The Battle for the Best Tonkatsu is heating up in Manila! Here are our favorites so far in 2014...
1. KATSU SORA
KATSU SORA is the premium Katsu restaurant of the Hokkaido Ramen Santouka Group, offering 4 kinds of premium pork tonkatsu -- Spanish Iberico, Japanese Kurobuta, Spanish Shimofuri, and Canadian Sakura Pork.
Also, what makes the Katsu Sora experience unique is the introduction of the Buffet Bar of Salad, Japanese Rice, and Japanese Miso Soup.
"Sora" means "sky", and the name stands for their promise to bring you to Katsu heaven. :)
The concept is similar to Tokyo's Butagami, where they offer the widest variety of premium pork for your Tonkatsu pleaure.
Here's our Katsu Sora experience...
KATSU SORA's Premium Iberico Tonkatsu & RAMEN SANTOUKA's Shin-Aji Motsu Ramen!
We love KATSU SORA's Iberico Pork Tonkatsu Set served with a Juugukokumai Rice (healthy 15-grain Japanese Rice) and their Buffet Bar of Japanese Salad, Japanese Rice, and Japanese Miso Soup. Some diners still prefer the Kurobuta because of its tenderness and more marbling of fat. Budget is P700/head.
The resto is just a bit cramp, with narrow aisleways and high traffic at the buffet bar during the peak hours. Make sure to reserve in advance to get a seat.
For ramen lovers, hop on to HOKKAIDO RAMEN SANTOUKA and order the Shin-Aji Motsu Ramen to complete your Japanese dining experience. :)
Monday to Thursday 11.00am - 11.00pm
Friday and Saturday: 11.00am - 11.30pm
Sunday and Holidays: 11.00am - 11.00pm
Last call for orders: 30 minutes before closing time
2. GINZA BAIRIN
GINZA BAIRIN pioneered the modern Katsu House in Japan in Ginza, the luxurious district in Tokyo, in 1927. It's a boutique family-ran Katsu franchise with branches in Tokyo, Hawaii, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and now in Manila.
Ginza Bairin's claim to fame is that they invented the modern Tonkatsu sauce formulated by pharmacist epicurean patron, Nobukatsu Shibuya. Its name is inspired by Bairin, or plum forest, which they say is the secret behind their Tonkatsu sauce.
Also, Ginza Bairin's Special Katsudon is hailed as the number one Donburi in Japan by Japanese Food authorities from culinary TV programs Asahi "Tokyo Restaurant Guide" and Fuji TV "VivaVivaV6" and as well as Iron Chefs Robusaburo Michibo and Yoshiharu Doi.
We were fortunate to dine with Masaya Shibuya, third generation owner of Ginza Bairin, who shared with us stories about Katsu and how to properly appreciate it the Ginza Bairin way.
Overall, we love the Kurobuto Rosu Katsu, the special Katsudon, and heavenly Unagi Katsu Set! The Katsu Sando was nothing special though but good for take out or baon. The kids love the Ebi Katsu. :)
Also, it's great to have unlimited options and good sauce options for the katsu. I particularly like the Tonkatsu sauce and Sesame sauce which is carefully balanced in taste without overpowering the taste of the meat.
Dessert could be better, and most Japanese restaurants have the same ice cream dessert.
Budget P500/pax or P800/pax specially if you will try the highly recommended Unagi Katsu. :)
GINZA BAIRIN PHILIPPINES
Authentic Tokyo Katsu Since 1927
Ground Floor Glorietta 2 (along Palm Drive), Ayala Center, Makati City
Telephone: +632 553-7350
Monday to Friday 10.00 AM to 11.00 PM
Saturday to Sunday 10.00 AM to 12.00 MN
Facebook: Ginza Bairin PH
Twitter: Ginza Bairin PH
Initially, there was the Ramen craze. Then came the Katsu craze, which was revived first by Crazy Katsu in Maginhawa Street, followed by different Tonkatsu stalls popping up like mushrooms in the weekend markets.
But it was only with YABU: The House of Katsu that Manila was introduced to the high-end Katsu, and foodies started debating on what the best Katsu experience is.
Is it all just hype to justify the premium price or does Yabu really deserve all the foodie raves?
Here is our Yabu experience...
Read More: YABU: The House of Katsu Hype?
Overall, I love the Kurobota Rosu Pork Katsu, the unlimited servings of cabbage and sauces, and the interactive process (particularly for our curious and restless boys). :)
I think Yabu deserves the Filipino foodie raves for delivering an engaging, better Katsu dining experience in Manila (despite disagreement from some members of the Japanese community because of its overall taste).
Maybe a mochi-based dessert with exotic Japanese ingredients would be more appropriate to end the meal on a sweet note. Budget around P600/head.
YABU: The House of Katsu
2/F Mega Atrium, SM Megamall, 1552 Manila, Philippines
Telephone: +632 576-3900, 919-4453
Facebook: Yabu: House of Katsu
SABOTEN is the original and largest Tonkatsu chain from Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. It has been serving its famous tonkatsu since 1966 and has branches in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Canada, Thailand, and now in the Philippines. :) The restaurant's name means "cactus", inspired by the plant's vitality and persistence despite harsh conditions.
Here's a rundown of our visit to Saboten Philippines...
Overall, we liked the original Tenderloin Tonkatsu and we just loved the Grated Radish Katsu version. It's awesome that the cabbages, pickles, rice, miso soup, and the sauces are all refillable -- eat as much as you want. For dessert, skip the ice cream and order their signature Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake, which tastes like Kitkat. Budget P500+/head.
They don't have a Kurobuta version of their Tonkatsu, though, which is YABU's edge over Saboten.
G/F Serendra, BGC (former location of Thai at Silk, beside Mamou)
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 11.00pm daily
Facebook: Saboten Philippines
Telephone: (+632) 625-2000
Note: They only accommodate on a first-come, first-served basis.
5. KIMU KATSU
KIMUKATSU is a Japanese Katsu franchise specializing in a 25-layered select pork cutlet Mille-feuille-style Tonkatsu. Manila is the 5th international restaurant after a branch in Hawaii, 2 branches in LA, California, and one in Seoul, South Korea. In Japan, Kimukatsu has 19 branches.
Here's our Kimu Katsu experience...
I love KIMUKATSU's very juicy and tender 25-layered Mille-feuille-style Tonkatsu. It's quite the experience for Katsu lovers out there. :)
The ambiance of the resto feels a bit like a fastfood though, with super light tables and plastic chairs.
Budget is P700/head. Best to go with a big barkada so you can order the 7-flavor Kimukatsu set to get a taste of all the available flavors for P2,400.
TAMPOPO is a ramen and tonkatsu specialty store founded by Takaaki Takagi in Singapore. Takagi is best known for starting Tonkichi, one of Singapore's best Tonkatsu Restaurants. The name Tampopo, which literally means "dandelion", is inspired by the 1985 Japanese "Ramen Western" film of the same name.
The Philippine franchise, owned by George Huang, Chris Tiu, and TY Tang, is Tampopo's first outside of Singapore. It is the first 2-in-1 Ramen & Tonkatsu specialty resto concept in the country.
The search for the best ramen heats up in Manila with the opening of Tampopo! Check this out...
Ramen and Tonkatsu...we love that TAMPOPO offers the best of both worlds.
I like the open resto with sunken garden concept, but the temperature of the place is still dependent on the air conditioning of the mall. It's great that they are able to have two kitchens, one specializing in ramen and the other in tonkatsu. This is their competitive advantage over the other Japanese ramen and tonkatsu concepts.
They are also able to offer Red Mango desserts since they own this franchise as well. Chris Tiu really knows how to pick winning brands.
I recommend the Black Pig Shobu Ramen and the Tampopo Black Pig Tonkatsu. The Koumi Fry Ramen is also a must-try. :)
Overall value is very good considering you are getting really high quality noodles, soup, and pork in a 2-in-1 Ramen & Tonkatsu resto. I also love the fact that they only charge 3% service charge :) Make sure to put extra tip for awesome service. Budget is about P700/head.
TAMPOPO たんぽぽ Philippines
Tonkatsu Specialist and Singapore's No.1 Ramen
Ground Floor, Promenade 3 Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan City
Mobile: (+63) 917 854-7440
Operating Hours: 10.00am to 10.00pm Daily
Reservations accepted for Lunch 12nn-2pm, and for Dinner 7pm to 9pm.
Facebook: Tampopo たんぽぽ Philippines
Tonkatsuya is a hole-in-the-wall Tonkatsu place owned by Japanese Chef Hosoya. A Tonkatsu chef for 30 years in Japan, he settled here in Manila with his Filipina wife Bella. (See picture of the chef here: Heart 2 Heart | Tonkatsuya)
Many Japanese foodies recommend Tonkatsuya, hailing it as the most authentic Tonkatsu place in Manila. (Most of them don't like the commercialized Tonkatsu restos around.) We celebrated Raphael's 2nd birthday here with the family.
Overall, I like the taste and thick portions of Tonkatsuya's tonkatsu, the sesame sauces, and its Japanese hole-in-the-wall feel. I just think that the Tonkatsu meat was a bit tough--go for the Herikatsu version instead.
LGF Palm Tower C, St. Paul Road, San Antonio Village, Makati City
Telephone: +632 895-1990
Mobile Number: +63 915-921-6754
8. TONKATSU BY TERAZAWA
TONKATSU by Terazawa is a Japanese Katsu Restaurant by Chef Akinori Terazawa from Nagoya, Japan, franchised locally by The Bistro Group. It's a rebranded concept of Ma Maison Japanese restaurant in Greenbelt 2, focusing solely on Chef Terazawa's specialty, which is the Tonkatsu.
Here's our TONKATSU by Terazawa experience...
Read More: TONKATSU by TERAZAWA (by The Bistro Group) @Tonkatsuph
I like the location and ambiance of the TONKATSU by Terazawa in Nuvali better than the Greenbelt 2 and Lucky China Town branches. It's a good place to get your katsu fix when you're in the south.
Make sure to order the Kurobuta Rosu for the best katsu experience here. Budget is P600/head.
About TONKATSU By Terazawa
TONKATSU By Terazawa is a Japanese restaurant inspired by the Owner and Chef Akinori Terazawa from Nagoya, Japan. It prides itself on its house specialty Kurobuta Tonkatsu (from Pure Berkshire black pork) and other Katsu dishes namely – Rosu Katsu (Deep Fried Pork Loin), Hire Katsu (Deep Fried Pork Fillet), Nagoya Meshi (Pork Katsu with Miso Sauce Nagoya-style), Deep fried Oysters, and Ebifurai (Jumbo Prawn Katsu). It also offers unlimited servings of Japanese rice, cabbage and tonjiru miso soup.
"The tenderness and good quality of our pork are a result of the natural way of ageing meat and the use of “nama panko” or fresh bread crumbs." - Chef Terazawa
Battle for the BEST Tonkatsu in Manila:
- KATSU SORA's Premium Iberico Tonkatsu & RAMEN SANTOUKA's Shin-Aji Motsu Ramen!
- GINZA BAIRIN Philippines: Authentic Tokyo Katsu Since 1927 now in Manila!
- YABU: The House of Katsu Hype?
- SABOTEN Philippines: The Original Tonkatsu Flavor Now in Manila!
- KIMUKATSU: 25-layered Mille-feuille-style Tonkatsu :)
- TAMPOPO たんぽぽ Philippines: Deluxe Black Pig Shabu Ramen and Top Grade Black Pig Tonkatsu! @tampopo_ph
- TONKATSUYA by 30-year Japanese Tonkatsu Chef Hosoya
- TONKATSU by TERAZAWA by The Bistro Group @Tonkatsuph
Live an Awesome Life,
P.S. What's the best Tonkatsu place for you in Manila?