[Tokyo] Katsuzen is the ONLY Michelin-starred Tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo, and that makes you wonder if it truly a (big) cut above the rest.

Tonkatsu (とんかつ) which is a Japanese dish that originated about the 19th century, consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. It is typically served with Japanese Worcestershire sauce, rice, and shredded cabbage.

Katsuzen is a family-owned restaurant that specialises in just tonkatsu. For more than 50 years, it is reviewed to have perfected the art of deep-frying tonkatsu.

Chef Etsuo Nagai helms the kitchen, while his family takes charge of the different roles within the restaurant such as the front of house.

Finding it can be slightly tricky. Get to Ginza, look out for Barney’s New York on the ground floor, and find the restaurant on the 4th floor of the same shopping complex.

Some rules though: reservation is a definite must (because they are always full), and no photography is allowed at the counters. (I managed to get the private room.)

It dons a simple entrance (just Japanese curtains) and minimal signage.

A fairly small space with an 8-seater communal bar and a private tatami room for a small group.

They have English-speaking staff and while dishes are thought to be priced relatively affordable for a Michelin-starred restaurant, it is still very much more expensive that any typical tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo.

And after all, this is Ginza.

You can get a complete lunch set meal for ¥4,000 to ¥5,000, which comes with an amuse-bouche of seasonal veggies, tonkatsu, miso soup, rice, and cabbage salad. For dinner, prepare to spend more, around ¥15,000 per person.

Set dinners are available, you have to order it at the time of the reservation, and everyone in the group has to order the same set menu.

The Kurobuta is priced at ¥9,500 while the Chef’s recommended set is at ¥12,600.

Ala carte orders are available, in which customers generally choose between two varieties of their signature tonkatsu: the Chef’s Selection or Kurobuta (Black Pig).

The latter is a little more expensive since it uses a premium type of pork from the black Berkshire kurobuta pigs from the low-stress farm on the slopes of Mount Kirishima in Kyushu.

Choices include Tonkatsu Loin (¥5,250), Tonkatsu Tenderloin (¥5,750), Shogayaki Roast Loin (¥5,250), Grilled Loin (¥5,450), Iberico Pork Tonkatsu Loin (¥6,800), and Grilled Iberico Pork Loin with salt and pepper (¥6,850).

As an estimation, ¥5,250 is about SGD66 or USD48,70, not exactly considered “affordable”. The restaurant also charges for ”Otooshi” at ¥1,080, a “cover charge” which includes a small appetiser.

Aside from good ingredients, they practice precise cooking time making it crisp yet tender. The owner even makes his own Japanese bread crumbs.

Made fresh to order, it takes about 15-20 minutes before you get your hands on this light and crispy pork served with a dollop of mustard and Worcestershire BBQ sauce.

Here’s the thing, after hearing so much (and paying so much), the Tonkatsu Pork Loin I had fell slightly below expectations.

Not to say it wasn’t tender or flavourful, but there wasn’t a “wow” effect that differentiated this from say other credible Tonkatsu restaurants.

My Japanese friend was rather perplexed that the rice had to be ordered separately, costing ¥500 (SGD6.29, USD4.64) for a rather small portion.

That is because they are freshly cooked, and takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

Given the choice, and if you need some carbs, I would then recommend the Fried Rice (¥1,500) with dried young sardines and Japanese basil seeds. Ignoring the price, it was fragrant and tasty.

6-8-7, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061
〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座6-8-7 交詢ビル4F
Tel: +81 3-3289 8988
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 1pm, 5pm – 9pm (Tue), 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5pm – 9pm (Wed – Fri), 11:30am – 3pm, 5pm – 9:30pm (Sat-Sun), Closed Mon
Google Maps – Katsuzen

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Maisen Tonkatsu (Omotesando, Tokyo)
Tonkatsu Tonki (Meguro, Tokyo)

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