Tori Box : Katsu Cafe in San Juan

Just when I thought we're tried ALL the restaurants in our neighborhood, we were surprised to see more tiny cafes and eateries opening in what-used-to-be-a-fully-residential-area which has now turned into a semi commercialized district. Yay for me! This just means more dining options without the need to go far.

After Chow Fun, there are a couple more new restaurants to try and I'll be sharing my reviews on them pretty soon. First off is Tori Box. We decided to try this after seeing that it's finally open after one of my regular mani/pedi sessions at Nail Loft. Slightly hidden from the busy J. Abad Santos route, Tori Box is a two storey cozy-looking cafe that is literally bursting with cuteness! It somehow reminds me of those artsy Korean coffee shops that we visited back in April.

From the moment you enter, you'll immediately notice the K-Pop/J-Pop decors with pretty statements on frames, lightbulbs on bird cages, books and plants on the table as decor. I couldn't stop clicking away with my camera! I love how they gave so much attention to details. This restaurant obviously caters to the younger crowd. Add in a free WiFi connection and they'll surely bring in more student diners soon.

I love friends who share the same passion for trying new restaurants and being bold enough to order a variety of dishes just for us to try more. That's one reason why we love our friends J and K! Certified foodies, they have been around Asia dining from high end restaurants down to hole-in-a-wall kind just to satisfy their forever adventurous palate. Sadly, K was on a very strict diet that evening and his admirable determination really kept him focused on his can of tuna while Paul, J and I tried a couple of Tori Box's dishes.

tori box 2
We each got our choice of Katsu, the restaurant's specialty. Paul got the Tori Q (Php. 135) which was a bowl of rice topped with grilled chicken strips. Sadly, Paul wasn't quite impressed as there were only six thin strips and the rice wasn't sticky and fluffy like a Japanese rice. It was in fact, buhaghag which we are not so fond of. It came with ginger oil sauce similar to the ones serve with Hainanese Chicken making it quite confusing why this sauce was served to accompany the supposed Japanese-inspired chicken rice bowl.

tori box 3
I love Katsudon (Php. 185) so this has been my staple whenever I dine at any Japanese restaurant. This one was better than Paul's Tori Q. I liked the crispy breaded pork strips topped with scrambled egg. The rice was once again not at par with the quality served in other Japanese restaurants (and even in small Japanese-inspired cafes for that matter). I just finished off the pork strips and left half of my rice untouched.

tori box 1
To share with J, we ordered the Cheesy Mayo Gyoza (Php. 120) and finally I found something that I liked! It's yummy as the Japanese mayo made it extra creamy and sweet while the cheese just made it truly addicting. I would love to go back to Tori Box for more of this.

We also noticed that most tables ordered the Kara-Age thus we tried the Kara-Age Pop & Mojos (Php. 105). It was okay however I would have enjoyed it more had they removed the chicken skin prior to frying the kara-age. I really do not like the texture of chicken skin and biting into the kara-age made me cringe a bit. I liked the mojos though. :)

While the food still need to improve a whole lot, the cozy ambiance and the yummy gyoza makes Tori Box worth a try.

I can't wait for the other restaurants to open soon! So far I saw the board up for a crepe place, Eat my GF! and what I heard, a promising Spanish resto bar. ;)  I ♥ ♥ ♥ San Juan!

Visit Tori Box at 403 F. Calderon street corner J. Abad Santos, Little Baguio, San Juan. Driving along J. Abad Santos coming from Wilson, turn right in the street in between Nail Loft and Piandre Salon.

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