It was a drizzly weekday afternoon when I met up with some of my fellow food bloggers at Saboten in Glorietta 5 for a late lunch. We were joined by two lovely ladies from Raintree Restaurants, Mela and Michele, who shared things about the restaurant with us and patiently answered all our questions.
Saboten started their operations in the Philippines last year with their first branch opening at Serendra in The Fort. It’s a restaurant which originally came from Shinjuku, Tokyo in the 1960’s and has since expanded throughout Japan and other countries.
Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll notice that the interiors are clean and relaxing to look at. We were informed that Saboten had a Japanese interior designer come to Manila and design the place before opening it to the public. I personally like it so much because of the high ceiling. It doesn’t feel stuffy inside and the low walls between a lot of the tables makes dining with your companions feel a bit more private.
On each table, you will find containers of the condiments you might use during your meal. The big, round jar contains the tonkatsu sauce, while the tray holds containers for the dressings, sea salt, Japanese mustard and table napkins.
If you order any of the katsu sets, you’re provided a bowl of black and white sesame seeds and a wooden stick which you use to grind the former. After grinding, you may opt to pour some tonkatsu sauce into the bowl and mix them for use later.
Unlike other katsu restaurants I’ve been to before, Saboten serves their unlimited servings of shredded cabbage in a huge bowl at the center of the table so that you and your companions can share them. Don’t worry, you’re all provided with smaller individual bowls to eat from as well.
There are 2 kinds of sauces which you may douse your shredded cabbage with: the dark colored yuzu (citrus based) dressing and the sesame seed dressing. I personally prefer the sesame seed dressing over the other one. 🙂
You’re also given unlimited pickled vegetables to munch on.
Let’s not forget the refillable miso soup too!
Looking for something refreshing to drink while you’re enjoying your katsu meals? Saboten has a long list of drinks where there’s certainly something that will tickle your fancy. For those who like the comforts of the usual drinks, you may order (in the photo above, left to right) Lemonade, Ripe Mango and Passionfruit Smoothie (Php175.00) or Refillable Iced Tea (Php110.00).
Thinking of something a little more unconventional? Go for the Fresh Melon and Yakult (Php175.00, left), Creamy Green Tea (Php195.00, middle) and Four Seasons and Yakult (Php175.00, right).
Still looking for something more unique? I suggest you order the Watermelon Wasabi (Php175.00, left) or the Sweet Wasabi Martini (Php175.00, right), which is a mix of vodka, wasabi and citrus honey.
I was the one who ordered the Watermelon Wasabi and I have to admit, it was such a fun drink to try! It tastes like your usual watermelon juice at first, but wait a while and you’ll feel the wasabi flavor catching up. Be wary of that dollop of wasabi sitting prettily on top; it get mixed in with the rest of the beverage after a while and you may end up sucking the entire blob through the straw. I’d know since I experienced just that and I ended up in a coughing fit. 😛
I wanted to take a different route and ordered a dish I haven’t seen in other katsu places in the country just yet: the Grated Radish Tenderloin Set (Php440.00, chicken version available for Php375.00). You’re supposed to squeeze the slice of grapefruit onto the tenderloin katsu to give it something a bit different. It’s similar to the way one usually squeezes lemon over fried fish fillets. It cuts into the oil and the meat to create something more refreshing for the palate.
I found this to be enjoyable, however I noticed that the ponzu sauce (served on the side), once poured over the meat, was mostly absorbed by the grated radish, leaving the meat a bit bland. I decided to push the radish on the side and then squeeze the grapefruit and add a bit of the ponzu sauce; that resulted to a much better eating experience. 🙂 I still ate the grated radish with my (unlimited) serving of Japanese rice, so it wasn’t wasted at all. I think my Mom would have enjoyed this a lot since she’s a very big fan of radish!
Note: If you want, you could also opt to sprinkle a bit of sea salt onto your katsu and spread a thin layer of Japanese mustard on it before eating. Both condiments are available on the trays sitting on each table. It really tops my list of Ways to Enjoying Katsu. :p
If you’re like me and love eating katsudon, don’t be disappointed if you can’t find it on the menu! Saboten’s version is called the Clay Pot Tenderloin Set (Php440.00). When this was brought to the table, I couldn’t help but swoon. It smelled so good, I wanted to change my order from grated radish tenderloin to this!
Don’t feel like eating pork? A Clay Pot Chicken Set(Php395.00) is also available on the menu.
One of the other bloggers, Carol, ordered the Mille-Feuille Combo Set (Php595.00). Apart from the unlimited cabbage, rice, veggies and soup, the combo set includes one 150g mille-feuille katsu, one piece of deep fried shrimp, and one piece of crab cream croquette. It’s a huge serving and she ended up having some of her items wrapped for to bring home.
By the way, mille-feuille katsu pertains to the thinly-sliced layers of pork which you could see in the photo above.
Some of my companions chose to try Saboten’s Specialty Courses. There were three types of specialty courses and each include 2 appetizers of your choice and dessert. The smallest Specialty Course is called the Hana (Flower, Php535.00). Its main items are a 50g serving of Saboten’s Tenderloin cutlet and another 50g of the Loin cutlet.
If the Hana wasn’t your thing, you can try the Tsuki (Moon, Php595.00) Specialty Course. Its main dish includes 1 piece of Deep Fried Shrimp, 1 piece Crab Cream Croquette and 1 piece of rolled cutlet stuffed with your choice of asparagus, cheese or plum (photo above shows cheese).
NOTE: Platter of pork loin karaage in the background is NOT included in the Tsuki Specialty Course.
For those who have a big appetite and want to eat a lot, the Yuki (Snow, Php650.00) Specialty Course is for you. Apart from the 2 appetizers of your choice, unlimited servings of miso soup, rice and vegetables, you’re also presented with a serving of their pork loin karaage. The main dish for this set are two pieces of Deep Fried Shrimp and one rolled cutlet stuffed with your choice of asparagus, cheese or plum.
Even after all that food, we still couldn’t say no to dessert! We were able to try their Green Tea Ice Cream with Soybean Sprinkles (Php75.00). I really liked this because it wasn’t too sweet and it still had that slightly bitter green tea taste which I always look for. The powdery topping also gave it a nice touch.
Note: The Specialty Courses already include a scoop of vanilla or green tea ice cream.
Saboten also offers parfaits to those who’re looking for something fancier. My blogger friend Kat (from The Hungry Kat) ordered a serving of the Banana and Blueberry Parfait (Php195.00). She had such a great time eating this and I could see why. It was a delicious blend of vanilla ice cream, blueberries, banana slices and whipped cream, topped with a piece of chocolate wafer stick.
There are two other parfait variants available: Choco Parfait and Strawberry Parfait, both at Php195.00 each.
If you’re not into ice cream, Saboten also offers other desserts which you may enjoy. Their Matcha Lychee Almond Cake (Php210.00) is said to be a favorite among the Japanese customers. It was soft, slightly nutty and had that comforting green tea flavor again, but I couldn’t detect any hint of the lychee.
I was excited to try their Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake (Php195.00). It looks so simple but really tasted very good! The smooth chocolate mousse sat on top a layer of crushed nuts and then covered with what I think might be chocolate ganache. This reminded me so much of Ferrero Rocher. I must warn you that it’s a small serving, so you might be tempted to not share it with your companions once you’ve tried it out. 😉
**Thank you so much to Ms. Carmela Sison, Ms. Michele Magtoto and the rest of the Raintree Restaurants’ team for giving us the chance to enjoy Saboten!