A long time ago in a dimly-lit room far, far away…
Well, not really.
A friend of mine messaged me sometime mid-June and told me about three new places in the Fort. I’ve been going to The Fort since late high school so when he told me to visit “yung dating Prince of Jaipur,” I knew exactly what he was talking about. I told him we were playing at this year’s Fete de la Musique and I’d swing by to visit.
Fast-forward to Fete de la Musique. After our set, I went to Katsu—then set up as the electronica stage. It looked like an awesome club so I stayed there for the remainder of the night. I saw my friend Ian coming out of Craft (the rock stage). He tells me to come visit Katsu again, when it’s a restaurant.
A month later, I was standing outside Katsu and it looked nothing like what I saw during the music festival. For one thing, it’s got tables and chairs inside, a restaurant like what my friend said. I go in and get a table by the window hungry and ready to sample their fare.
As we admire the sleek interior that would make you think: “Wow. This place would really be awesome as a club”, we are given two of their best selling iced teas, Lychee and Jasmine Iced Tea (P155 each, refillable), to start.
Lychee and Jasmine Iced Tea
The fact that these delightful drinks were refillable made it tricky. On one hand, you literally could get your fill of flavorful refreshments and on the other, it can make the sampling of food quite challenging. In the end, strategy won over thirst. We came here with a battle plan and that battle plan was to eat. First up, they served us their Dragon Roll (P395). It’s a huge makizushi of tempura, kani, avocado, cucumber, ebiko and salmon skin topped with unagi.
They arrange this kraken of a roll to somewhat resemble a dragon with the tempura shrimp’s head and tail coming out on both sides. It’s bursting with filling and is thick as a baby’s arm. I prefer to eat my sushi in one bite and I must say I had a bit of trouble fitting that much goodness into my mouth. Sounds nasty, I know, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The roll in itself is already pretty rich but the topping of unagi (which happens to be my favorite Japanese preparation) drove the figurative nail in the coffin. Good strong start for a meal. Next course, please.
Of course what would Katsu be without a signature katsu dish? The Ro-su Katsu (P265) porkchop is lightly breaded in panko breadcrumbs and served with unlimited cabbage salad. They serve it with 2 sauces: a wonderful vinaigrette (I asked the chef about it, he just smiled and told me it was a secret) and a teriyaki glaze accompanied by a mortar and pestle with roasted sesame seeds inside. Obviously, the vinaigrette’s for the salad but the way you season your porkchop has several variations. You can sprinkle the seeds on the pork and then dip it in the glaze or, as chef Benny tells me, you can grind the seeds in the mortar and pestle—releasing all its flavorful oils—and mix it in with the glaze for dipping. The crisp freshness of the cabbage salad (did I mention the salad was unlimited?) provides an amazing contrast to the unctuousness of the perfectly fried porkchop. Also, it’s a healthier alternative to having rice with the katsu, especially if you’re going to eat some more, which we were. Speaking of which—next course, please.
Chicken Yakitori Platter
Okay, there are 9 different sticks of yakitori on the Chicken Yakitori Platter (9 sticks - P355, 18 sticks - P695). It’s best that I enumerate them with their Japanese names.
First up are the skewers for the “safe” eater:
NEGIMA – Chicken thighs and leeks. Wonderfully marinated chicken grilled with leeks? Perfect combination.
MUNANIKU – Chicken breast and leeks. Same thing as negima only with white meat. Equally delicious.
TEBA – Wings. Grilled marinated wings. Simple. Use your fingers while you strip the perfect proportion of chicken skin and meat from off the bones with your mouth. There are napkins anyway.
TSUKUNE – Chicken meatballs. Imagine a Japanese-style chicken sausage that reminds you of gyoza. Now slather on some yakitori glaze. Devour.
BONJIRI – Chicken tail. Nice and fatty. Bite, taste and savor. You’re halfway there. Whoa. Living on a prayer.
UZURA – Quail eggs. Technically not chicken but come on, who cares? It’s good.
I personally believe that one mustn’t waste the offal of an animal and I encourage everyone to start eating and enjoying these tasty innards:
HATSU – Heart. One of my favorite parts of the chicken. Muscle is protein. And the heart is kind of like the king of all the muscles. Good stuff right here.
SUNAGIMO – Gizzard. Chewy and tasty, always a delight.
REBA – Liver. For people who dislike liver, I recommend starting your journey to liking the organ with this skewer. It’s cooked in a way that eliminates that bitter, bloody taste that most people dislike.
After eating, I sat down and talked with Chef Benny Liboro, the executive chef for Katsu, Scarlet and Craft. He tells me about how Japanese cuisine has been booming in Manila for the past 5 to 10 years and how it was the reason why they put up a Japanese restaurant. He explains that their main concept is to feature their wide range of yakitori items and after sampling their chicken yakitori platter, I could see why these char-grilled skewers take the main stage in their food offerings.
With my hunger properly satisfied, I thank the people of Katsu, Chef Benny and my friend Ian and tell them I’ll be back for Scarlet Wine Lounge. This has only been part 1 of my Siege of the Fort trilogy and not even the recent rains can stop me on my quest.
Katsu is open daily for lunch (11am-3pm) and dinner (6pm-11) but if your meal turns into cocktails, they’ll keep the place open as long as there are customers.