I have been blogging about food and food places for quite some time, but I think this is the first time that I’m going to do a full and dedicated review of a particular restaurant.
Early this week, our resident psychic Ann has read some Tweets from local celebrities Anne Curtis and Erwan Heussaff about this new restaurant called Yabu: House of Katsu. Anne and Erwan attended their soft opening and raved about the yummy katsu curry that they had. The restaurant officially opened last Friday, and since it’s been a while since Ann and I had a pig-out, we decided to check it out.
WARNING: Post is image-heavy.
Image credits: Yabu Facebook page
Yabu: House of Katsu is located at the 2nd Floor of SM Megamall Atrium. The restaurant was nearly full when we got there at around 8:00pm. The ambiance is pretty much like what most Japanese restaurants have: minimalist.
Manga comic frames decorate a part of the walls, depicting how katsu is being made (or… something like that). It’s really cute. The ‘blug! blug! blug!’ dialog became a short conversation piece for Ann and me.
The condiments tray contains the following, from L-R: katsu sauce, goma salad dressing, Japanese chili flakes, cherry vinaigrette dressing (the dressings are for the cabbage slices that come with the seat meals), Japanese black pepper and salt in a cute pig-shaped container.
After being seated, the waiter approached us and introduced himself as Danilo (or in Japanese, “Daniro”; ‘K, fine ). He handed us the menus and asked if we want to order our drinks for the meantime. The menu is very similar to those of Ding Tai Fung and Ippudo: a big book with big photos of the menu items + some explanation on what they are. That helped a lot; at least we have some idea on what we’re ordering.
For our drinks, Ann and I usually zoom in at the “bottomless” items on the beverage menu. They have bottomless lemonade and iced tea; we picked the iced tea. They arrived in slim glasses that would empty with just a couple of sips for the really thirsty. The good thing is, the service crew are alert with refills so that’s a plus point from us. The iced tea is nothing special though; it’s just good ol’ Nestea.
Since Ann wanted to check out Yabu mainly for the katsu curry that Anne Curtis had raved about, naturally, she ordered the tonkatsu curry set. I had wanted to try their tonkatsu set with the Kurobuta pork (said to be the Wagyu of pork) because I’m curious about what’s special about it, but it costs php500+ pesos for the smallest size. I have the budget but I’m a bit apprehensive to pay that much for something I haven’t tried yet, so I decided to order the tonkatsu set with regular Rosu (pork loin). It’s still a bit steep at php300+ for the set, but at least it’s cheaper. And as I learned while having the meal, it’s actually worth the price.
Before they served the meal, Daniro regaled us with a quick explanation on the contents of the condiments tray and how to prepare the tonkatsu sauce.
Their sesame seeds saucer is cool. We don’t have to pound that little saucer to grind the seeds; just swirl the mortar around the ridges and the seeds will grind themselves.
Next up are the appetizers. We have to choose two appetizers from four options. We settled on potato and wakame (seaweed) salad.
The potato salad is a bit sour, which is a bit off-putting for us. But the wakame salad is YUM.
Then came the main courses. This is my tonkatsu set which includes miso soup, Japanese rice, refillable cabbage slices (yes, you read it right: REFILLABLE), pickled veggies and a bowl of fruit.
And this is Ann’s tonkatsu curry set:
Eating katsu is pretty simple and straightforward: grind the sesame seeds, ladle in the katsu sauce, mix them together, dip the katsu, put it in your mouth. Done!
Their tonkatsu is quite good. The breading is crispy and not too oily. The pork is juicy and melt-in-your-mouth, cooked just right. I’m not too fond of the tonkatsu sauce, though. I adjusted the taste by putting some chili powder on it.
And it’s great that the meal comes with pickled vegetables and that super-awesome bed of refillable cabbage. It helps in minimizing the ‘umay’ factor in eating fried things.
I had a small taste of Ann’s katsu curry by dipping a piece of my tonkatsu on her curry sauce. It’s very good, too! Anne Curtis had a point when she raved about it.
But I think the best part of the meal is the refillable cabbage. I could just order a mountain of cabbage slices and slather them alternately with the goma dressing or the cherry vinaigrette. It’s sooooooooooooo good! The cabbage is sliced very thinly so it’s like eating cabbage flakes on dressing. And did I mention that it’s REFILLABLE?
This one had the vinaigrette dressing on it. Both taste good, but I prefer the cherry vinaigrette.
To sum it up, here’s our review of Yabu’s food:
The only things left on my plate (aside from little crumbs of katsu breading) are that small mound of mustard (I don’t know what it’s for and I’m not too fond of mustard), and the sprig of parsley used for decoration.
The only minus points we have for Yabu:
1. The sour taste of the potato salad, but I think that’s what Japanese potato salad is supposed to taste. Ann totally doesn’t like it, though;
2. The Japanese rice is not quite Japanese. I think they use Jasponica;
3. The miso soup is still a bit too salty. Then again, that’s how miso soup is perceived here in the Philippines. I have tried real miso soup as prepared by Japanese people and it’s supposed to be clear and not salty, because according to them, if it’s salty, then it’s not soup but stew. And that is also why Lee Young Jae is confused with Han Ji Eun’s soup, because it’s salty enough to qualify as stew (then again, according to Han Ji Eun, it’s ‘multi-player’). Trust me to casually turn this food blog into a Full House topic ;
4. The iced tea is nothing special;
5. The pineapple on the bowl of fruit is not sweet;
6. I don’t really like the taste of the tonkatsu sauce, but I don’t like tonkatsu sauce, in general, so I won’t take it against them;
7. Service is generally fast and efficient. However, they almost lost our good review when our bill was delayed for almost 20 minutes. It was only delivered to us after the 6th time we followed it up. They did apologize for it, though.
I also would like to point out that I think this restaurant doesn’t use MSG on their food because I didn’t feel sick afterwards. I usually have that feeling when we eat at most Japanese (and Chinese) restos. But here at Yabu, I didn’t yearn for after-dinner hot tea or coffee to take out the “umay” that comes with eating fried food. Maybe the veggies and fruit did it? I don’t know.
For the price of their food which is a bit too steep for the average Filipino, I think it’s reasonable. The servings are big, and they don’t scrimp on the extras (I just hope it stays that way all throughout and not just because we went there on opening day). I had a truly satisfying meal for a little over php500.00 per person, including VAT and service charge. I might come back to try the donburi meals, or maybe to have a full taste of their katsu curry, or if my wallet is loaded, I might go ahead and order the set with Kurobuta pork. I’ll recommend this to anyone who loves katsu (they have pork, chicken and seafood katsu items on their menu, as well) but if you’re looking for a place that has more items to choose from (eg., if you’re looking for good ol’ California maki which is the standard choice of people who love “Japanese food”), this is not quite it.