This is a place which we wanted to try since it opened sometime this year I believe. It's rather busy during dinner time so we aimed for lunch time. Actually, I somehow regard all tonkatsu, i.e. fried cutlet, shops including Saboten as a better place for lunch than dinner. In fact, Ginza Bairin is the only TonKatsu place which I'd even consider having an early dinner because of it's more spacious and calmer ambience. Not even Romankan Yokohama or TonKichi. I can't relax and have a beer or Sochu in these places. Having said that, once in a while, I'll crave for a Japanese pork cutlet. Anyway, after a dangerous trek down the staircase,
we were shown a table for two, sandwiched between two other tables which felt a little bit crowded. Luckily, after a more spacious table was cleared, we asked for that table and were given that without any problems.
Saboten really invested a lot in interior design. The whole place was very nice renovated with light coloured wooded beams and pillars everywhere.
It's quite comfortable. I later noticed this on the ceiling:
It's an excellent idea which I think many restaurants in Hong Kong could adopt. The plastic plate prevented the cold wind from blowing on to the customers directly but wouldn't not affected the coolness of the place.
After a long and hard look at the menu*, we settled for a Kagoshima pork set for two plus a separate potion of scallop. The main reason for the kagoshima set was because it was a featured product printed on a separate menu and highlighted on a menu. The scallop has always been my wife's favorite dish. The kagoshima pork ϵ( 'Θ' )϶ turned out to be their signature dish.
You could choose one out of three fillings for the pork maki (roll). I remembered it was cheese, siso leave and one which I couldn't remember. We chose siso leave.
After we've placed our orders, a big plate of lettuce, pickled cucumbers and pickled turnips were placed on our table. As with most authentic tonkatsu restaurants, it's complimentary and all you can eat.
According to my wife, you could add either the sesame sauce to the lettuce or you could add the vinegar sauce to it, just don't mix them together. I tried mixing the two into one bowl of lettuce and the result was
You could also choose between plain white rice or rice with barley. We chose the latter. No doubt this gives you the feel-good (but false) impression that you're actually having a healthy meal and it's OK for your cholesterol!
The rice was also all you can eat. :bowl Actually, the rice with barley was quite nice. It's really healthy, and the barley was quite chewy. :
The set arrived after about 7-8 minutes wait, which was quite good. The set consisted of two pretty large fried prawns, two pork maki (with siso leave filling), a small piece of pork fillet and a bigger piece of kagoshima pork:
The polite and friendly waitress (thin, dyed hair, tied up in a bun, who spoke English and Mandarin) introduced the different fried stuff to us. She also introduced the functions of the different sauces to us. I never really cared about which sauce is supposed to be for what type of food only but after I've specifically experimented with different sauce, I found those tips very important!
She told us that the sauce closest to the kagoshima pork roll, was...well, for the kagoshima pork roll. The sauce seemed to be vinegar based - i.e. "ponzu" (vinegar cooked with mirin, honey, bonito, konbu, soy sauce, some citrus juice then is added to the mixture), with some added spring onions.
The tar tar sauce was good with the fried scrimps.
She also told us that the sauce provided in a jar, after you put about two scoops into your sesame dish, was good with the small pork fillet.
A very detailed explanation indeed.
In fact, I deliberately tried to dip the scrimp into the ponzu sauce and the scrimp tasted horrible
however, once I dipped the scrimp into the tar tar sauce, it really brought out the sweetness of the scrimp!
On the other hand, once you dip the kagoshima pork into the ponzu, it really brought out the meat aroma. It matched very well with the both the kagoshima pork maki and the other pork fillet, but, interestingly, especially with the kagoshima pork maki as recommended!
Finally, now you won't be surprised if I tell you that the small pork fillet matched best with the original sauce.
Try it to believe it!
(No wonder all my Japanese relatives and friends always required a detailed explanation on the sauces provided once we're at a Dai Pai Dong or Chinese restaurants!
There is quite a lot of science behind different types of sauces! Being a Hong Konger, I'm quite casual about these things. Usually I just dip my fried squid into the nearest chilli or sweet and sour sauce!
Something about the sesame:
I've noticed my wife did not grind everything into pulp whereas some Japanese people prefer a more grounded texture. There is no need to grind every single sesame seed into powder. In fact, you could simply grind half of it. The result was quite wonderful! Once you dip the pork fillet in it, you'll have the light aromatic sesame taste which came from the powdered sesame, as well as the strong aroma of the ungrounded one.
A lot about the sauces and sesame so a bit about the food itself:
Saboten actually meant cactus in Japanese. Even after I've checked their group's website, I still couldn't figure out why they use "Cactus" as the name. The kanji is not used in Japan. Perhaps the meaning in the name is born out by the large amount of bread crumbs used in frying all the cutlets. Other than the normal batter, they also used a lot of coarse bread crumbs. A bit too much we think, it may hurt your mouth a little bit of you're not careful, like if you're eating a cactus??
The cactus imagery applies especially to the fried prawns so please be careful when you're eating it. The prawns were reasonably fresh.
The pork fillet was a bit tough. Nothing special. Thankfully, the sauce was there to save it. In fact, I won't recommend it.
The Kagoshima roll with siso leave tasted quite nice. The meat was much more tender then the normal pork fillet. The siso was tangy so mixed well with it. This one is good with the ponzu and the original sauce.
The Kagoshima pork maki was also nice. It seemed to be about 7-8 sheets of kagoshima pork rolled together and then fried. The effect was quite good. Remember to dip this into the ponzu.
The Scallop was quite good. It was a bit thinner than usual. The cutlet scallop at "Romankan Yokohama" is still the best in my opinion.
The bill came down to HK$450 in total, which I think was OK.
Like many commentators before me, I've tried Tonkichi, Romankan Yokohama and Ginza Bairin. They all have varying strengths.
Ginza Bairin (I've only tried the TST branch) is the most comfortable and spacious. The normal pork fillet there is not bad. However, I've been there twice and their quality varies quite a lot. Sometimes their batter is soggy.
Tonkichi's pork fillets are usually quite tender. However, it's less spacious unless you could get the rare box seat and the queues are always long. It's a bit more rushed and expensive. The batter is similar to Saboten but with less "sharp edges".
I think Romankan Yokohama is overall the best. The different types of fried pork cutlet are usually consistently tender. They are best in terms of fried seafood, especially the scallop, which was big and juicy the time I tried it. The batter is a bit lighter than Saboten. The seats were a bit more packed though and I don't think they had all you can eat rice and lettuce.
Saboten has a really cool interior design. The kagoshima pork was good. Generally not as expensive as Tonkichi. However, the normal pork fillet was tough and the batter hurts your mouth a bit.
The service at Saboten was good. The price was OK.
All in all, a positive dining experience. Not worth a long wait but worth a try. 總評：叫了鹿兒島二人餐：
- 忌廉蟹肉卷： 忌廉很濃郁，很香．蟹肉份量ｏｋ
- 炸蝦：”杉口”！日本店不用”勝博殿”的漢字．"Sa Bo Ten" 日文指”仙人掌”．勝博殿的炸物比起其他日式炸豬排店用多很多粗粒的麵包碎．特別香口，不 過似仙人掌般杉口！
鹿兒島千層豚肉卷旁的”ポン酢” - "Pon zu" （橙醋）：適合鹿兒島豚肉！其次為豬柳．不適合海鮮
＊This is another thing which always confuses me - I've noticed that the menus in most Japanese cutlet shops always have very little or no description of their products. Every type of pork cutlet seemed to be their signature dish! It's also a bit hard to remember what you've eaten unless you've made a conscious effort to do so.
All cutlet seemed to look pretty much the same! ϵ( 'Θ' )϶ Perhaps it's assumed that you know the differences between loin, fillet...etc. ！(◎_◎;) I think the safest question you could ask the manager is "which one is the most tender?"
Table Wait Time: 1 minute(s)
Date of Visit: Apr 29, 2012
Spending per head: Approximately HKD180(Lunch)Other Ratings:
Value for Money 3