J A P A N E S E
C U I S I N E
Makati City caters to travelers and dining individuals who are spoiled for choice. Among the numerous cuisine options is Japanese. At Glorietta 5 where Ayala Avenue opens from EDSA, Saboten operates on a certain prestige that rivals other emerging restaurants serving the traditional mouthwatering tonkatsu (deep fried pork). If there's any reminder of the World War II detritus that ravaged the Philippine landscape, it's nowhere to be seen except for a friendship bell that stands in Bataan and the Filipinos' love for Japanese cuisine.
Originating in the Tokyo neighborhood of Shinjuku, Saboten has specialized in serving the delicious deep fried pork cutlet since Day 1 in 1966. Derived from the Japanese term that means cactus, the restaurant name is meant to exude everything that its stands for -- thriving with vitality even in the harshest of conditions. And thrive, it did! Now with over 500 shops worldwide, it has flourished to become one of the largest tonkatsu chains that appeal to any lover of Japanese food. In the Philippines, fans of the restaurant can find comfort in the fact that there's another branch in Bonifacio Global City's Serendra.
|(left) Melon Yakult Smoothie; (right) sauce mix|
|Deep Fried Oyster|
Accessible From Any Point In The Glorietta Shopping District
My dining experience of the restaurant took place in its 80-seater branch in Makati City where it's a convenient stroll from any point in the Glorietta shopping district. It's amazing how light, crispy, and non-greasy cutlets can be accessible these days at any time of the week like that one mid-week meal when I was scheduled to drop by the city en route to Manila for a charity dinner. Together with a few dining colleagues who were there on time, I braced for a super late lunch.
De-stressed With Melon Yakult Amidst The Splendor of Wood
Outside, the month's humid weather didn't fail to dampen my mood. Thankfully, though, Saboten offers an interesting roster of inventive smoothies from Watermelon Wasabi to Creamy Green Tea. As I commenced with lunch, I had a glass of refreshing Melon Yakult (fresh melon smoothie with a hint of the probiotic dairy drink) to guarantee that I'd be in the katsu zone. Looking around inside the dining venue, I found it easy to find my center anyway since the interiors reflect the traditional soothing elements that most Japanese establishments are known for. From earth-tone sofas to booth seats cocooned in wood splendor, the surrounding was easy to adore.
My companions had a sampling of the Maguro Tsukudani which I skipped on. It's a tuna appetizer that's cooked in a clay pot. It's supposed to be flavorful and a good alternative to the typical Karaage (fried chicken) as its taste is enhanced with ginger and sauce.
High-Grade Hiroshima Oyster Katsu
I ordered the Deep Fried Oyster a la carte as it's highly recom-
mended from the set of original Japanese comfort food options. The menu highlights the dish to be imported from Hiroshima, a city that prides itself with a local scene where high-grade oysters abound and residents enjoy a variety of ways in consuming them from fried to grilled. Succulent in the inside, a piece of the oyster katsu was a delight to tear into with the pair of ohashi or chopsticks. With every bite, the golden crusted panko or breadcrumbs would burst in distinct crispiness from my lips as the the rich and creamy seafood delicacy made for a good palate massage. A dining colleague even gushed that it would be perfect with a bottle of beer since the restaurant has an ongoing promo of unlimited local beers for roughly P500 between 4:00pm and 7:00pm daily.
For those who love to dine hefty, the dish can be ordered in three different sets with one set that's sensational for sharing.
|(left) Strawberry Shortcake; (right) Matcha Lychee Almond Cake|
|Sweet and Sour Chicken Nanban|
Next, I tried the Sweet and Sour Chicken Nanban, another option from the limited-time offered Japanese comfort food set of options. Coated with fluffy egg tendrils, the crispy chicken tasted light and potent at the same time as the soaked up nanban sauce created a balance of rich taste in my mouth. Its sweet and sour aspect was engaging as it certainly harks back to the European inspiration of the dish when Portuguese traders and missionaries first introduced in Japan a variety of fried dishes in the early 1500s. They were initially dubbed by Japanese rulers as nanban, a term which means Southern barbarian and previously referred to other Asians devoid of the oriental culture. This is probably why some prefer not to have it dipped on anything as it tastes rich on its own.
|Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake|
I proceeded to try the Tenderloin Set next. Saboten's signature pure lean meat dish is popular among its patrons for having rich flavor and subtle sweetness. Its juicy and tender texture definitely contributes a lot to it in not tasting soggy or overdone.
The meal proved to be quite memorable for me since it was my first time to grind roasted sesame to mix with Saboten's signature tonkatsu sauce. The goal was to enhance the flavor of the latter with the former's nutty aroma and taste. It's supposed to be enjoyed with the restaurant's unlimited shredded cabbage that you can have along with other unlimited servings of glutinous rice, cabbage, and miso soup.
|Tonkatsu Kids Set|
The meal culminated with orders of Strawberry Shortcake, Matcha Lychee Almond Cake, and Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake. All desserts tasted unique with each having a taste of decadence on its own. The Strawberry Shortcake was light on the tongue and not exceedingly sweet like some versions I've tasted in the past. The Matcha dessert might look complex to some, but it's actually simple in combining two understated flavors -- matcha and lychee -- that complemented each other well without stealing each other's thunder. As for the Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake, it didn't require much prodding to make a dessert aficionado like me excited because its appearance alone looked like an expensive jewelry. More than looking so precious, the dessert was a luscious taste of creamy hazelnut and chocolate which could be a perfect sweet ending to a romantic date.
For guests with kids in tow, an order of any option from Tonkatsu Kids Sets is an easy choice. With a cute plate filled with tenderloin cutlet, crab cream croquette, a side of fries and a glass of orange juice, any kiddie guest will not feel left out. For a minimum of P1,000 spend, guests can even receive a "Kids Eat 4 Free" voucher that they can use for their next visit. As for dessert, the little ones will definitely have a hoot finishing an order of either a Choco or Strawberry Parfait like we did.
Should you have plans of throwing a tonkatsu party for whatever special occasion, Saboten is a great venue for such a semi-private event. On ordinary days, it's where you can have an authentic tonkatsu fix and more.
Official Facebook fan page of Saboten Philippines
G/F Glorietta 5, Makati City, Philippines
Bonifacio Global City
G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Philippines
Hours of Operation: Monday to Sunday, 11:00am -11:00pm
Phone: (Makati City) +63 2 625-0909 or (BGC) +63 2 625-2000
Where to stay in Makati City for your amazing food trip at Saboten?
Check out the following options of value hotels, hostel, and serviced apartments:
+ KL Tower Serviced Residences
+ Alcoves Philippines 4-Bedroom Penthouse
+ Junction Hostels Makati
+ AurumOne Makati
+ Red Planet Hotels
+ Hotel Durban
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