Japanese restaurants have been a mainstay in the Philippine dining scene, with a lot of new ones sprouting and old ones putting their twists on timeless favorites. One of the standard offerings in such restaurants, alongside tempura and tonkatsu, is katsudon. The aforementioned is a portmanteau of tonkatsu and the Japanese word donburi (rice bowl dish). According to Wikipedia, Japanese students trditionally eat katsudon the night before taking a major test or school entrance exam; this is because the word “katsu” sounds like the Japanese verb “katsu” (勝つ), meaning “to succeed”.
I am craving for katsudon as I type this right now because the past week has not been favorable on my end and I need good luck for the week ahead. But let’s not allow that to cut your enthusiasm midway, as here are three katsudon spots I’ve dined in.
Starting off the set is Yabu’s Ebi and Fish Katsu. This was when I had lunch at their Robinsons Magnolia branch after I passed one final pre-employment requirement for my job right now. I no longer recall how much exactly this was, but all I know is that it set me back around P450+. Of all the katsudon I’ve tasted, this is the best so far (not counting the homemade ones). Imagine, it’s a complete meal with the angel hair cabbage, pickled vegetables, miso soup, unlimited rice, a large piece of tiger prawn tempura, cream dory fillet, and watermelon slices for the dessert.
I liked the sesame seed grinding part, but I’m not much of a fan of the sauce + sesame seeds portion; no offense to the other diners. Instead, I mixed the tonkatsu sauce with the shoyu provided on the table – this was their Kikkoman soy sauce – and found it good. The large serving did satisfy, but I was unable to maximize the unlimited rice – “tapping out” after the second serving. Nevertheless, this meal was an unforgettable one as it set the bar high for my katsudon taste.
Tonkatsu Taka is one of the newest restaurants in Cubao’s Farmer’s Plaza, serving Japanese fare at prices that don’t hurt the budget. I had the chance to eat here for lunch on the day before I was told to report for work. Incidentally, that day was also when I did the second half of my chocolate macaron review. I ordered their Pork Katsudon meal (around P200+) plus an extra Chawan Mushi or Japanese savory egg pudding (P45). Compared to Yabu’s set, this one doesn’t have much – consisting only of miso soup, pickled ginger, and the katsudon bowl itself.
I’ll be honest this time. I appreciate their dishes having affordable prices, but there is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of room for improvement. The cutlet had a tough texture and the breading tasted oily. Good thing there was the Chawan Mushi that diffused the oil and contributed a creamy texture to what I was eating, and the pickled ginger cleansed my palate. I’m looking forward to coming back here and finding their dishes improved, but right now I won’t be heading here sometime soon.
Ah yes, King Katsu. This restaurant drew a bit of flak from anime fans after they knocked off the Gilgamesh character from Fate/Stay Night for their adverts. However, the curious me decided to try out the place one Friday and check if it does offer good food. Upon arriving at their SM North EDSA branch (at the Sky Garden), I ordered their Fish Katsudon since it was “meatless Friday”. Their SM North branch is rather small, but from what I’ve heard they have a larger branch around the South – which is far from me, unfortunately.
King Katsu surprisingly does not disappoint. Their Fish Katsudon (P159) is exceptional, with added shiitake mushrooms for that extra dose of healthy protein. The meal doesn’t reach Yabu’s level, however – it only has a bowl of miso soup as an accompaniment – but it uniquely stands out on its own. The cream dory fillet is aptly sized that I even ordered another cup of rice just to finish it, and the shiitake provided chewiness complementing the soft fillet despite having its own flavor. All in all, King Katsu may not reach Yabu-level proportions (coming a few degrees short) but they definitely are notches higher than Tonkatsu Taka.
That’s it for the latest triptych; feel free to like Yabu: House of Katsu, Tonkatsu Taka Japanese Restaurant, and King Katsu on Facebook by clicking on the links. Until the next review, bon appetit. 😉