There was quite a buzz about this new Katsu place right before December, and I let it die down. Then my friend Cay literally drove me to SM Megamall just so she could introduce me to the new restaurant that she has been raaaaaving about. I agreed begrudgingly. She even bought me a pair of Vibrams just so I would go with her. I don’t like going to SM Megamall.
We got on the 2nd floor of The Forum, and my trepidations were calmed. The restaurant is both dark and light, if that makes any sense. The Modern Japanese decor was very appealing without being too in your face, like some nouveau fusion restos I’ve been to.
I wondered what all the buzz was about with this place that specialized in Katsu. No need to ask anyone, the menu spells it out for you. From the origins of Katsu, to the origins of Yabu’s ingredients, they keep diners involved and interactive (see below). A big plus is the fact that they use Panko, or Japanese, breadcrumbs. Those are more expensive than normal crumbs and are normally used in high-end tempura batter. So I like the tidbit of snootiness.When you call yourself the “House of Katsu”, you need to have some street cred to back up the claim. And with that, Yabu consulted the expertise of Chef Kazuya Takeda of popular Tokyo joint Tonkatsu Takeshin to utilize authentic Japanese techniques of making Katsu. Let me put that claim to fame to the test.
First thing’s first: grind the sesame seeds by running the pestle around the bowl. The finer the seeds are ground, the more aromatic and fragrant the sauce will become. Next is to pour as much, or as little of the dark, rich katsu sauce on the bowl. Lastly, mix them together and enjoy it with all the fried dishes of Yabu. I love the piquant sweetness of the sauce that plays with the tangy first-impression you get when the sauce hits your palate. The sauce might just be my favorite thing from Yabu.
The appetizers are served in the wooden boxes similar to the wall treatments of the restaurant. I had some silken tofu with fish flakes in a ponzu sauce and some seeweed salad. Both were light and whetted my appetite for the main affair.
The oysters are so large and succulent, you had to cut it up to be able to eat it. The squeeze of lemon atop the oyster cuts down the richness of the bite. This was divine and a perfect start to a rich meal.
The main attraction of the Yabu menu is their Tonkatsu Set, which is a three-course meal in itself.
For the Tonkatsu Set, you can choose either the Hire (pork tenderloin) or Rosu (pork loin with fat). As promised, the tonkatsu is crispy on the outside, juicy and moist on the inside. Flavor wise, katsu is deep fried, hence it is definitely a treat. Dip the meat in the sauce and you have katsu heaven.
I wanted to go big so I tried the Premium Tonkatsu Set with Kurobuta pork. Known as the Black Berkshire pig, Kurobota is to pork what Kobe is to beef. The extra TLC means the pork has a more pronounced flavor as well as softness due to the extra marbling of fat.
From the color alone, the Kurobuta is darker than normal pork cutlets. Sliced thick at 3/4 inch, each bite is a mouthful of meaty delight. Though it is deep-fried, the metal stand allows for the excess oil to drip down, maintaining the crispy panko coating fresh. This one is worth ordering again.
Aside from pork, you can get a combination of seafood or different meats. This Mixed Katsu Set comes with Hire, Black Tiger Prawn, Cream Dory, Scallop, Eggplant & Pepper. This is a great way to try a little bit of everything on their menu.
But for me, my favorite dish is their Katsudon set. Made with a 2-egg omelet and a special sweet sauce ladled over some katsu atop some steaming Japanese Rice.
The normal tonkatsu meals are cooked perfectly and really elevate deep-fried food, but there is something so comforting about a bowl of tonkatsu with their irresistable sauce. Everything in one bowl. The egg is slightly runny so the yolk spills over the pork as well as the rice, making the flavors all meld together very well. I’ve had a lot of tonkatsu’s but Yabu’s is my favorite by far.
My only con about Yabu is that their dessert list is somewhat pedestrian and un-Japanese, and they don’t have green tea. Their barley tea tastes like colored water and their iced tea is Lipton. But no one goes to Yabu for tea. It’s Katsu Kraze all the way, and worth trekking to SM Megamall for to get that authentic Japanese Katsu fix.
Yabu, House of Katsu
2nd Level Atrium, SM Megamall
+632 576 3900