The Japanese started to invade the Philippines last December 1941. Ten hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and occupied our country from 1942-1945 and September 2, 1945 they surrendered. In the last 3 years, I noticed that Japan has started to invade us again but this time, through our palate.
Authentic Japanese restaurants have been here for many years and Japanese food like maki, sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, tempora, yakitori, tonkatsu and ramen are not new to us. They have always been popular here although the awareness heightened when we started seeing people lining up to Japanese restaurants serving Tonkatsu and Ramen.
Unlike before when you could only see Japanese restaurants inside hotels and thus, they was perceived as expensive, today, every mall and even small kiosks and carinderias are serving Japanese food. Most Japanese restaurants are owned by Japanese or Japanese married to a Filipina. Today, even those popular chains in Japan or Asia have franchises here. Japanese restaurants have been growing in number not only in Manila and other parts of the country.
I am not considering myself as a fan of Japanese food not only because I have Japanese blood. Although I was raised with my half Japanese grandmother, she rarely cooked Japanese food. Maybe it only runs in my blood that I love noodles and fried crispy food. Sadly, even though how I love ramen, most restaurants here are serving ramen whose only base soup is pork. Sometimes I have to personalize my ordered soup and I’m glad some Japanese restaurants are doing it.
I tend to frequent Japanese restaurants in the Metro. I like ramen and sushi so much but I can relate more on Katsu since my son also likes katsu so much. I was not a huge katsu fan before but then my wife introduced me to Yabu, the very first Tonkatsu house I tried. It was Yabu’s first and newly opened branch in Megamall at that time. Since then, it has become one of my comfort destinations. Every time we pass by a Tonkatsu restaurant, I try not to let the chance to dine there pass. So far, I have tried four popular Tonkatsu houses and every one of them have distinct offerings worth checking out.
Yabu: House of Katsu
The very first and most visited Katsu house I have been to. I have visited a number of its branches within Metro Manila. I consider Yabu in my repertoire that I can almost tell if its rice would be different from what they are used to serving.
The service is great, all of the crew tried to please despite the volume of costumers that necessitate that you have to wait during lunch and dinner time. It would take time sometimes when you want your miso soup, cabbage and rice refilled for this reason. I always order the dory set which is served with unlimited Japanese rice or brown rice, miso soup, pickles, shredded cabbage and fruits. While my wife tends to like a katsu curry and my son a Chicken Original Katsudon although they also serve kids meal.
Yabu has nine branches as of now, which includes SM Megamall, MOA, Aura, The Block, South Mall, Robinsons Magnolia, Power Plant Mall, Alabang Town Center.
This is located in Shangrila Mall and it promises to serve not just the ordinary Tonkatsu. Since it serves multi layered katsu (25 layers of mille-feuille katsu in seven flavor) from plain to cheese, Negi Shio, which is marinated with a flavor or spring onion in every bite, Yuzu Kosho, Ume Shiso with a little sour flavor, Garlic and black pepper.
It doesn’t have kids meal. I always order fish or dory Katsu when I am in a katsu house since we don’t eat pork. Set meals are also served with unlimited rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, shredded cabbage and fruits. Miso soup comes in two different variants: red and white. The Japanese rice is serve in a wooden steel- like container to keep it warm.
Kimukatsu Branches to date includes Shangri-la Edsa Mall, Bonifacio High Street, and Century City Mall.
Tonkatsu by Terazawa
Japanese Katsu Restaurant by Chef Akinori Terazawa from Nagoya, Japan, Nuvali, Sta. Rosa Laguna, is the only branch I have visited so far. It serves different varieties of Katsu and comes with refillable rice, shredder cabbage and tonjiru (miso soup with pork).
Tonkatsu by Terazawa branches include Greenbelt 2, Nuvali Sta Rosa Laguna, and Lucky China Town Mall.
This is one of the famous TONKATSU specialty restaurants that originated in Ginza, Japan and has outlets in Hawaii and Asia like in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea. It now has three branches in Manila. I have checked out its branch in Ground Floor Glorietta 2 Ayala Center in Makati City once. Sadly for me, it doesn’t offer unlimited Japanese rice.
Ginza Bairin’s branches include Grorietta 2, Trinoma Mall, and UP Town Center.
These four Japanese Restaurant come with the grind sesame seeds although in different styles and all with the same sauces. While Yabu called it ‘Yabu ritual’ where you have to grind the sesame first, Kimukatsu sesame seeds are already grinded. The taste is almost the same for me across all these brands. When it comes to location, place and ambiance, all of them are faring well for me. The service is likewise equally fine. But in my case, I just notice that the unlimited Japanese rice tends to be my reason for increasing visits to one Japanese restaurant versus another.