[Tokyo] A visit to Tokyo’s famed Tonkatsu Tonki とんかつ とんき is not just about their deep fried pork cutlet, but the history it represents. Its cooking and processing system is itself a ‘show’ you can catch.
This is a casual Japanese restaurant located at Meguro Tokyo, specialising in Tonkatsu with an open kitchen concept.
Here’s the significance: Tonkatsu Tonki is established in 1939, and have used the same recipe for over 7 decades.
The current building in which it is housed, dates back to the 70s, with classic traditional plain fittings with beautiful timber furnishings and a smooth whitewood countertop.
Those dining and waiting in line are seated in a U-shape surrounding the kitchen, and all the preparation, frying, assembling of the crisp cutlets are done in the middle of the restaurant.
Like a culinary performance to be watched.
The food preparation process is an efficient one, with each individual chef assigned to a single task and never crossing.
A Japanese lady does the chopping of cabbages and that was all she did. Another was in charge of the soup; a man scooping and serving the rice; while there was one who just took orders. Amazing.
No sight of boredom, just enthusiasm and service like clockwork.
You would notice an elderly man somewhere in the centre, almost very silence, doing some pointing and nodding, like the conductor in an orchestra.
This brings me to the queue system. A single man decided where diners would sit.
In a normal situation, customers would have to queue up linearly (or in this case seated) according to arrival times. However, he would direct customers to varied waiting seats depending on the number in the group, as though as it was not in sequence. I can imagine some customers feeling puzzled, confused, or even left out.
After which, you would realise he remembered everyone’s orders, and all was done for a purpose, in the most efficient matter.
The restaurant only serves two different Tonkatsu, with Hire-Katsu (fillet, lean meat) and Rohsu-katsu (loin, some fatty on meat) options. Both are priced at 1,900 Yen (SGD$22.70).
The sets come with rice, miso soup, pickles and complimentary bed of shredded lettuce.
Generally, I liked the Rohsu just a notch better with a tender layer of fats across. But both were comparable.
Their style of cooking was different from other familiar brands, with a deep golden-brown shade of the batter, the skin not sticking closely to the meat.
It tasted like a more homely style of tonkatsu, not the perfect gourmet pork cutlet one might find elsewhere.
It may be a little hard to find the place due to it being located on a small lane in a rather nondescript building. It is of walking distance from the famous Meguro River (where people come to view sakura). Using a map is still recommended.
Waiting time can be a little long as it is usually crowded, and orders are being fried on the spot.
People may not visit here purely for the taste of the Tonkatsu, but because it is a known institution which offers a unique dining experience.
Tonkatsu Tonki とんかつ とんき
Japan, 〒153-0064 Tokyo, Meguro, Shimomeguro, 1 Chome−１−２(5 min walk from Meguro station)
Tel: +81 3-3491-9928
Opening Hours: 4:00pm – 10.45pm (Wed – Sun), Closed Mon – Tues
Google Maps – Tonkatsu Tonki