There are some restaurants you visit only once, with the expectation that it would close down some years later. But when you find that the said establishment still remains open after all these years, you breathe a sigh of relief and check the place out again.
Japanese restaurant Saboten, which is located at the Serendra commercial complex in Taguig, is one such restaurant that falls under the category. The establishment first opened its doors in 1966 at Tokyo’s trendy Shinjuku district. It has since expanded to other countries such as Canada, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines.
I first visited the place back in 2016 with my younger brother and my former partner, having dinner there before heading home. I was of the mindset that the dinner was the first and last time I would be eating at Saboten. But lo and behold, it was still around when I visited in April 2022!
The fact that it remains open six years later serves as a testament to its authentic-tasting Japanese fare and impeccable service. I originally intended to have lunch here during my visit to Taguig that time, but there was a rather long waiting list – so I opted for the Fish Pontchartrain from Pier at Clawdaddy’s.
The three of us tried out different Saboten picks during our June 2016 dinner. My former partner ordered the Miso Katsu Loin, Saboten‘s signature tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) in a special miso (fermented soybean) sauce. The miso sauce was sweet, a contrast to the usual stereotype of fermented soy beans being salty.
My younger brother liked his Katsu Curry Loin meal, but I found it lacking in color due to the absence of vegetables. I also enjoyed the Clay Pot Tenderloin I ordered, as the egg it had was already a meal in itself.
Despite the different dishes, all three of us received the same side dishes – fresh shredded cabbage, pickled cucumber, and pickled radish. I also got these side dishes, plus more, during my return visit to Saboten.
The prompt service I experienced in 2016 remained in 2022, which made me hopeful that this restaurant is in it for the long haul. The attentive wait staff quickly refilled the free shredded cabbage and pickled radish that came with my order. They also heeded my request not to get any more refills of pickled cucumber.
I was also issued this small plate of black and white sesame seeds in a ceramic grinding bowl and a wooden muddler. This oddly reminded me of Yabu, another tonkatsu restaurant that offered this one. You crush the sesame seeds in the bowl using the muddler, then add the thick tonkatsu sauce and mix. The tonkatsu is then dipped into this concoction.
The meal I ordered also came with unlimited miso soup and rice, but I opted not to eat too much as I still had to drive home. I only had one or two refills of rice, and I didn’t even opt to get another bowl of miso soup.
For my main dish, I ordered the Original Rolled Tenderloin Cutlet Set C (P505). This set consisted of three tenderloin rolls with a filling inside, which are then breaded and fried. I opted for two pieces of the asparagus-filled roll and one with cheese; while a pickled plum-filled version is listed, Saboten ran out of plums during my visit.
The tonkatsu rolls were extraordinarily soft, as proper tenderloin should be. But between the rolls with asparagus and cheese, I would take the asparagus one as the cheese-filled variant was rather salty. At least the asparagus provided some much-needed fiber, too! (Had the plum been available, I may have preferred it due to the filling’s tartness.)
I washed down all of these with a glass of the Strawberry Yakult (P175), which combines the fruit with the signature probiotic milk drink. Based on the sweetness level, Saboten may have used the local Yakult which comes in small bottles. The Yakult sold in Japan has a milder sweetness and less pronounced milkiness compared to the Philippine counterpart.
All in all, I’m glad to have dined here at Saboten after a six-year hiatus. I just hope it expands to other locations. A pared-down version called Saboten Express once existed in SM Megamall, replacing the former spot of The Halal Guys – but has since closed down. As of writing, the Japanese tonkatsu joint has another branch at Glorietta mall in Makati, the Philippine capital’s financial hub.
Until the next post, bon appetit!
G/F Ayala Malls Serendra,
McKinley Hill, Taguig 1634