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Address: 7F, No. 15, Nanjing West Road, Zhongshan District (台北市中山區南京西路15號7F) (map)

Tel: (02) 2521-1828

MRT: Zhongshan (Exit 2)

Hours: 11:00~15:00; 17:30~21:30 (Mon to Thu), 11:00~15:00; 17:30~22:00 (Fri), 11:00~22:00 (Sat), 11:00~21:30 (Sun)

Accepts: Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Amex

Service Fee: None

Price: $$

Savory Simplicity

One of my all time favorite meals is Tonkatsu – basically a deep fried pork cutlet that’s generally served with a side of shredded cabbage salad and some miso soup. I’ve been to many places that serve this meal, but there’s one chain I keep coming back to. Saboten (website) is a chain of Tonkatsu restaurants that originated in Tokyo and have enjoyed incredible success here in Taiwan with twenty-two branches spread out across the island. I can’t remember when the first time I tried it was, but I have definitely been coming back ever since.

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We recently revisited the one at the Zhongshan Shinkong Mitsukoshi (website) as it was on route to the hot spring resort we were going to. This one is located on the seventh floor of the department store, and while it’s not the largest or fanciest branch, it does the job admirably.

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Every one I’ve been to has been impeccably clean with a predominantly wooden theme, and this branch is no different. It’s not overly fancy, but you’ll appreciate they they try their best to make sure everything is spic and span once you arrive.

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One of the things I love about Tonkatsu is how simple it is, and yet, the taste and experience can very greatly depending on where you happen to be enjoying it. Saboten starts you off with some black beans and picked radish. I’m not a huge fan of black beans, but the radish is very good, with a nice crunch to go along with the tanginess.

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Next up is the cabbage salad. For the uninitiated, it sounds like one of the most boring things you can put into your mouth, the one at Saboten is great.

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This dish is literally just shredded cabbage in a bowl, but once you put on their special dressing, it’s transformed into a fresh and delicious starter. Simply place some of the cabbage onto your plate, and add their special salad dressing. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s so good, I generally have an entire bowl in one sitting. The great thing about both the cabbage salad and the black bean/radish plate is that they’re bottomless, which means you never walk out of Saboten feeling hungry.

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Up next is something that is, in my opinion, quite special to Saboten. They give you a small bowl of sesame and a small piece of wood.

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Now, don’t go on eating it. You’re actually supposed to use the small piece of wood like a pestle and grind up the sesame like so:

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Then, add the brown sauce they supply you with, and you’ve got a tasty sauce to go with the meat that will be arriving soon. It’s sort of fun and sort of different, but it’s another special touch that I very much appreciate about Saboten.

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Now that your sauce is prepared, it’s time for the main course. At Saboten, they do have several different items on the menu, but I always go back to one selection – the Onion and Radish Tonkatsu ($320). This is something that I only see from Saboten, and the main reason I keep coming back.

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To begin, you take the supplied grapefruit slice, and squeeze the juice onto your pork cutlet over top the spring onion and radish.

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Then, take the sauce and drizzle it over as well. I suggest just using around half at first to make sure it’s not too salty.

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Once you’re done, it’s pretty much ready to eat – and wow is it tasty. The pork is nice and juicy, and the aforementioned grapefruit juice and onion/radish combination gives it tremendous flavor.

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You can also dip it into the sauce you labored away at previously for an extra kick. It does bump up the saltiness a couple notches, but if you eat it with the rice, it is superb. The hint of citrus mixed with the sesame brown sauce just works.

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To cap things off, you have your choice of green tea ice cream or red bean soup. When given this choice, always always go for the ice cream.

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So did you like it or what?

As far as I’m concerned, Saboten is the best place in Taipei for Tonkatsu. Everything from the clean decor, tremendous service, and awesome food just screams quality. Add to that very reasonable prices, and you have a recipe for success. When my brother comes to visit me in Taipei, this is one restaurant we absolutely have to stop at, and it is a place I wouldn’t hesitate to bring friends from out of town. It’s not all that fancy, but it is one hell of a meal. 4.5 Yums. – TY

4.5 Yums

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