All of us have our favorite cuisine. Mine will always be Japanese. I love the way the Japanese present their food—simple, neat, creative color combinations. The food is mostly healthy and, of course, yummy.
It has always been a treat to dine in Japanese restos. One of the first in the country, Kimpura, was right beside our French restaurant, Au Bon Vivant, in Makati and I always looked forward to its tepanyaki, fried rice, tempura and the other dishes.
It didn’t take long for this cuisine to catch on. Sushi places can now be found in any city. Fast-food chains are a regular sight. We even have a Tokyo Town in Makati—a cluster of authentic Japanese restaurants owned and manned by Japanese chefs.
Occasionally, I get an invitation from a friend, architect George Yulo, to a Japanese restaurant where we would have a type of Japanese cooking that convinces me why this is the best cuisine in the world. George is nuts about Japanese food, too. One cannot imagine that there exists this level of Japanese ingredients and cooking. Even their fruits are different.
My cousin Yappy lived in Tokyo. We all had an open invitation to visit and have a culinary tour. My last visit to Japan was before bell bottoms became the fashion, or on my four-hour stopovers. I was never able to make it, but my foodie sisters and cousins did and I heard stories about how crazy the dining experience was.
I am told restaurants in Japan are different. There are hole-in-the-wall places with their own specialties. Those are my kind of places. There are soba places—tempura, yakitori, tonkatsu places, to name a few.
Because of tonkatsu, I was planning to make a trip to Tokyo. I was so curious how else they could bring this dish to greater heights.
If trying to stay healthy is not an issue, pork is my top meat choice, a well-cooked pork chop to be more specific. In Japanese cuisine, that is tonkatsu. I try to stay away from eating meat. But if there is a Mamou prime grade steak or a tonkatsu like this new one, I get a respite from any diet. This dish is a common offering in Japan. But the one I just tried made me experience what my cousins were talking about.
A friend, Peachy Concepcion, invited me to a new Japanese restaurant. Yabu represents a whole new intensity where authentic tonkatsu is concerned.
Erase all thoughts about other tonkatsu experiences. This is in a league all its own. First, they brought in chef Kazuya Takeda, the head chef of Tonkatsu Takeshin, a top tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo. Yabu’s kitchen is run by this katsu specialist.
Second, the meat is different. There are two kinds: one locally sourced but of a certain variety, and the famous Japanese premium Korobota pork. This is the Kobe of pork in Japan. Order both and compare. I was so excited to try them.
I ordered premium Korobota Pork Set—a set of piping hot soup, Japanese pickles, rice, unlimited cabbage with sesame seed dressing and a bowl of fruit. On top of shredded cabbage lies a plump, golden-brown, perfectly fried, crispy and juicy tonkatsu.
There is a ritual to eating this. You are given a tiny mortar and pestle with toasted sesame seeds. You ground the seeds on the side of the serrated bowl to get the seeds’ aroma and pour in the katsu sauce, all this while you are salivating in anticipation.
The katsu is crispy, not oily (I wonder how they do this), and it melts in your mouth, very tender. You can tell they use fresh, clean oil.
So the simple thing to do is: Dip, bite and experience the crunch of katsu dining once experienced only on the streets of Tokyo. I love it!
There are other fresh panko-coated crispy items on the menu. Breaded oysters, huge scallops and prawn tempura with Japanese tartar dipping. Order one each just to try. My son Arturo loves katsudon!
I hate what Yabu has done to me. I dream about this dish. Anything less than this is no longer good enough. We are in the fine-tuning stage of restaurant dining in our country. Good for all diners. Yabu comes highly recommended!
Yabu, House of Katsu, 2/F, SM Megamall Atrium; tel. 0927-3987962, 5763900