114 – On Pursuing Pork Loin Steaks: Tokyo Tonteki, UP Town Center

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This establishment is already defunct; thus, its original address was never indicated in this entry. However, you can visit Tokyo Tonteki’s Greenbelt branch – the only remaining one – at 2/F Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City 1226.)

UP Town Center has been a noticeable presence along Katipunan Avenue, ever since its inception in 2013. Strategically positioned between the University of the Philippines (UP) and Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), this development by the Ayala group is lined with new shops catering to the young, upscale crowd. If Fairview Terraces once stood on a wide parcel of land owned by Ramon Jacinto of RJ 100.3 fame as I mentioned here, UP Town Center stands on the former location of UP Integrated School (UPIS) – the state university’s elementary and secondary education unit. UPIS is now located within the UP Diliman compound. Once again, the Ayalas have shown their track record of converting prime lots into major commercial centers.

But enough of introductions. A lot of establishments have opened at UP Town Center at a fast pace; the ones closing down don’t get a lot of attention, simply fading away to obscurity. Among such restaurants is Tokyo Tonteki from Japan, specializing in the eponymous tonteki (pork loin steak). It was located at the mall’s facade along Katipunan Avenue, and one of its initial tenants. Despite being the flagship location, this branch of Tokyo Tonteki closed down after two years. Only the Greenbelt branch – the second one that opened two years ago – remains as of this typing.

I initially discovered this restaurant in 2014, as seen in this edition of The Monching Walks from two years ago, during a trip with a friend from cosplay. Here’s an excerpt:

This joint is known for its tonteki (pork steak), something that makes it different from the rest of the Japanese restaurants around, offering tonkatsu and ramen. Both of us ordered the chicken steak with tonteki sauce, since we believed it was a healthier choice. Each order comes with unlimited rice and cabbage just like Yabu [a popular tonkatsu restaurant in the Philippines, also from Japan].

The sauce was really savory that I just stirred the cabbage in it and it was enough. On the other hand, she was more creative and tried out different sauces with the cabbage. We left the restaurant fully satisfied after two refills of rice; Kate told me that it was the first time she felt really full after so long.

One year after that first visit – me, my younger brother, and CJ dined at Tokyo Tonteki again. We absolutely had no idea that it would be the very last time we’ll ever see the restaurant in operation. We ordered different dishes, but they were still consistent with the unlimited rice and cabbage. The food was exceptional for both my visits and I don’t have any problem with that. However, the layout of this branch was an issue for me. The open kitchen, coupled with the small floor area, made my clothes smell of food every time I left the place.

We found Tokyo Tonteki boarded up one day, and soon enough – the original space was already covered up with a tarpaulin. And just a few days ago, I found out that Mercury Drug (a Philippine drugstore chain) will be in its former spot. It was like the restaurant didn’t exist in the first place. In case you might not know what I’m talking about, below are some pictures to jog your memory. (The first six pictures are from 2014, while the last three were taken a year after.)

Do visit their Facebook page here to know more about their promotions. Until the next review, bon appetit.

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