Yabu: House of Katsu Makati City Reviews
One of the best tonkatsu places in the Philippines May 04, 2014
Yabu is a restaurant chain with six locations (as of May 2014) in the Philippines specializing in tonkatsu. In the past, most Japanese restaurants were a hodge-podge of the different specialities (tonkatsu, tempura, soba, udon, teriyaki, sashimi, sushi, etc.) but not really focused on one particular dish in different variants. Enter the past couple of years and speciality places like Yabu, which bring Japanese dining to a different level.
The main reason we went to eat at Yabu was because we recently found out that my daughter is allergic to a lot of foods, especially seafood. So it is always a challenge eating at Japanese restaurants because she cannot order sushi, sashimi or ebi tempura (my son's favorite). The obvious food would be chicken or pork chop for her, hence tonkatsu became her favorite. And now, after trying out a fair number of Japanese restaurants in Metro Manila in preparation for our Osaka trip, we decided to go for Yabu at a time earlier than usual because we have been forced to wait 12th or more in line on weekends (at least thrice already).
And finally, after a few months of unsuccessful attempts, we finally found a Yabu restaurant with at least 4 empty tables - so we grabbed the opportunity. This particular branch is in Glorietta 5 in Ayala Center Makati, one of six branches they have - and one that is usually not crowded on Sundays since most mall goers are still attending church services or just starting to get out of their houses for the day's activities.
What immediately set Yabu apart from many other Japanese restaurants is the atmosphere and the friendliness of the crew. Not only were they friendly, they were knowledgeable and helpful in giving advice as to what to choose, even though the menu featured primarily tonkatsu, torikatsu, katsudon and curry. And normally after placing one's order, it is back to talking or playing with the smartphones - not so in this case. They had a sort of ritual in making katsu sauce - first you were given a small dish with white and black sesame seeds, and were instructed to grind these with a pestle until the seeds were crushed well enough. Doing so, one releases the aroma of sesasme seeds, an olfactory experience in itself. Then after the seeds are ground, a couple of katsu sauce scoops are added, and these are mixed with your chopsticks.
One of the nice things about a specialty restaurant is that they can cook things faster since the process is usually similar for the various dishes. We got our orders within ten minutes, cooked the way they described it and better looking in person than compared to what they have on their well-designed visual menu. While this is going on, you can ask for complementary hot tea or order your drinks. Or amuse yourself with the various sauces and condiments set on the side of the table.
Katsu servings come in three sizes, 100 grams, 150 grams and 180 grams - the last one for me (in hindsight, I should have been OK with the middle one). They also come with a bowl of miso soup, finely shredded cabbage, pickles and fruit (pineapple and watermelon slices) for dessert. You have a choice of Japanese white or brown rice - and all of these is refillable! Talk about value for money - Filipinos eat a lot of rice, and unlimited Japanese rice is heaven for rice lovers!
We ordered katsudon, pork and chicken kastu and pork curry dishes. The katsu slices are thick, no less than 3/4 of an inch, but very tender and juicy! The panko (Japanese bread crumbs) are done right, not too greasy but crisp and flaky. And the meat itself is just amazing. Oh, and if one just likes more rice with the katsu, they can just ask the crew who goes around with a radio, rice bowl in hand, refilling the plates of hungry patrons.
The food is best eaten faster than usual, otherwise you will have a feeling of bloatedness if you digest your food slowly. The rice in itself is so good that seconds are inevitable with the small bowl, but the katsudon has more rice than most people would need. Add that to certain drinks which are refillable, I would be surprised if people do not leave the place with their extra food in take out bags, or plain simple satiated.
Overall, it is not a cheap place (average cost per person is $10 or more, if you order dessert), but it is definitely worth the experience and the taste of premium katsu anywhere in Metro Manila.
Part of the list Restaurants in Metro Manila, Philippines
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