Tokyo Bargain Dining – Maisen Tonkatsu in Omotesando まい泉とんかつ

Maisen's Tonkatsu

Maisen's Tonkatsu

If you have not had tonkatsu in Japan you probably have not experienced the juicy pork cutlet with the crispy panko breaded. This served up with a hot bowl of rice and a large haystack of julienned cabbage does not disappoint. Season the cabbage and pork with some tonkatsu dressing, a dark, sweet, thick sauce (think ketchup and Worcestershire sauce) and dig in.

There are many shops in Tokyo, but one of the perennial favorite on any round up of tonkatsu shops consistently has Maisen at the top. There are many shops, including in depachika for take-out, throughout the city. The main shop, in Aoyama, is a few blocks behind Omotesando Hills, and a short walk from the funky shopping street Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.

Maisen Interior

Maisen Interior

There are several rooms on the two story shop in Aoyama. This is the main dining room. It used to be a bathhouse. I don’t sense it when I am there, and I don’t know why anyone who writes about it seems to feel like they need to mention it. I am including it in this blog so that you can know that yes, this is the tonkatsu shop that used to be a bathhouse.

Maisen Counter

Maisen Counter

There is usually a line, don’t worry, it moves quickly as it is a large restaurant. This here is the counter and guests are usually lined up on the right hand side along the window. There is also a take-out cart in front of the shop.

The tonkatsu sandwich is also popular, fried cutlets with sauce between white bread. I prefer my tonkatsu hot so have not come to understand the popularity of these sandwiches. My recommendation is any small farmed pork on the menu. I have had a great Okinawan pork in the past. Also, be sure to upgrade the soup to a tonjiru, thin slices of pork with vegetables in a miso soup.

Maisen まい泉

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5 渋谷区神宮前4-8-5

Phone: 03-3470-0071

Food & Wine Go List 2009 for Tokyo

Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari

I am often asked for my recommendations for my favorite restaurants in the city. Here is my contribution to Food & Wine’s 2009 Go List for Tokyo.

Japanese chefs are dictating the world’s dining trends with their fierce devotion to seasonality and respect for aesthetics. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the world’s best places to eat.



Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-5-8, Kawabata Bldg. 3F


Chef Harutaka Takahashi may have a Michelin-starred resume, but he isn’t showy. He turns exceptional seafood into perfect sashimi and sushi in a simple space down the street from Tsukiji Market.
We loved: Anago (eel) broiled in a sweet soy-based sauce.


Setagaya-ku, Minamikarasuyama 3-24-7


Native New Yorker Ivan Orkin faced skeptics when he opened a 10-seat ramen counter in the Setagaya neighborhood almost two years ago. But now, ramen connoisseurs make pilgrimages to eat his homemade noodles doused in a chicken-and-seafood broth and topped with luxurious slabs of roast pork or nests of pickled bamboo shoots.
We loved: Whole wheat noodles with slow-cooked charred pork topped with a spicy sesame-and-peanut salad.
Insider tip: Ask for the gentei, or daily special.


Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-5-13, Sakaguchi Bldg. 9th fl.


At this tiny tempura temple, baskets of seasonal vegetables sit on the counter waiting to be battered, deep-fried and served right out of the bubbling oil. Chef Fumio Kondo carefully monitors the temperature of the oil and the cooking time to create a delicate, crisp shell. He serves sweet soy tsuyu dipping sauce on the side, but purists stick to salt.
We loved: Lacy nests of julienned carrots and Satsumaimo sweet potato.


Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13

At this 100-year-old reconstructed sake brewery, the classic kaiseki courses, like seasonal sashimi and seared wagyu, are delicious. The highlight is soy in several forms, including decadent twice-cooked tofu and freshly made tofu simmering in a hot pot of creamy soy milk.
We loved: Deep-fried tofu spread with dengaku miso.
Insider tip: The gift shop sells jars of the sweet dengaku miso.


Minato-ku, Minami-Azabu 5-1-5


Revered chef Hiromitsu Nozaki owns several other places in Tokyo, but he likes to hang out behind the counter at his little kappo restaurant (a relaxed relative of kaiseki) in upscale Hiroo. Nozaki preaches the philosophy of shun, or seasonality, as he assembles gorgeous dishes like uni topped shimeji mushrooms.
We loved: Abalone with kimo (liver) sauce and toasted nori.

Hot Food Zone: Kagurazaka

Once renowned for its geisha houses, this area near Iidabashi Station is now called “Petit France” for its many brasseries, bistros and wine bars. Also here are some of the best places to eat nearly every style of Japanese cuisine, like steamed dumplings at 50 Ban (Kagurazaka 3-2), tempura at geisha house–turned–restaurant Tenko (Kagurazaka 3-1) and traditional sweets at Baikatei (Kagurazaka 6-15).

Where to Eat Near: Omotesando’s Shops


Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5


Hidden behind the Omotesando Hills shopping complex, this is a classic spot for humble tonkatsu: fried panko-breaded pork cutlets made from prized regional breeds like Okinawa’s red benibuta hog.


Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-10-1, Gyre Bldg. 5th fl.


At this luxe new teppanyaki restaurant, Venetian glass and European art set a fancy stage for chefs grilling extraordinary seafood, vegetables and marbled beef.


Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-5-25, T Place Bldg. B1


Seafood from the Izu Peninsula, brought in daily, elevates the reasonably priced lunch specials at this excellent restaurant on a side street behind Comme des Garçons.