Japanese cuisine has a strong reputation for being extraordinarily healthy. Make no mistake, though, Japanese people love their fried dishes! One of them is tonkatsu, savory fried pork cutlet with a wonderfully crispy breading. It’s a favorite both at home and at casual restaurants, mostly enjoyed with its own special sauce and a serving of shredded cabbage on the side. The versatile tonkatsu comes in all kinds of varieties, too, such as flavorful curry or sandwiched between fluffy bread. Of course, pork is not just pork and you’ll come across different cuts, with two prime examples being roast (the fatty part) and hire (a lighter fillet). Some restaurants also serve gyūkatsu with beef instead of pork. Yummy!
Tonkatsu Restaurants: Delicious, Filling, and Reasonably Priced!
Tonkatsu is a dish that is often made at home, but numerous restaurants all around Tokyo will treat you to the breaded delight just as much! While the dish is relatively simple to make, restaurants do pay great attention to refining their techniques and serving you select meat, differing by store.
Are you hungry yet? Tonkatsu is a perfect choice to recharge your energies after – or in the middle – of a long day of sightseeing, friendly to a Western palate and very affordable! That’s why we’re taking you to three great tonkatsu areas in the Shibuya area! There, you’ll not only get a juicy cutlet but a full set with rice and miso soup for less than 1,500 yen!
1. Shibutsuu: A Famous Beef Restaurant Serves Heavenly Tonkatsu?
Our first stop is Shibutsuu, in the Miyamasuzaka direction and close to Aoyama Gakuin University. It’s a brief walk away from the main station area, but that also means that few tourists ever make their way here – it’s a real local secret! Its name, “Shibu 2,” is due to its shop being located in the Shibuya 2-chōme district, a neighborhood that is famous as one of Shibuya’s most excellent gourmet hot spot. Shibutsuu is on the basement floor of a building, so keep your eyes open for modern, red signs close to the Shibuya 2-chōme intersection.
The full name of the shop is “Kato Beef Shop Shibutsuu” and is a branch of the famous Kato Beef Shop in Ginza. It boasts numerous fans because it serves high-grade Yamagata beef for surprisingly reasonable prices. This Yamagata beef is a breed of Japanese Black beef cattle from Yamagata Prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region. The Japan Meat Grading Association certified it was wagyu beef of grade A4 or higher – that means it’s the real deal and proper delicious!
However, the Yamagata beef is only available during dinner, being replaced by tonkatsu. Only if you make a reservation, you’ll be served wagyu steak, but we really recommend Shibutsuu’s breaded pork cutlet! “Because we are known for our Yamagata beef, we wanted to show people that pork from Yamagata is also incredibly delicious,” says Shinichi Kobayashi, the restaurant manager.
We visited the shop and immediately ordered “Tonkatsu Roast” for 1,400 yen. It’s made with a pig breed called Sangenton, select pork from Yamagata that the restaurant is genuinely proud of. The set comes with the standard Worcester sauce and salt as seasonings, but we highly recommend taking the very first bite just with a hint of salt. That way, you really get to savor the rich flavor of the pork itself. The crispy breading is in perfect harmony with the meat, boasting a sweetness so subtle, it rounds the taste extremely well. Juicy and soft, the cutlet is gone before we know it!
Shibutsuu isn’t only about the pork. The oil used for frying the cutlets is the so-called “miracle oil” that has absolutely no trans-fatty acid. “We’re probably the only restaurant in Japan using this oil,” says the manager. That makes the breading light and surprisingly free of grease and the pork cutlet a beloved lunch even for the staff. Because the breading is made of crumbs that are slightly larger than what you regularly encounter, it’s also extra crispy.
Shibutsuu’s manager says that as of right now, the restaurant doesn’t have many international guests and extends a warm welcome to everyone curious to try the amazing tonkatsu!
KATOGYUUNIKUTEN SHIBUTSUU加藤牛肉店 シブツウ
- Address 2-12-12, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002
Shibuya Station, 10 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 03-6427-5961
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. / 6:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
2. Tarekatsu Shibuya: Savor a Crispy Delicacy from Niigata in Tokyo!
Next, we’re heading to a tonkatsu restaurant called Tarekatsu Shibuya and its different pork cutlet varieties. Japan doesn’t just have one cuisine – there are innumerable local specialties and varieties of iconic dishes, including pork cutlet. Tarekatsu will serve you tonkatsu like it is enjoyed in Niigata, a prefecture northwest of Tokyo that is one of the country’s major rice-producing regions. The restaurant focuses on katsudon, a variety of tonkatsu that is basically pork cutlet on a bowl of rice. Generally speaking, the pork of such a bowl is cooked with a sweetish broth, onions, and topped with egg. However, Niigata’s version is quite different.
The main difference is that pork cutlet bowl in Niigata doesn’t have any egg in it and instead of being boiled in a broth, the tonkatsu is just seasoned with a salty-sweet soy sauce. The cutlets themselves are rather thin and boast a crispy texture. Tarekatsu’s bowl of rice is topped with the classic shredded cabbage and the pork, of course.
Especially popular is the “Aimori Bowl” for 980 yen, the shooting star among Tarekatsu’s dishes, so to say. It doesn’t only feature the delicious pork cutlet but also two pieces of fried shrimp. “Especially our international guests love this dish because of the fried shrimp,” says Eiji Sato, the manager.
When we visited the shop, a gentle rhythmic sound like bang bang bang greeted us from the kitchen. It’s the sound of pork being tenderized with a hammer; every cutlet served at Tarekatsu undergoes this procedure – that’s 450 cutlets a day, by the way. That makes the meat especially tender and flavorful, and while the breaded crust is comparatively thin, it is unbelievably crispy! Lastly, the sweet-salty sauce doesn’t only match the tonkatsu but also the white rice served with it.
- Address 1-5-9, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0043, 150-0043
Shibuya Station, 3 minutes on foot / 1 minute from West Exit via the Keio Inokashira Line
- Phone Number 03-6455-3600
Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. (open until 10:00 p.m. on Sundays and national holidays)
Closed: Open daily
3. Gyūkatsu Miyashita: Breaded Beef Cutlet, Your New Favorite Dish!
Tonkatsu literally means “pork cutlet,” but the popular dish also comes with beef as gyūkatsu or simply beef katsu. While you might think of breaded beef as a unique gourmet adventure, it is actually more common than pork in Japan’s Kansai region, including Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo. Other Japanese dishes that are traditionally made with pork are enjoyed with beef there as well, such as curry rice or nikujaga, a stew of meat and potatoes. Generally speaking, “meat in Kansai defaults to beef.”
A couple of years ago, breaded beef has gained massive popularity far beyond the Kansai area and created a Japan-wide boom. That also led to several beef katsu restaurants opening in Tokyo, many of them boasting queues even in the afternoon. The main difference between pork cutlet is that with beef, you get to savor the meat deliciously rare – with a hint of wasabi, it’ll quickly become your new favorite dish.
We’re taking you to Gyūkatsu Miyashita, a restaurant known for serving excellent breaded beef for amazingly reasonable prices. In fact, this restaurant is open for lunchtime only; in the evening, it turns into Kushine, a dining bar specializing on kushiage (deep-fried skewers). The restaurant is located on the 5th floor of a building, so look out for a white flag!
So why is a dining bar operating as a breaded beef restaurant during lunch? “Well, there was this massive gyūkatsu boom. In the beginning, we served out skewers for lunch as well, but the breaded beef has really become the standard. So now we’re doing that,” explains Mr. Miyashita, the restaurant owner. Not only Kansai is completely taken by the beef dish, so is Tokyo’s Shibuya.
The shop’s owner wants his beef to be delicious and thus uses beef from the United States – chuck eye, to be perfectly precise. Firm to the bite and deep in flavor, it’s a completely different experience than pork cutlet. Grilled to medium rare, the meat boasts a nice reddish-pink color. On top of that, Miyashita uses a so-called “water fryer” that combines oil with water to get the perfect crust. The water underneath the oil takes out any extra crumbs or other leftovers, so the frying oil is good as new for every fried piece. And indeed, the beef wasn’t too over-rich or fatty, and there wasn’t even the typical “frying smell” in the store.
The beef comes with a generous serving of wasabi. The other provided seasonings and dips are soy sauce, Worcester sauce, Japanese mustard, and salt, so there are plenty of ways to spice up your gyūkatsu! While we usually think of sushi and sashimi when it comes to wasabi, you’ll be surprised by just how amazingly well it goes with beef – trust us and have a bite with a little dollop!
- Address 5F, DELI TOWER, 2-23-13, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0043, Japan
Shibuya Station, 5 minutes on foot / Shinsen Station (Keio Inokashira Line), 3 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 03-5941-7594
Hours: 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (last order at 2:00 p.m.)
Closed: Open daily
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