By Sherilyn Siy
If you are looking for a Bourdain-type off the beaten track, hole in the wall, privately owned restaurant run by an elderly couple who have been making the same meals for 50 years, Katsuya is not it. Katsuya is the exact opposite: a chain restaurant with over 300 branches around Japan. What it lacks for in distinctness, it makes up for with consistent high quality every time.
Tonkatsu is one of the most popular meals in Japan. The star of the show is a pork cutlet coated with flour and egg and panko (breadcrumbs) and deep fried to a crisp. Often served with a side of freshly shredded cabbage, Worcestershire-like sauce, or in the case of katsudon, the deep-fried pork cutlets are topped over rice with a sweet-salty egg and dashi sauce and trefoil leaves for color.
When Katsuya opened a branch in our area, four of their most popular meals were priced at ¥500 for the first 3 days of their operation. We went there on the first day and I ordered tonkatsu on a bed of curry and rice (regular price ¥790). It was a heavy meal, no doubt, but it was so good, we contemplated going back on the 3rd day of the promo price.
Unlike my homemade tonkatsu, Katsuya uses nama panko, real bread crumbs made from freshly crumbled bread. The stuff sold in the supermarket which I use for convenience is really made from plain flour and artificial flavors. Real bread crumbs are difficult to make but taste infinitely better and absorb less oil, which means the tonkatsu remains crispy longer. If sauces are drizzled, they are better absorbed.
No matter what branch you go to, Katsuya serves pork cutlets that are consistenly crisp outside and moist, tender, tasty inside every single time. It is comfort food that is messy to prepare in my own kitchen and which I'm happy to eat out for.
Katsuya might be very un-Bourdain, but then again, I might be wrong. He sang the praises of Lawson's egg salad sandwich, so who knows, he might rave about Katsuya's tonkatsu too.
Katsuya has hundreds of branches all over Japan, most of them conveniently located near train stations and along main roads. This branch that opened just last June 28, 2019 is near Komagawa Station along the JR Hachiko Line.
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For Sherilyn Siy, Asia is home. Born in Hong Kong, Sherilyn spent time in the Philippines, China, and now lives in Japan. She speaks English, Filipino, Chinese (or putonghua), and Hokkien, her family's local dialect. Running is one of her favorite ways to explore Japan. She proudly finished the 2015 Tokyo Marathon -- her first ever full marathon -- in 4 hours and 37 minutes. She was absolutely psyched when she got selected again to run the new Tokyo Marathon route in 2018. She hopes to complete other races in Japan.