SABOTEN Philippines: The Original Tonkatsu Flavor Now in Manila!

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.

Although the SABOTEN launch was pre-empted by YABU in Manila, we love how they offer different ways people can enjoy katsu and the unlimited-everything experience. 🙂

Here’s a rundown of our visit to Saboten Philippines…

Battle for the BEST Tonkatsu in Manila:

What’s New in BGC Restaurants in 2013?

Saboten is located on the ground floor of Serendra (where Thai at Silk used to be, beside Mamou).

It has modern, zen-like, Japanese interiors.

We like its simple design and use of geometric patterns.

You can eat at the back for added privacy, the area with cool Japanese artwork adorning the walls.

Saboten does not accept reservations. You can eat al fresco if the restaurant is already full inside.

Check out the Saboten Menu (average price of Tonkatsu sets = P400+/set).

SABOTEN MENUSaboten History | Specialty Course “Yuki” (snow) | Tonkatsu Photo | Specialty Course “Tsuki” (Moon) | Specialty Course “Hana” (Flower) | Appetizers | The Original Tonkatsu Set | The Original Rolled Tenderloin Cutlet | Grated Radish Katsu | Miso Katsu | Special Sharing Set | Variety Set | Shrimp Set | Katsu Curry and Clay Pot | Drinks | Desserts

I like the classy-looking condiments. There’s sesame sauce, citrus sauce, tonkatsu sauce, salt and mustard.

They serve unlimited servings of  cabbage and pickles.

You can put both the sesame and citrus sauce on your cabbage.

Their sesame sauce has the right sweetness and creamy flavor.

(Tip: The Japanese prefer to put the crushed black and white sesame seeds on their salads.)

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As you wait for your Tonkatsu set, you can prepare the sauce. You crush the black and white sesame seeds using the mortar and pestle until you can’t see any whole seeds. Pour the tonkatsu sauce on the crushed seeds and then mix.

★ Specialty Course “Yuki” Snow (P625 +10% service charge)This set is served with appetizers and dessert. Cabbages and Pickles (unlimited), Two (2) appetizers, Pork Loin Karaage, Rice and Miso Soup (unlimited), Main Dish: Two (2) Deep-Fried Shrimp and One (1) Rolled Cutlet (choice of Asparagus, Cheese or Plum), Dessert (choice of Vanilla or Green Tea Ice Cream).

I liked the Yuki 3-course set with the 2 tempura pieces and 2 rolled cutlets. The deep-fried shrimp was great because it had more shrimp meat than crust. Plus, it wasn’t too oily.

We ordered the cheese cutlet, which is a rolled tempura with oozing cheese in the middle. It’s a different way of enjoying tonkatsu.

The cabbage, pickles, rice, and miso soup are all refillable. 🙂

AppetizersRadish Salad with Plum Dressing (P195 +10% service charge) and Chicken Salad with Bang Bang Ji Dressing (P250+10% service charge). Specially selected appetizers which complement the tastes of tonkatsu also make great snacks to enjoy with alcohol.

You have the option of ordering 2 appetizers for the Yuki set if you want different kinds of vegetables that match the tonkatsu well.

Pork Loin Karaage (P275 +10% service charge).

The Yuki set was also served with the Pork Loin Karaage. It was flavorful and made the set worth it.

The set finishes off with dessert: a choice between vanilla or green tea ice cream.

The green tea ice cream we got was OK, just a bit icy.

(Note: They use FIC for their ice cream.)

★ Tenderloin Set (Large – P425 +10% service charge). This is the signature menu of Saboten.

We liked the lean serving of tenderloin vs the loin version (which had a thin layer of fat).  The tenderloin had a firmer bite and was flavorful by itself; on the other hand, the loin was a bit tough and chewy.

Order the large version, cut into 14 pieces already, which is good for family sharing.

It’s great that the katsu was not oily, and I liked the crunchy texture as I bit into it.

You can dip the meat in the special tonkatsu sauce with the ground sesame seeds. I loved the balanced flavors of the sauce with the tonkatsu — a perfect pair.

★ Grated Radish Katsu Loin Set (P395 +10% service charge). Grated Radish with grapefruit turns tonkatsu into a refreshing delight.

For a different kind of tonkatsu experience, try the Grated Radish Katsu Loin version.

You have to squeeze the grapefruit over the radish layers and tonkatsu.

Then, pour the ponzu sauce over it.

I liked the refreshing taste and generous serving of grated radish. I prefer eating it on its own, without dipping it in the tonkatsu sauce.

Chicken Cutlet (P65 +10% service charge).

We also tried the Chicken Katsu, which was equally good.  You can order it ala carte upon request.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Black Honey (P75 +10% service charge).

For dessert, the vanilla ice cream with sweet, black honey sauce was a hit among the kids.

★ Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake (P195 +10% service charge).

We couldn’t stop raving about this cake — it tasted like Kitkat but in cake form. It had a good chocolate mousse on top and a smooth chocolate cover.

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.

Thanks to Raintree, creators of Chelsea and M Cafe, for bringing Saboten to the Philippines!

G/F Serendra, BGC (former location of Thai at Silk, beside Mamou)
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 11.00pm daily
FacebookSaboten Philippines
Telephone: (+632) 625-2000

Note: They only accommodate on a first-come, first-served basis.

Battle for the BEST Tonkatsu in Manila:

What’s New in BGC Restaurants in 2013?


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Full Disclosure: We paid for our meals. I wrote this blog post myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I have no business relationship with any company mentioned in this post or any organization promoting it. As a policy, I don’t receive compensation from food and travel places we feature in the blog. 

P.S. I like how Raintree opens its restaurants with no PR event, or pre-announcements, or showing a soft-opening excuse. It lets the restaurant experience speak for itself.

9 thoughts on “SABOTEN Philippines: The Original Tonkatsu Flavor Now in Manila!

  1. ahh we were right across here in Chelsea… should have eaten here instead oh well next time 😀

  2. Personally, I think Yabu didn’t really pre-empt the arrival Saboten. More like, Rain Tree brought Saboten because they saw how successful Yabu is.
    I ordered for takeout at Saboten yesterday and they forgot to include chopsticks, tissue, and the dessert in the bags. I even called to inform them but they just said they’ll get back to me. The katsu was also nothing special. The breading was too thick and very oily! especially the prawn katsu. It was tasteless without the sauce! Saboten was really disappointing because I was expecting them to be better than Yabu.
    Considering that Yabu also have unlimited soup, cabbage, rice (and even have option for brown rice!) and pickles, if I have to choose between Saboten and Yabu, I’ll pick Yabu any day!
    Better quality, customer service and more affordable pa.

  3. ordered 3 sets for takeout. no chopsticks…just measly tonkatsu sauce for all 3, and 1 small plastic of shredded cabbage for all 3 sets!! ohh 2 lets not forget the 2 tiny portions of pickled radish and cucumber…wtf!!!

  4. I think I saw you last Monday I was seated near the entrance…
    I was very happy they bring Saboten here… I’m a big fan of their Causeway Bay Hong Kong branch 🙂 And I love their Radish Salad especially the dressing

  5. Poor customer service! I agree that the tonkatsu is nothing special. Yabu has way better service, and I’ve eaten at 2 branches, the first during the soft opening days of their btanch in sm megamall. Saboten can learn a lot from Yabu with regards to customer service. Food seems to taste better when you have a wonderful dining experience.

  6. Whatever good food they have in this place is simply overshadowed by their very poor customer service. Objectively, Yabu seems to have a slight edge over the taste and is definitely the more pleasant dining experience. Until I hear stories that their service has improved, Saboten will definitely be at the bottom of my list.

  7. Saboten’s restaurant decoration is definitely a step up as it has a more upscale and cleaner feel compared to Yabu. But Yabu black pig tonkatsu tastes a bit better than Saboten’s best Tonkatsu.
    I also agree that service still needs to be improved (although to be fair, I don’t think Tonkatsu for take-out is a good idea)as I’ve visited their Serendra branch several times while the restaurant wasn’t too busy and with more than enough wait staff.
    Unfortunately, just like with many mid to upscale restaurants here in the Philippines, it is common to experience waiters who say yes to requests only to forget what it was 5 seconds later.

  8. yabu vs saboten? for me saboten wins hands down…better service, better ambience, better food
    thicker katsu, crunchier panko breading, better plating… the store manager at yabu kept barking orders at the overworked staff sya naman walang ginagawa, it was so stressful parang palengke lang…

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