“Ton” in tonkatsu means pork, while “katsu” means cutlet. Believed to have originated in a restaurant in Tokyo, Japan during the late 1800s, the dish is actually European-inspired. This is the reason why it bears resemblance to Austria’s “schnitzel” and France’s “cotolette.”
Katsu by Saboten
Tonkatsu is breaded pork cutlet deep fried in hot oil until crisp and golden brown. Manila is not really new to it, but lately, tonkatsu restaurants are enjoying a sudden increase in popularity. In partnership with Raintree Restaurants, Japan’s largest tonkatsu chain, Saboten, has opened their first branch in Serendra at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The popular tonkatsu place also has branches in Taiwan, Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore and Canada. It took a while for them to open their branch in Manila because of their sheer commitment to quality, disregarding the fact that other katsu places are multiplying fast. “We just want to provide food that is assured of quality. We’re quality-obsessed,” said Annabella Wisniewski, president and chief executive officer of Raintree Restaurants.
Saboten in Serendra
The Saboten-Raintree team went to great lengths to develop their product: their arduous search for the perfect pork supplier led them to one out of 28 potential ones, while Saboten’s original Japanese bread technician had to be flown into Manila just to perfect the panko (Japanese breading). To further enhance the experience, the restaurant’s interiors were even designed by a Japanese interior designer.
Tonkatsu is generally served with shredded cabbage, and usually paired with miso soup and rice. In Saboten, you can get these in unlimited quantities with every order of a set meal.
Pickles also have unlimited servings
Drizzle both dressings on the cabbage to make a yummy side salad that alternates between creamy and refreshing.
Saboten Special Set
First time diners who want to sample the best of Saboten’s deep fried offerings should get the Saboten Special Set (P525). Served with refillable miso soup, pickles, shredded cabbage and Japanese rice, the set includes one deep fried shrimp, one loin cutlet (65g), one tenderloin cutlet (30g), and a crab cream croquette.
Deep fried stuff
The breaded shrimp is unlike any I’ve tasted—it’s plump and juicy, with more shrimp than breading. The tenderloin is sublime, and simply melts in the mouth, it being the softest part of the pig. The loin has a lot more flavor because of the thin strip of fat lining the meat. A surprising discovery is the crab croquette, which is a heavy deep fried roll of crab meat with creamy mashed potato.
Don’t forget to dip the katsu in the special tonkatsu sauce mixed with ground sesame seeds (which you grind yourself using a wooden pestle and a small Japanese grinding bowl called suribachi). Rice is unlimited, so kudos, if you finish the entire set with your tummy still having room for dessert.
Cap your huge meal with a light and fluffy Strawberry Shortcake (P195), which is topped with fresh strawberries and lined with delicate white icing. Or you can always enjoy their unique beverages, which may pass off as dessert, such as the Fresh Melon and Yakult (P115) and the Watermelon and Wasabe (P115).
A sampler of Saboten's Fresh Melon and Yakult
There is a sense of calmness and unparalleled level of quality that an original possesses. With Saboten’s dedication mirroring the Japanese’s adherence to excellence and consistency, it’s safe to say they’ll emerge from the katsu wars unscathed.
Additional images courtesy of Saboten Philippines.