At one point in everyone’s life, we come across a meal that borders basic sustenance and religious experience.
In Manila, a Japanese restaurant called Yabu has been making waves since 2011. Yabu: House of Katsu is one of the restaurants that started the “Katsu Craze” or Tonkatsu/Katsudon Craze. Katsudon and Tonkatsu are both deep-fried Panko-breaded meat, usually pork. The only difference is that the former is served in a bowl with rice and sauce. With Yabu’s Chef Kazuya Takeda, the same man behind Tonkatsu Takeshin (a famous restaurant in Tokyo), one can cross the line from nourishment to delightful food worship.
Clean lines, beautifully set mood lighting, and a minimalistic design are representative of Japan’s simplicity and dedication to orderliness. Upon entering Yabu restaurant at Robinsons Magnolia Mall in Quezon City, warm greetings will pour out of their courteous and well-trained staff. Working quickly and effectively, their crew delivered a very personalized service. Every table had a little demonstration on making the katsu sauce – a wonderful melange of black and white sesame seeds, ground to dust, and mixed with luscious brown sauce of God-knows-what. All we know is that it smells and tastes amazing.
Their menu boasts of Master Kazuya’s culinary bravery and constant aim at perfection.
While waiting for your meal, you are encouraged to start working on your own katsu sauce. Black and white sesame seeds are ground using a wooden pestle. Once powdered and fragrant, you can pour two to three scoops of their prepared katsu sauce. Brown and luxurious, the katsu sauce takes your meal to a whole new level of katsu experience.
Other condiments are also available on your table. The sesame sauce or “Goma” sauce is a mixture of sesame and Japanese mayonnaise. It goes greatly with their shredded cabbage. Their Himalayan salt with a slightly pinkish hue is perfect for sprinkling over fresh fruit slices.
Here at Yabu, you can enjoy the pork version of Kobe Beef, the Kurobota Premium. Dubbed as the “high king of katsu,” the Kurobota tonkatsu is specially imported from Japan. It is delightfully juicy, amazingly flavorful, and richly covered with golden Panko.
For this meal, we ordered their Jumbo Prawn Set and Menchi Katsu Set.
East set meal consists of your katsu of choice, unlimited servings of steamed rice, fresh pineapple and watermelon slices, piping hot bowls of miso soup, and fluffy shredded cabbage.
It was definitely a meal and a half! The prawns were indeed jumbo – gigantic tiger prawns, beautifully seasoned to bring out its natural flavors and then coated with breading and deep-fried until golden brown and sinfully gorgeous.
The equally stunning plateful of Menchi Katsu is a sight to behold. Gooey cheese is enveloped by a sumptuous ground beef and pork combo (“Menchi” means “minced” in Japan) and then formed into a cutlet before coating with Panko and fried until it achieves golden perfection.
Their menu serves chicken katsu options, too. As well as katsu curry, which I plan on trying on my next visit.
After our meal, our courteous and friendly server asked us to fill out a feedback form, which we gladly did. At the bottom of the sheet, they’ll ask you for anything they should improve and I said that we had to ask three different servers three different times to get refills of rice, miso soup, and my refillable drink. The waiting and the asking wasn’t really a big deal, but I put it in there since they asked. A few minutes after turning over our feedback to (who I believe is) their manager, she approached our table with a smile and confirmed if I was the one who wrote that feedback. I said yes, and they said they just wanted to make sure everything was okay and we weren’t inconvenienced.
Now that’s service at its best!
As they say on their website, “Discover what makes our katsu better than the rest.” And indeed, we discovered what sets Yabu apart with just one visit.