New craze in town: Tonkatsu
Move over, milk tea. There’s a new craze in town.
Tonkatsu has been around for ages but today there seems to be a growing urge to search for the authentic experience. Not all breaded pork cutlets are created equally—the difference lies in the meat, the breading and the sauce.
Lifestyle set out to find the best tonkatsu in town. We hit five tonkatsu spots in one day. Here are the results of o
ur tonkatsu taste test.
Unit 1, 81 Maginhawa St., Teacher’s Village UP Diliman, Quezon City
Right in the middle of Maginhawa Street, which has turned into a hip hangout, Crazy Katsu is a small restaurant run by musicians Shinji Tanaka and Bryan Kong. Crazy Katsu serves Japanese favorites at very affordable prices. The place feels homey and is perfect for casual get-togethers and a quick tonkatsu fix.
The plate: Tonkatsu is served on a bed of shredded cabbage with rice.
The meat: The cutlet is ½ inch thick, cut into five strips. The meat is firm and juicy.
The breading: Crisp but not flaky.
The sauce: Sauce comes in a squirt bottle. It’s the right mix of sweetness and tang.
Portion size: Just right for one person.
Stopwatch: The tonkatsu arrived 10 minutes and 21 seconds after we ordered.
Service: The service was fast and we like that even though the place is small, it’s well-staffed.
Why it’s good: Crazy Katsu offers great value for money. For just P140, you get a dose of tonkatsu, rice and shredded cabbage.
Katsu variants: Chicken Katsu, P145 (Shinji says this is their bestseller); Katsudon, P150; Katsu Curry, P190
Other must-orders: The sukiyaki (P190). It was an unexpected scene-stealer. We’re definitely coming back for more.
2/F, Atrium, SM Megamall
The Yabu experience reminds us of the tonkatsu restos we frequent in HK and Japan. Yabu has been getting a lot of buzz online and for good reason. Its menu boasts, “When you are served our Yabu katsu, you can tell the difference right away—the katsu is so crispy on the outside and so soft on the inside, you can slice it with chopsticks.” Chef Kazuya Takeda, head chef of Tokyo’s Tonkatsu Takeshin, is Yabu’s expert consultant.
There are different kinds of pork to choose from—hire (pork tenderloin), rosu (pork loin with a trimming of fat) and the premium Kurobuta (“known as the Kobe beef of pork”). We ordered the Kurobuta.
The plate: When you order the tonkatsu set, you get a pretty tray arrangement that includes Japanese rice, miso soup, Japanese pickles, unlimited cabbage with sesame dressing and bowl of fruit. The sesame dressing is excellent and will leave you thankful that the cabbage is unlimited.
The meat: Yabu sources local pork from its partners which they say is delivered fresh and never frozen, and Kur
obuta US premium pork. The Kurobuta pork is ¾ inch thick, marbled, pink and incredibly tender. It’s cut into six strips.
The breading: Yabu makes its panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) every day. It’s light, flaky and crispy.
The sauce: Of the five places we visited, only Yabu serves sesame seeds with its tonkatsu sauce. You grind it up with the pestle before pouring the sauce. We love the extra kick of flavor the seeds give the sauce.
Price: Kurobuta premium tonkatsu set, P515; rosu, P280 for 90g, P320 for 120g, P365 for 180g; hire, P295 for 100g, P3
65 for 150g
Portion size: Generous. The cutlet is thick and big and if you’re not very hungry, it can be shared by two.
Stopwatch: It took 19 minutes and 8 seconds for our tonkatsu to reach our table.
Service: The service was good, the wait staff attentive.
Why it’s good: Yabu offers an authentic tonkatsu experience.
Katsu variants: Yabu serves mixed katsu sets, katsudon sets and katsu curry sets. We want to go back and try the seafood katsu—the scallops, black tiger pr
wns and cream dory fish fillet sounds good. We also like that they serve special katsu meals for kids 10 and below.
Other must-orders: The soon-to-be available Choco Java (lava cake with ice cream)
2277 Chino Roces Ave., Makati
Seryna is one of the many Japanese restaurants in Makati’s Little Tokyo area. It’s frequented by mostly Japanese clientele (a very good sign). The place will transport you to Tokyo. You might want to make reservations as the place becomes packed. Call 8943855.
The plate: The tonkatsu is served with veggies (cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and mayo). An order doesn’t include rice.
The meat: Our meat was a bit tough but flavorful.
The breading: The breading was our favorite part. It was flaky and crisp.
The sauce: The sauce was good—sweet, thick and tangy.
Portion size: Can be shared by two
Stopwatch: The tonkatsu arrived 13 minutes and 26 seconds after ordering.
Service: Good. The service staff of Seryna was attentive.
Why it’s good: We love that they serve their tonkatsu with lemon to cut the oiliness. The pickled radish is a great palate cleanser, too.
Other must-orders: The sushi (we love their California temaki), sashimi and kani salad.
2277 Chino Roces Ave., Makati
Another Little Tokyo favorite, Kikufuji is home to affordable lunch sets and a la carte barbecued meats on a stick.
The plate: Kikufuji’s plating is very spartan—the cutlets are served in a bowl with cucumber, tomato and shredded cabbage. Rice is not included.
The meat: The meat is tender and a little darker than normal.
The breading: We’re not big fans of the breading. It’s not flaky and light.
The sauce: The sauce, which comes in a squirt bottle that’s already on your table, is so good that you can even use it for your barbecued orders.
Portion size: Big. The pork is cut into eight strips.
Stopwatch: This tonkatsu took the longest—29 minutes and 8 seconds passed before it hit our table.
Service: Because of the big place and the crowd, the waitresses were swamped.
Why it’s good: It’s well-priced for the serving and the pork is really tender.
Other must-orders: The kushi yaki, or assorted barbecued meats. They’re affordable—prices range from P25 to P106 per stick.
Greenbelt 2, Makati
Ma Maison, a franchise from Nagoya, Japan, brings together the goodness of French and Japanese cuisine. It’s the perfect place to go to when your friend is craving es
cargot and you’re dying for a tonkatsu fix.
The plate: Ma Maison’s tonkatsu is served beautifully on a silver rack with a heaping serving of shredded cabbage and the most delicious potato salad. Rice sold separately.
The meat: The meat is thick, tender and flavorful. It’s so good we ate there twice in one week.
The breading: The breading is perfect from the texture to the golden-brown color.
The sauce: Ma Maison’s tonkatsu sauce is good. We only need the sesame seeds and we’d be completely sold.
Portion size: Very generous. Good for sharing (but it’s so good you might not want to.)
Stopwatch: Serving time took 14 minutes and 53 seconds during lunch hour.
Service: Excellent. Our server was very attentive and pleasant.
Why it’s good: Not only is the food good but the cozy interiors make for a good place to hang out and linger with friends. We can stay there all day.
Other must-orders: The steak don