Sherman's Food Adventures: Saboten


We've all heard the expression, "do one thing and do it well". When it comes to restaurants, that may be the kiss of death if no one wants to eat that one thing. It can be further complicated by totally messing up the one thing they were supposed to specialize in (ie. don't have wonton in your restaurant name if they suck). The newest addition to the Vancouver food scene is Saboten, which does Tonkatsu (fried pork chop) and really doesn't deviate much from it. They have over 500 locations worldwide and the newest addition in Aberdeen is actually an "express" version. Originally, I was invited to the media event, but I couldn't make it. So I did the next best thing and visited the place a couple of days after on my own. Well, not really on my own because JuJu tagged along. On a side note, his nickname means "small pig" in Cantonese. Wouldn't this be cannibalism???

Located in the former Strawberry Cones stall, the place was busy. Looks like the curious were getting their tonkatsu fix. JuJu decided to try their Loin Katsu Don, which included a miso soup and tsukemono. For the price, we both agreed that the portion size was bordering on being expensive, but just barely. As for the tonkatsu itself, boy was it super moist. The darn thing was almost airy (if you can call a pork chop airy). There was a good amount of dashi, mirin, soy mixture which was leaning towards the sweeter side. It penetrated all the way into the rice which made the whole bowl flavourful. JuJu dusted it off pretty quick and was actually still hungry afterwards (not a stretch for him though). For myself, I knew better and got 2 items starting with the Tenderloin Katsu Curry. It also came with a miso soup and tsukemono, as well as shredded cabbage. I loved the light crispiness of the coating combined with the tender and airy meat. It was like eating something other than pork (in a good way). The curry was predictably mild and slightly sweet. I liked how it wasn't too sweet like some other Japanese curries. There was quite a bit of white onion which added another level of flavour.

Not satisfied with only one item, I also got the Tenderloin Katsu Sandwich. I knew I needed it since the orders being picked up didn't look particularly large. With the same fantastic cutlet as the previous 2 items sandwiched in between soft white bread, it was good. Loved the grainy mustard which added a distinguishing flavour. However, this was gobbled up quickly and honestly, I looked longingly at the other food stands in search for more food. That pretty much sums it up though. The tonkatsu is indeed fantastic, but there is just not enough of it. A heavier eater might need 2 meals just to get full.

The Good:
- Fantastic crispy and light tonkatsu
- They do only one thing and do it right

The Bad:
- The stuff is too light... can't get full
- I wouldn't say it is necessarily expensive, but it ain't cheap either (for what you get)

Saboten (Aberdeen Centre) on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I guess if you only order one thing and not the combo with all 3, it might not be enough but the combo was very filling for me. I thought I was in tonkatsu heaven (finally) when I discovered this place.

My favourite is the prawn and the smaller round one (not sure which one that was). I was wondering when you would get around to this wonderful little gem in Aberdeen.

Now that I've found my favourite tonkatsu place, I'll have to space out the visits so I don't OD on the stuff.

KimHo said...

I was in the area a day or two before their opening and, at first, looking at their prices by itself, from $7.50 to $9.00, I was wondering if they have a chance to compete against the rest of the offerings in the food court area. Then again, Jang Mo Jib has been there for a while and they ain't cheap! But, reading your thoughts, it sounds as if they will be going the way of Chef Hung, i.e., a lot of noise and long queues at first because it is something "new" and then slowly become "just one more" stand.

LotusRapper said...

So what are the prices ?

Sherman Chan said...

@Holly Actually we did order the combo, I got the pickles and soup. If you can believe it, my appetite is not as large as you might think. It really wasn't enough food. With that being said, it was very good though.

@KimHo I agree. Looking at Vera's, where they are trying to sell $12+ hamburgers to value-conscious customers who can get a bowl of wonton noodles nearby for $4.00 can mean the kiss of death. I really like Saboten, but at that price point, not sure if it can last in the long run.

@LR As Kim said, it's about $8-$9. Not bad, but considering the prices of the competition nearby, we'll see how they do in the future.

LotusRapper said...

@Sherman - coincidentally the last time I was at Aberdeen food court (2 weeks ago), both my son and I ate at Vera's. They had pretty good slides combo for $6.

Lines at the popular Chinese vendors were simply too long, and it was just the same-old, same-old. Different foods for different folks, eh ? :-)

Jenny said...

Oh wow, they finally opened. I was hoping for more of a restaurant, but I guess at this price point, we will probably paying an arm and leg for it if it was a actual restaurant.

I think the food quality is worth the price (well, at least in Taiwan), just can't have it all the time. With that being said, I will wait for the lineup to die down before heading out there.

Steph said...

I was disappointed that it wasn't a restaurant as well. I saw the signature stuffed tonkatsu dish on the saboten website and asked the chef why it wasn't part of the menu, but he said they needed a restaurant setting to do that sort of thing. Oh well...

I think I will try the tenderloin katsu sandwich eventually. The picture looks really nice and the price is reasonable. Since I went to the media event, I didn't have an issue with the portion size. But I agree that it looks like only the saboten set with loin/prawn/tenderloin would be enough to satisfy the average appetite.

LotusRapper said...

The advantage of Saboten not being a sit-down restaurant is, you don't have to pay tips or cover the overhead ;-)

Sherman Chan said...

@LR Okay, that sounds more reasonable (re: Vera's). Can't imagine someone wanting to skip wonton noodles for a $12 burger there.

@Jenny Yup, it isn't really that expensive, but then again, it ain't cheap either.

@KM Yah, I think for most small appetites, it should be enough. But for 2 guys, we weren't full.

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Have you reviewed Butaya? How do their offerings compare?

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