A good tonkatsu is one that is deep-fried to golden brown, and texturised with crumbs, with the layers of meat intricate yet not overly oily, and is so good on its own that you might have forgotten it has other accompanying sauces like mustard and the sweet tonkatsu sauce. The meal is completed with miso soup, pickles, a huge pile of cabbage, and hot steaming rice.
Besides tonkatsu, there are variations such as Katsudon, pork cutlet with egg and onions on rice; Katsu Sandon, a tonkatsu sandwich; and Katsu-Kare, tonkatsu drizzled with Japanese curry. No matter which version, tonkatsu ranks as one of Japan’s favourite comfort food.
Which is the best tonkatsu in Tokyo? This is a constant debate among travellers and locals as the city has no shortage of good tonkatsuya. When we were in Tokyo recently, we went on a quest to find our favourite tonkatsu, and this is a list of the best Tonkatsu Restaurants in Tokyo.
This tonkatsu specialist has one of the most comprehensive tonkatsu menus—with at least a dozen varieties of pork—but the daily offerings depend on the availability of the meat. The evergreen options are Ryuuka-ton (¥1,900) from Okinawa, and Nattouku-ton (¥2,300) from Gifu. You can also find other premium meats such as Golden Boar Pork (¥3,000) from Hyougo, Nakijin-agoo-buta (¥4,500) from Okinaa, and the famed Iberico Pork (¥4,800) from Spain.
While tonkatsu is the star at Butagumi, it is not the only reason why you should dine here. The feel of taking off your shoes, and stepping into a typical Japanese wooden booth, having a handbell to ring for service, a table lined with floral-printed China, and a fuss-free Japanese menu (with English option available)—all these little touches complete the experience of dining in a true blue ryotei.
2-24-9 Nishiazabu, Minato
Tel: +81 3 5466 6775
Tue to Sun: 11.30am – 2pm, 6pm – 10pm
Nearest Station: Roppongi
Katsukura is a tonkatsu restaurant chain from Kyoto, and besides pork cutlet, it also offers other options like fried prawns, chicken cutlet, and crab meat croquette.
Among the numerous tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo, what sets Katsukura apart is their consistency. Even though It has many branches around the city, the tonkatsu is always consistently good and reliable. Most importantly, it is also the kind of place you can return to again and again because you do not have to spend a bomb to dine here. The standard Sirloin Cutlet starts from ¥1,350 for 90g, while the Fillet Cutlet is ¥1,480 for 90g.
Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2
Shinjuku Times Square Building 14th Floor
Tel: +81 3 5361 1878
Daily: 11am – 11pm
Nearest Station: Shinjuku
Another tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo that we really liked was Kimukatsu in Ebisu. The tonkatsu here, made up of many thin layers of pork, is really good – think of it as a pork mille-feuille. In addition to the original tonkatsu, they also have other flavours like cheese, black pepper, green onion, garlic, sour plum and yuzu pepper.
We ordered the cheese version, and it was super satisfying with cheese oozing out of the superbly fried tonkatsu. A tonkatsu set is ¥1,930. Alternatively, you can opt for the Kimukatsu Value Combo—choose any two tonkatsu flavours at ¥2,500 (for 1 pax), or three flavours at ¥3,980 (for 2 pax).
Tonkatsu is comfort food, and it is meant to be hearty and comforting. Our meal at Kimukatsu was exactly like that. It is not a fanciful place with a diverse menu, but what they do—they do very well. It is a place where locals go to for a good meal.
4-9-5, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku
Tel: +81 3 5420 2929
Mon to Thu: 11am – 11pm
Fri & Sat: 11am – 11.30pm
Nearest Station: Ebisu
There are many famous tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo, but the place that everyone seems to agree is the best place to head to is Maisen Tonkatsu. They have many outlets in Tokyo, but go to the main shop in Aoyama – just a few blocks behind Omotesando Hills. The restaurant is located in a former World War II public bathhouse, which adds to the whole feel of dining there.
There are many options on the menu, but if you are there, you must go for the best—the famed Okita Kurobuta Fried Pork Loin meal (¥3,780).
The tonkatsu, like the reviews that we have read, was really good. In fact, it was one of the best we have ever had in my life. The pork cutlet was extremely juicy and crispy, yet not greasy at all. Topped with their special tonkatsu sauce, and served with a bowl of rice and a large stack of cabbage, it was unbeatable.
4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Tel: +81 3 3470 0071
Daily: 11am – 10pm
Nearest Station: Omotesando
Tonki opens at 4pm every day, and such is the popularity of their tonkatsu, that the restaurant is almost filled even before dinner time.
Unlike some tonkatsu restaurants which offer all sorts of cuts and variations, Tonki is simple and straight to the point—either rosu or fillet, in other words, you choose the lean or the slightly fatty option. Both are priced at ¥1,800 for teishoku with rice, miso soup and pickles, or ¥1,250 for an ala carte portion.
Tonki’s version is very different from the usual tonkatsu that we are familiar with. It is not as crispy, nor is it crumbly. The slow-cooking process means that the meat inside is not as juicy or tender as the typical tonkatsu. It has a very real and unpretentious taste which is probably why regulars go back to this 70 years old house for a good and solid tonkatsu. Most of the customers at Tonki are in fact middle-aged Japanese, who most probably grew up eating the tonkatsu here.
1-1-2 Shimo-Meguro, Meguro-ku
Tel: +81 3 3491 9928
Daily (except Tue): 4pm – 10.45pm
Nearest Station: Meguro
For more recommendations, read our guide to the best tonkatsu in Singapore