I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of anything fried. In fact, I don’t eat them quite often. But during the times that I do, they have to be worth my stomach space. That’s where Yabu: House of Katsu comes in.
I’ve been hearing about this restaurant from some of my friends but I’ve never actually tried it until a few days ago. Yabu boasts of its katsu that is crisp on the outside but so soft on the inside you can cut it with your chopsticks. With the help of Chef Kazuya Takeda of Tonkatsu Takeshin fame (a restaurant I’m keeping in mind for when I visit Tokyo), Yabu‘s mission is to bring the authentic katsu experience to Manila.
My family and I arrived at their Robinson’s Magnolia branch before 6 in the evening and already there was a crowd waiting to be seated outside. Luckily, the line moves fast and we were seated in no time. The amount of people eating here makes me excited about knowing what all the fuss is about.
Inside, the ambiance was actually a mixture of cozy and modern. My favourite part about the interior design was the large manga canvasses hanging on the walls since I used to draw a bit of manga myself.
What impressed me the most was the quick and courteous service. The waiters take your orders on their iPads, taking time to answer your every question about whatever dish piques your curiosity. Although all they serve here are the breaded katsu dishes, I like the variety of meats used. You can order seafood, pork, or chicken, or a mixture thereof (eg. chicken + seafood, veggies + seafood).
A typical katsu set is made up of a bowl of miso soup, a bowl of rice (which you can refill as much as you please), a side of cabbage to eat as the salad (which you can also refill as much as you please- yay!), a small bowl of fruit, a small bowl of ginger and cucumber, and of course, your katsu of choice. For most of the katsu sets, you also have the option of dipping them into a sort-of tartar sauce, but I prefer the sesame sauce. Prices range from around Php 300 to Php 500, but in my opinion, if you’re getting a meal as complete as this one (plus unlimited rice and cabbage to boot), it’s pretty reasonably priced already.
Before our orders arrived, our waiter, Jemar, taught us how to make Yabu‘s famous sesame sauce. First, you run the mortar all over the sesame seeds until about 50% of them are crushed, making the scent and essence of the sesame come out.
Next you ladle in about 2 to 3 scoops of the sauce.
Finally, you mix it with your chopsticks. Voila! Sauce to enjoy with your katsu of choice.
As we waited for our orders to arrive, I couldn’t help but read through this little diagram on the menu. My dorky self loves these kinds of labeled photos, not to mention it looks incredibly appetizing. It’s nice when restaurants give you a general idea of what they serve you though, isn’t it?
Photo taken from Yabu’s Facebook page
One by one our orders started to arrive. My dad got the Salmon Katsu Set, which is what I’m getting the next time I go back because I love the way the Japanese handle salmon. Can you see how tender the salmon in the middle is?
My mother ordered an Ebi Tempura Rosu.
My brothers ordered the Chicken Katsu set (120g), the Chicken and Seafood Katsu Set, and the Pork Rosu Set. The photos below are in that order.
My order was the Seafood Katsu Set 1. It had a prawn, slices of cream dory fish (my fave!), oyster, and a few slices of the most tender fried squids I’ve had the pleasure of eating!
I attacked the cabbage salad first, even going for a refill because I loved the sesame vinaigrette.
I tried several times to cut open the katsu on my plate using my chopsticks and they went in without problems. I’m also happy to report that this isn’t one of those restaurants that offer breaded food items that have about 70% more breading than meat. The cream dory was a delight to eat, and it’s worth repeating that the squid was especially tasty!
I was curious about the oyster after reading the manga on the wall. They managed to create a crunchy shell around the oysters while keeping them moist and soft inside. Quite interesting texture-wise really.
I’m a fan of Japanese cuisine but katsudons are my least ordered dish. That said, I don’t think I would’ve chosen any better place to experience eating katsu of any kind. I was vastly impressed by how crunchy the katsu were, and at the same time, the softness of the meat within was still maintained. And the best part for me was how the food was not oily at all! One of my major complaints and reasons as to why I don’t quite like fried foods is the feeling and taste of grease in your mouth. You most certainly won’t find that here. Instead, what you’ll find is yourself walking out of the restaurant with a happy- maybe slightly rounder- stomach. I hope that’s all right with you.
You too can experience authentic katsu right here at Yabu. Just visit any of their branches:
- 2/F Megamall Atrium, SM Megamall
- LGF Robinsons Magnolia Town Center, Hemady St., cor. Aurora Blvd., New Manila, Quezon City
- I believe they’ll be opening a branch in Mall Of Asia soon as well
You can also like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. They like giving stuff away! 😉
Disclaimer: I received a meal invitation from Yabu: House of Katsu (thank you!) but all the opinions expressed in the post above are my own.