Saboten by Raintree Restaurants is a Japanese restaurant which started in Shinjuku, Tokyo in 1966, specializing in KATSU—a breaded, deep-fried meat patty. A number of friends had been telling me how incredibly good their katsu is. Last Saturday, I have finally made my way to Saboten Philippines in Glorietta 5 for a meal, with only the best recommendations on its menu. So, do they have the most amazing katsu cut ever? I’ll just say that Yabu and Kimukatsu (two katsu restaurants I’ve tried) have some serious competition over here. 😛
Review of Saboten Japanese Cutlet (Glorietta 5, Makati City)
Saboten Japanese Cutlet offered a comfortable and tranquil environment. The ambiance was cozy with bright lighting portrayed in the pictures below. As there are separators in between tables, you can be rest assured with some privacy. That said, this is a good restaurant that’s probably suitable for business meals even. The decorations were decent, neither exaggerated nor luxurious. I recommend booking a table in advance to avoid long queues during peak dining hours.
Service was generally competent and friendly. The staffs bowed the Japanese way to show respect every time they left our table to go after our requests. Calling for their attention was easy as they were scattered around the L-shaped dining room. They served food quickly (even for the refills of miso soup, rice, etc.) and acted professionally. I certainly have nothing to complain about. 😀
When presented with several hot items on the menu, the best way to decide what to order is to ask the manager himself. As obedient customers, we gladly followed his recommendations. 😀
We had the Mille-Feuille Katsu with grated radish and ponzu sauce (PhP 1130), served on a tray with multiple dishes arranged in a highly delectable and aesthetic manner. As typical katsu sets tend to be, it came with unlimited refills of miso soup, rice and shredded cabbage. The “stars” of the plate must be the Mille-Feuille (130g), two Deep-fried Shrimps, Loin Cutlet (65g) and two Rolled Cutlets (Choice of Asparagus, Cheese and Plum).
The fun challenge was keeping everything balanced. In lieu of the refreshing shredded cabbage as a side bite, the heaviness of the meat could be cut through. Outside, crumbs of the cutlets were golden brown in color, crispy with enough saltiness.
Looking ZOMG-awesome, the Mille-Feuille (translated to “a thousand leaves” in English) was twice more delicious than the standard loin cutlet variety. It’s Saboten Japanese Cutlet’s original recipe of tender juicy and very thinly sliced layers of pork.
For the rolled cutlets, we chose the cheese and asparagus flavors and appreciated them more as we dipped the pieces into the DIY sauce (ponzu sauce with toasted sesame seeds mashed via a pestle). The sauce did a neat job in complementing the taste of the cutlets.
The deep-fried shrimps (or shall I say, tempura) were nothing extraordinary, but it was worth mentioning that the shrimps used were really fresh. Served with an overly rich tartar sauce, it was one Japanese comfort food done well!
My favorite non-pork item had to be the Tuna Katsu Set (PhP 425)—Saboten’s original cutlet with Sashimi Grade Maguro. It was truly wonderful with a crispy coating and moist center. Deep-frying time has been adjusted to emphasize the taste of maguro. It’s best enjoyed with Saboten’s special wasabi soy sauce.
As a thickly structured drink, the Ripe Mango and Passion Fruit (PhP 195) was quite energy-boosting. I liked that the flavor wasn’t at all artificial and the sweetness did not go overboard. Rather, it was like exploding with natural tropical flavors of ripe mango plus a hint of passion fruit.
With a very delicate and subdued flavor, the Matcha Lychee Almond Cake (PhP 210) has been a good way for me to soothe my tongue after a flavorful, heavy meal. This cake was a creamy one but I’m sad to report that I could barely taste the almond and lychee out of it. Good points? It was moist, airy and not overly sweet.
On the other hand, the Sesame Sansrival (PhP 210) was a bit disappointing. Until my last bite, the sesame taste didn’t come out prominent against the sansrival (buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews). The consistency was okay but I just preferred that it turn down a bit on the nuttiness and bring the sesame aroma more to the next level.
Price for Value: ★★★★☆
It takes a great restaurant and a talented team in the kitchen to stay relevant and popular over four decades to date, and that’s exactly what Saboten Japanese Cutlet has done. This is an ideal spot for quenching katsu and comfort Japanese food cravings, for either solo dining or small groups. You won’t realize what you’re missing until you stumble upon it.
Given that food quality is high and portion of set meals is good to share with 2-3 people, I guess eating in this restaurant is not such a bad deal for the price. I give a different/separate rating for the desserts though. At least based on the cakes we tried, 2/5 stars is justified by the small slice and my unmet expectations.