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.