MAKATI, PHILIPPINES - The restaurant that offers the alleged best Katsu in Japan is now standing and kicking in its first ever location here in the Philippines. Ginza Bairin opened store here in the metro a few months ago and we, Pinoys, have never been happier because we now get to taste dishes like this without leaving the country!
In service since 1927, GInza Bairin had already perfected that kind of Katsu that everyone would eventually go back for once tasted and relished; not to mention the side dishes and concocted sauces to complement the main dish!
Dismissing the snobby look of the facade, the interior of the restaurant is as humble and casual as it gets. Since Ginza Bairin is relatively new, expect that you will wait outside for a while before being called out. The place is very jampacked especially on lunch hours and dinner time. Once you enter, you will immediately catch the family-friendly feel of the place. Dominated by wooden furniture, cove lightings and Asian accents, this place really proves to be apt even for kids and is very homey.
The menu is direct to the point; no frills, just the essentials. You can immediately catch that this restaurant is all about the Katsu. To jumpstart the experience, we ordered the dish that launched the 1st Katsu restaurant in Ginza. There are three choices actually available for your pork picking: Rosu for that moist, flavoful loin, Hire for a leaner meat and Kurobuta Rosu for a taste of the premium Berkshire Black Pig which is said to be Britain's oldest pig breed. In our case, the Kurobuta Rosu Katsu Set (Php 595) is the ultimate choice! Usually when you consume pork you get this raw aftertaste and satiating factor upon eating, but with this fried pork you just can't get enough! Why so? Because the meat is made with love, undergoing strict procedures and preparation prior being served to the table. To serve only the freshest, the restaurant employs Japan-approved quality standards to check and inspect the meat. Once meat is selected, the meat is then generously coated with their exclusively made panko designed to highlight the flavor of the meat. The coated meat is then fried with the prized cottonseed oil which proves to be a healthier alternative because it has zero transfat; not to mention that it fries the meat to a brilliant ligthness!
If you are not fond of pork, you may also try their Salmon Fry Set (Php 495) which is Atlantic Salmon slices cooked in buttery consistency.
We also had the Katsu Sando Set (Php 325) which is nothing out of the ordinary as these are just bunch of Tonkatsu slices sandwiched between two equally dimensioned bread slices. Very apt if you have kids to tag along with and you do not want them to end up messy on the table.
Because of Pinoys' love of rice with toppings, who could ever forget then the Katsudon sets! We chose to have the Special Katsudon Set (Php 395) which is hailed as the No. 1 Donburi in Japan by a couple of premiere Japanese culinary TV programs. There is nothing shocking about the accolades and praises really, especially if their donburi not only has these compact and tender pork cutlets cooked in egg and sweet sauce in it but is also finished with a nice and runny sunny side up on top! What a yummy redundancy!
And of course, on to the best bit! All the Katsudon sets comes with Tsukemono (pickled vegetables), hot and brothy Miso Soup, cabbage strips, fruits (in our case it was pineapple) and Brown Rice tea with an option of hot or cold. Not only that but you can have UNLIMITED servings of the side dishes! Yes you read it right, unlimited!
On to Ginza Bairin's yummy, concocted sauces: the Wasabi Shoyu Dressing and the Roasted Sesame Dressing. If you want to experience a hot, tingling aftertaste and an extra kick on your dishes, then go pick up that Wasabi Shoyu Dressing to sauce up your Kurobuta but if you prefer sweetness and neutrality over uniqueness, go get the Roasted Sesame Dressing instead.
As for me, I personally like the Roasted Sesame Dressing as evidenced by this photo. I smothered my Katsu Sando with it and I also found out that it is a very nice complement to my unlimited serving of cabbage strips!
Overall, I loved my Ginza Bairin experience. This was my first time to enjoy my Katsu with unlimited everything and to join in the bandwagon of the recently rising Katsu craze here in Manila. Will I try it again? I bet my bottom dollar (or peso in our case!) that I will!