Saturday, July 7, 2012


     On a recent trip to the Philippines I had a chance to have dinner at a restaurant that was new to me. Located on the second floor atrium of SM Megamall in Ortigas, tucked in among a row of restaurants offering varied cuisines is Yabu The House of Katsu. It is a casual Japanese dining establishment that offers various katsu dishes instead of just the usual sushi and sashimi that has become synonymous with Japanese cuisine.

     From the glass front one immediately gets a view of the dining area which is split in the middle before coming together towards the back where the bar is located. The decor and furnishings are very simple, the only overtly Japanese related decorations being panels of manga along the dividing wall and bottles of Japanese liquor behind the bar.
manga panel on dividing wall
     The menu is pretty straight forward, consisting mostly of either pork, chicken or seafood (fish or shrimp) katsudon. Katsudon is a traditional Japanese meal consisting of breaded, fried pork cutlet, egg and condiments over a bowl of rice. There are variations in the preparation and toppings used. At Yabu, they offer a number of variations as mentioned earlier. You can order different courses separately or have a set meal. The menu also offers some sushi and sashimi choices, as well as beverages (both alcoholic and non alcoholic) and dessert.  Our group that time chose set meals, mostly the chicken variety. For my part, I chose the seafood and ebi special katsudon set. The seafood part in this case consisted of creamy dory. Of course, in keeping with the katsudon style of the meal, both the fish and shrimp were breaded and deep fried. The rest of the set consists of a cabbage salad, miso soup, pickled vegetables and assorted fruits. This restaurant offers unlimited rice and cabbage salad. Prior to the food's arrival, our waiters gave us these small bowls of toasted sesame seeds that we had to pound with cute little pestles then mix with a sweet sauce from a jar at our table. I don't know what exactly was in that sauce but it was a perfect accompaniment to the proteins in our entrees.
seafood and ebi katsudon set
      Once the food arrived, it was like getting these bento boxes because each of us got a little tray containing our set meals. I have to say, just the sight and smell alone made me hungry! For the cabbage salad, each table has a choice between a vinaigrette or creamy style of dressing. The creamy dressing said sesame on the bottle, and not having had that kind of dressing before I decided to go for it. And I loved it! Such a simple sounding and looking salad, it really was just shredded cabbage, but with the dressing it was actually delicious. It made me glad to see that unlike most restaurant offerings in the same category as free bread, Yabu is offering something that's healthy. Once I managed to stop eating the salad, I sipped the miso soup. It was tasty but nothing really out of the ordinary, tasting like the usual miso soups offered at other Japanese restaurants. Moving on to the entree, I made sure to mix the egg and other condiments into the rice before digging in.  I went for the fish first, dipping a piece into the sesame sauce we'd mixed earlier before taking a bite. And what a yummy first bite it was! The fish melts in your mouth, is not too greasy and is absolutely tasty. The rice was mixed with other seasonings as well so it was very tasty too without clashing or overpowering the other parts of the dish. There was also a little extra boost of seafood flavor from the addition of shredded bonito in the toppings. I think it was a good thing that we had to use chopsticks to eat. If I had a spoon that time I would've probably eaten faster and finished everything in my huge bowl. As it was, I did manage to eat more than half of the rice. It goes without saying that I finished everything else on my tray. Since we were all really full from our entrees, we sadly did not get to try any of their desserts. Maybe on our next visit.

seafood and ebi katsudon...yum!
      The next time you find yourself in Megamall and hunger strikes, try out Yabu. It's got delicious Japanese food at a reasonable price that will surely satisfy your tummy. Two thumbs up and thanks to my friend Leah who recommended this restaurant. I'll definitely return to try other items on the menu when I'm back in the Philippines.

© Margj Castillo, In Review, 2010 - Present.