Katsu refers to panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) encrusted and deep-fried goods. Tonkatsu, deep-fried pork, is the most popular, but there are many others such as torikatsu for chicken. Furai is another Japanese word that is used to describe the same preparation, and is often seen with seafood such as kaki (oysters), aji (horse mackerel), or ika (squid).
Torikatsu in Shibuya is hidden on the back streets, a short walk from both Shibuya JR and Inokashira stations. This shop is often featured in magazines and television shows as a great spot for cheap eats. Diners select two or more fried items that is served with rice, julienned cabbage, and miso soup. On the counter is homemade pickles that diners can help themselves to.
It’s a popular and chaotic shop. The open kitchen on this day is staffed with three very busy aunties. They each multitask and take turns doing different jobs. If you understand Japanese it’s quite fun to watch as they ask each other for help, reconfirm orders, and often ask customers to repeat what they ordered. As diners pay on their way out, it is on the honor system and each diner is asked what they ordered so that the price can be determined. Very Japanese.
A narrow counter with fifteen seats surrounds the kitchen. There is a small table tucked into the corner which seats three, and diners are asked to use this as a communal table. As you can imagine the seats at the counter are squeezed quite tight together and there is no room to set your belongings, aside from the narrow area between you and the counter.
Smoke rises non-stop from the deep-fat fryer. The cutting board next to the fryer has been used for so long that the surface is no longer flat. The knife on the cutting board is oily and covered with deep-fried panko.
Customers at the counter are asked to bus their own dishes to the high counter into the kitchen after they are done. New diners are asked to wipe down their area if it was not done by the prior diner. It feels like you are dining at your auntie’s home in the countryside with the friendly ambience and the casual service, “please set your dishes on top”. “Sorry, but if your dining area is not clean, feel free to use the wet cloth to wipe it down.”
The menu starts at 650 JPY for two items, 800 JPY for three, and 1000 JPY for four. Some of the items include: torikatsu (chicken), tonkatsu (pork), menchi katsu (ground meat), aji furai (horse mackerel), ikafurai (squid), nasu (eggplant), kani kuri-mu (crab in a white sauce), and tamanegi (onion). In season at the moment is kaki furai (oyster).
The popular set, which comes at a discounted price, is the ninki teishoku (650 JPY) which consists of chicken, ham, and croquette. Hamu katsu may be the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen, a thin slice of ham that is breaded and deep-fried. The coating is thicker than the ham.
The rice serving is generous, so I suggest asking for gohan sukuname, for a smaller portion to begin with (see photo above). You could always ask for more rice if you would like more. It is considered impolite to leave rice in your bowl, so I try to do this at most restaurants.
On this day the crowd was mostly young students with a handful of salarymen mixed in. Many solo diners in the group. There is an old television over the refrigerator. The older people, myself included, watched the talk show program while waiting for our food. The rest of the diners were busy with their smartphones.
The tail was cut off of the horse mackerel after it was deep-fried, making it much easier to eat. The chicken was tender and juicy. The pickles made from greens this day was a bit on the salty side, so maybe take a small serving to see if it is to your liking.
This is a great local spot and hard to beat for this price. The ambience itself is worth a trip here. There are two entrances to the 2nd floor shop. One on a side street and the second off of a narrow pedestrian street on the backside of the building. Finding it is part of the fun.
Torikatsu Chicken とりかつチキン
Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-16-19, Miyakoji Bldg. 2F