Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Yabu: House of Katsu Is My Favorite Place for Japanese Katsu

Yabu: House of Katsu became popular in Metro Manila's food scene for being the first restaurant to introduce high-quality Japanese Katsu to the Filipino palate. Yabu's chefs focus making only perfectly cooked katsu and are trained by Chef Kazuya Tekada, a Master of Katsu from Japan, to do just that. In the midst of all the Katsu hype with restaurants opening left and right, Yabu still leads the pack. Just go to any of their stores and you will still be greeted with a line at the door.

Yabu boasts that their katsu dishes are crispy outside but has soft, melt-in-your mouth katsu the moment you breakthrough the crust. 

We had an opportunity to try a number of their dishes at the SM Southmall branch, and here's what the Yabu experience is like.

All of Yabu's katsu sets comes with unlimited cabbage, pickles, fresh fruits, miso soup, and choice of brown or white rice. I Immediately think that's value-for-money right there. 

The sides are one of my favorite parts of the Yabu experience. The miso soup is just so good and perfectly seasoned that I keep on asking for refills. I would also get at least 3 refills of the cabbage, which is just perfect when paired with Yabu's sesame dressing. I don't get much of the pickles or rice (the rice is pretty tasty and is perfectly cooked), but I do finish off my meal with refills of the fresh fruits.

Yabu also attempts to elicit a bit of interaction from their guests. While waiting for your order, you will be served with a bowl of sesame seeds that you would have to grind so that the aromatics will be released. This offers patrons something to do while waiting and at the same time ensure that the flavors of the katsu sauce are fresh. After grinding, you should then add 2-3 scoops of their special sauce.

Let's start talking about Yabu's popular Katsu. My usual order would have to be the 180g Rosu Tonkatsu Set (Php 435), which is a 3/4 inch premium pork cutlet with a trimming of fat. I like the pork with fat because it adds flavor and juiciness to each bite. The 150g Hire Tonkatsu Set (Php 430), on the other hand, is an option for those who prefer a leaner cut of meat. 

True to their word, the pork is soft and moist inside while the breading is perfectly crisp. The pork is perfectly seasoned and works well with a bowl of rice or a hefty serving if cabbage.

If you're looking for a more premium experience, you can opt for a 120g Kurobuta Pork Set (Php 595). Kurobuta is known as the wagyu of pork for its immense marbling. All that fat promises a truly melt-in-your-mouth feeling with each bite exploding with flavor. 

The only time I tried the Kurobuta set at a different branch, however, was not all that pleasant. While the pork was perfectly cooked, I thought my order was a bit too heavy on salt (good Kurobuta doesn't need too much seasoning). I hope that this is a one-off experience, because too much salt does take away the premium flavors of the Kurobuta pork. 

I would recommend their Katsudon sets. I'm a real fan of their classic Chicken Original Katsudon (390) as the combination of perfectly cooked chicken and egg is just amazing. The Hire Original Katsudon (Php 410) or Ebi & Fish Original Katsudon sets are also quite delicious! Highly recommended! 

If you aren't up for Katsu, you can also try the Salmon Don (Php 495), which is a 1 1/2 inch thick salmon steak with crispy salmon skin and salmon roe. The rice in particular was very flavorful when you mix in the crispy salmon skin and salmon roe together. 

The Salmon itself was perfectly cooked and moist, but I thought it needed a little bit more salt. If you mix it all together and eat the salmon with a bit of the flavorful rice, that already rounds off the flavors quite well. 

The Gyu Don is a new Donburi Set for fellow beef lovers out there who can't get enough of this Japanese staple. The beef is perfectly cooked and the egg on top adds to the richness of the dish. Make sure to mix it right away so that it's cooked thoroughly.

I have been to a number of Yabu locations across Metro Manila and ambiance has been consistently fun and vibrant. Every store a bit loud and energetic, with the exception of the SM Southmall store which is still relatively quite, but I think that's part of the Yabu experience.

Service has been also been consistent, except the SM Aura store where I found it quite difficult to get a waiter's attention. The other stores, on the other hand, offer top-notch service that, I believe, elevates the premium Katsu experience.

Food Quality: 4.5
Service Quality: 4.0
Ambiance: 4.5

Overall Quality: 4.5

For years, Yabu remains to be my favorite katsu restaurants. Every katsu that comes out of the kitchen has been meticulously prepared by their legion of talented chefs to make sure that each bite is up to Yabu's standards - perfectly crisp exterior but soft and juicy with each bite. 

I'm sure to be back and I hope you will give Yabu a visit. If you haven't been to any of their stores, put them on your must-try list right away! 

Further reading you might like:

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Chef Jay

Yabu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored review. The author did not pay for any of the dishes mentioned in this article. This, however, does not impair the unbiased opinion of the reviewer. 

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