Tonkatsu on its own is a great dish, as is curry, but combined as katsu curry is a great way to hit two sweet spots in one dish. Ouroji 王ろじ is a tonkatsu shop on a quiet back street near Shinjuku Isetan. Katsu curry here is served in a bowl and is called tondon (tonkatsu donburi). The rice is from Niigata and is the right texture and slightly sweet. The curry is not at all spicy, and in the Japanese-style, so if you like heat, look elsewhere. The tonkatsu is a thick piece with a crispy coating that is dressed with some sweet sauce over the curry. Ouroji opened in 1921 and it has an old school feel to it.
Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku3-17-21 新宿区新宿3-17-21
Just around the corner from Bar Ben Fiddich on a quiet pedestrian side street is a local tonkatsu-ya, Tonchinkan 豚珍館。The assistant bartender at Ben Fiddich had recommended it for “good tonkatsu and bad service”. He also warned us that there most likely would be a line. We didn’t see a line when we turned the corner, but there was a small line going up the stairs to the second-floor shop.
It’s a value-priced meal, considering that you can get free refills of rice and tonjiru, miso soup with daikon and pork. The standard tonkatsu (photo above) is 950 JPY and is a thick cut with the breading in the style of Meguro Tonki. The tonkatsu is dipped in egg and flour a few times before being breaded and deep-fried. There are two sauces, amai (sweet) and karai (spicy), but even the sweet was not overtly sweet as many shops serve. I also love that on the table is a Thai chili sauce for the julienned cabbage.
There is an English menu and you place your order while waiting in line. This is a shop you don’t want to linger at. Glad I had been warned about the service. Diners are not coddled as at most shops in the city. This is like the strict mother getting you to eat your meal and kicking you out so the next person in line can get in.
Don’t compare this to Maisen or Butagumi. If you only have time for one tonkatsu meal in the city, then head there. But if you are here for a while, or you craving meat after dreamy cocktails at Bar Ben Fiddich, then this is a fun, local experience.
Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-13-8, Takahashi Bldg. 2F
closed Sunday and holidays
Futako Tamagawa is a great area to visit if you want to do some shopping. There are several shops worth seeking out, notably Tsutaya bookstore and Takashimaya department store.
Keitei is a tonkatsu shop in Takashimaya that serves a variety of vegetables with the breaded and deep-fried pork. I love the presentation of the julienned cabbage, pickles, and kombu Tsukudani. The cabbage salad can be dressed with an aromatic yuzu or creamy sesame dressing. Keitei is part of the Wako group that specializes in tonkatsu.
As it is in a department store it is kid-friendly.
Futako Tamagawa Takashimaya 6th floor of the South Building (Minami-kan)
Setagaya-ku, Tamagawa 3-17-1 世田谷区玉川3-17-1
Yachiyo is a Tsukiji shop that specializes in tonkatsu, but also does a very nice kaki furai, deep-fried oysters. It is located to the left of Sushi Dai. Oysters are just finishing off their season but will be back in the autumn. However, the days of Yachiyo and the inner market are limited.
Oysters are breaded and deep-fried until golden brown. There is a splash of Japanese karashi mustard on the side, but I prefer the Western tartar sauce that is often served with oysters and fried fish. The set meal comes with three vegetable sides of pickles, crispy julienned cabbage, and a coleslaw. It is rounded out with miso soup and rice.
Two counters line the left and right side of the shop. If you visit when oysters are out of season try some of the seafood like shrimp, scallops, or horse mackerel. The fishmongers often order eggs with pork belly (chashu eggu teishoku, available only Tue, Thu, and Sat).
Chef Ishizuka is the handsome guy in the kitchen with glasses.
Tsukiji Yachiyo 築地 八千代
Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #6 中央区築地5-2-1ビル6
Kokubunji Tonkatsu Katsura
Katsura is a homey tonkatsu shop about a kilometer north of Kokubunji station on the Chuo line. There is a perpetual line out the door. But the other day while biking by the line was shorter than usual and I joined the queue.
There is a small table in the back and a counter with tight seating. I was seated at the counter with my back to the sliding door entrance. In Japan you get used to the fact that you may have to get up and out of the way, or maybe lean in to allow someone to pass at smaller restaurants like this.
The tonkatsu comes with a generous serving of homemade pickles and a generous serving of julienned cabbage. The tonkatsu is fried in lard and panko crust is lightly colored. The meat is juicy and the portions are generous. As to be found at most tonkatsu restaurants, unlimited rice and cabbage. Budget between 1,500 – 2,000 JPY.
Katsura is only open for lunch. This is an example of a shokunin, doing one thing, and doing it very well. I wouldn’t make a special trip from the city, but if you find yourself in this part of Tokyo, it’s good to have on your radar.
Tonkatsu Katsura とんかつ桂
Tokyo-to, Kodaira-shi, Jōsui Honcho 5-7-20 東京都小平市上水本町5-7-20
Tuesday – Sunday (closed Monday and 3rd Tuesday)
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Butagumi Shokudō is located in the basement of the Roppongi Hills North Tower. There are about a dozen counter seats and several tables in back at this popular tonkatsu spot. Take-away bento and tonkatsu sandwiches are also available, but the best tonkatsu is eaten right away as it comes out of the deep-fryer. At the counter you can watch as a chef trims away fat from big slabs of pork. The frying is done in the back of the house.
One of the pork used at Butagumi is the Tsubaki Sangenton (椿三元豚) from Chiba. It is a tender, light pork. The aka (dark red) miso soup comes with slippery nameko mushrooms. The salad can be topped with a refreshing yuzu ginger dressing.
The main branch, Butagumi, is in Nishi-Azabu and has a long list of pork to choose from. Consider Butagumi Shokudō (dining hall) the café branch of the honten for an abbreviated menu and a quick meal. The music on a recent day was hits from the 80s from Bruce Springstein and Michael Jackson, which made the meal all the more comfortable.
Butagumi Shokudō 豚組食堂
Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-2-31, Roppongi Hills North Tower B1
In Shinjuku Times Square Building are several restaurant floors. Katsukura for tonkatsu on the 14th floor.
Pickles at Katsukura
Sesame Seeds in a Grinder
Not every tonkatsu restaurant serves the tonkatsu with a mortar and pestle and toasted sesame seeds. Grind the seeds, releasing the aroma of the sesame seeds, and add tonkatsu sauce and then dress your tonkatsu.
Tonkatsu at Katsukura
And the pork, breaded and deep-fried until golden.
There is often a line outside of the restaurant, but it usually moves quickly. If you are in a rush, there are plenty of other restaurants to choose from on the restaurant floors.
Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Times Square Building 14th Floor
11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily, no holidays