which came with a bowl of piping hot Miso soup, Japanese rice, some sliced pickles, bottomless serving of finely chopped cabbage and a bowl of fruits. I find it worth the price as Japanese rice alone is expensive and the serving was pretty generous! Of course, the highlight of his meal was the Hire Tonkatsu and Paul enjoyed it very much. He commented that it was very tender despite not having any fat attached to it.
Together with his meal, he was given a small saucer filled with some sesame seed. He was also given a wooden grinding stick that actually reminds me of a pestle. It's a bit heavy and he was asked to grind the sesame seeds before adding in the sauce. We also noticed that the saucer has ridges making grinding the seeds easier.
The steps to create that perfect Tonkatsu sauce is easy. Simply remember: Grind - Pour - Mix - Dip.
1) Grind the sesame seeds -- although we were advised not to grind them too much as it might turn into powder.
2) Pour the thick Tonkatsu sauce.
3) Mix -- using the same grinding stick, carefully mix the sesame seeds with the sauce.
4) Dip. -- 'nuff said.
I also read somewhere that some people also add a little sesame dressing to their sauce. Let me try that next time. :)
Paul's Hire Tonkatsu came out to be very crunchy on the outside and truly juicy in the inside. I actually enjoyed the few pieces that he shared with me too.
While Paul had the deep-fried dried version, I went for my ultimate love -- the Chicken Katsudon (Php. 260). I love Katsudon and this is my top pick whenever I get to dine at a Japanese restaurant. I love the tender chicken/pork cutlets topped with sweet Japanese scrambled egg. It's my ultimate comfort food. Yabu's Katsudon didn't disappoint at all, the rice was fluffy just the way a Japanese fragrant rice should be, the chicken very lean yet easy to bite into and the egg mixture perfectly complementing the entire meal.
My set also came with a bowl of sliced cabbage where I was able to ask for a refill after enjoying this with loads of Japanese sesame dressing. I also had a bowl of Miso Soup which I later passed on to Paul who loves having soup with his meal and some fresh fruits too.
The serving was pretty generous and I love how they kept all the sauces within reach. I just hope (and pray) that diners wouldn't abuse the use of these sauces which eventually might force the management to hide them and just hand it out as requested.
Service was pretty good too which I really appreciated given that the restaurant was packed with hungry, excited customers. The servers were attentive to our needs except for one time when we had to ask for our glasses of water three times. I also love the service tea which reminds me of the Brown Rice Tea that I drink in Singapore.
I'm actually surprised that Yabu is a local concept as it can easily pass as a foreign franchise given the superb food quality and the buzz that's quickly spreading around about this great Katsu place. Will definitely go back to Yabu pretty soon!!
Yabu: House of Katsu is located at the 2nd level, SM Megamall Atrium, Julia Vargas Avenue, Mandaluyong City. Call them at 576-3900.