Ginza Bairin Philippines opens their first branch in the New Glorietta, Ayala Center. Ginza Bairin traces its roots to 1927 when Nobukatsu Shibuya (there’s even katsu in his name) opened the first katsu house in the Ginza district. I got a little sneak peak into their food before they formally open their doors to the public on July 24, 2013. I’ve a heard of a few not so good reviews of their branches in other countries so I tempered my expectations going in.
Their Special Katsudon (P345) is often hailed as the “best donburi (rice topping) in Japan”. What sets it apart is the inclusion of an extra farm fresh egg with a beautiful golden yolk sitting at the exact center of the bowl. The best way to eat this is to get a piece of katsu and dip it into the yolk to get a nice shiny and flavorful coating. I’ve had excellent katsudon at Yabu but I have to give this one a slight edge due to extra egg.
I found their Gyoza (P150) had a bit too much scallions. They do their gyoza a bit different from what I’m used to, it’s served with a thin layer of sorts that connects all five pieces together.
For the main course we had the Mixed Set A (P425) which combines Hire, Rosu and a piece of Tiger Prawn katsu all in one plate. Perfect for those who can’t decide. The first thing I noticed was the thin layer of breading, which is a big plus. The meat was light, tender and juicy as we have come to expect from katsu experts like Yabu. The set also comes with unlimited pickles, rice, miso soup and cabbage. The next thing that is different at Ginza Bairin is their katsu sauce, it is very far from color and taste to the dark Bulldog sauce we are so used to. They formulate their own closely guarded secret sauce that is a bit tangy yet still has a certain understated sweetness.
Katsu Sando (P215, P325/set) is a Ginza Bairin creation, brought about by the lack of rice during wartime. It is basically a katsu sandwich with mustard between two pieces of soft white bread. The bread is made locally but using imported ingredients from Japan. I can envision eating this as a nice afternoon snack paired with tea.
Unagi Katsu Set (P795). This was the wow dish of the night. Super tender, almost melt in your mouth unagi. Each piece is a burst of flavor in every piece, a balance of crunchy and creamy sweetness.
For dessert, Coffee Jelly with Vanilla Ice Cream (P90) was served. It’s a nice classic dessert although I had wanted a bit stronger flavor for the coffee jelly.
I feel Ginza Bairin‘s edge is in their very thin breading and one of a kind tonkatsu sauce. My tempered expectations were blown away. I had a great experienced but this was a controlled environment so I’ll have to revisit once they open fully to the public. The key will be sustaining their quality.