When people think of Japanese cuisine, their minds may go in various directions. Some will think immediately of sushi, which has become an immensely popular healthy alternative to fast food far beyond the borders of Japan itself. Other minds may go to the popular noodle dishes that are increasingly becoming a fixture in Western cities. Less well-known, but undeniably tempting, is the traditional and speedy dish known as katsudon. A bowl of rice is topped with a deep-fried, breaded pork cutlet and a savoury, egg-based broth (which thickens on contact with the hot rice), to make a dish that is hugely popular in Tokyo’s restaurants, and gaining a following worldwide. For those who want to give it a try, the following list of the restaurants with the best katsudon in Tokyo will be your guide for the perfect rendition of this dish.
1. Ginza Bairin
This popular restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district is famous for its wide collection of local specialities, and has become such a hit within Tokyo that it has opened branches in other Japanese locations, in China and as far afield as Hawaii. Their take on katsudon makes the experience all the more special, as the whole dish is topped with a fried egg and served with a side of miso soup. Frequent diners recommend that you pierce the yolk and dip the fried cutlet in the gooey centre for a perfect taste sensation.
Address: 7 Chome-7-10 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061
Website: Ginza Bairin
Opening hours: 11:30am - 8:45pm (daily)
Diners in the Shibuya district will appreciate the Tonkatsu restaurant that goes by the name Katsukichi, which specialises in the many Japanese dishes made with pork cutlets. Among the excellent, varied menu, one of the most cherished dishes is their version of katsudon, which is particularly tasty if you let the crispy breading marinade in the broth of the dish. All the flavours infuse, and while there is still some crunch when you bite into the cutlet, it’s filled with the taste explosion for which katsudon is famous.
Address: KDC Shibuya Building B1 3-9-10 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11am - 3pm, 5pm - 9:20pm; Sat - Sun: 11am - 8:20pm (closed on Thu & Fri)
This popular restaurant, located in the Shinjuku region, is famed for its numerous tonkatsu dishes and has proven so popular that the brand has been exported to China and even to Thailand, with a sister branch in Bangkok. A crispy pork cutlet is cooked to your taste, and rests on a bed of tasty, brothy rice that is filled with aromatic tastes. Their entire menu is worth trying, in truth, and there are numerous sides worth trying including their delightful crab meat croquettes.
Address: 151-0051 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Sendagaya, 5 Chome−24−2
Opening hours: 11am - 10pm (daily)
Butagumi’s dedication to deep-frying pork in panko breadcrumbs to give that authentic Japanese taste experience means that anyone dining here will be able to enjoy katsudon the way it should be made. There are three individual branches of the restaurant, in Shokudo, Shabuan and Nishiazabu, so it is worth picking out whichever is the closest to you. The restaurant’s approach is in the fine traditions of Japanese cuisine, and the Butagumi name is fast becoming a Tokyo institution.
Address: 106-0032 Tokyo, Minato City, Roppongi, 6 Chome−2−31 B1F Roppongi Hills North Tower
Opening hours: 11am - 11pm (daily)
5. Tare Katsu
If you’re looking for something of a twist on the classic katsudon, then seeking out a branch of Tare Katsu would be a very wise decision. The restaurant’s name references a specific way of preparing the meat, briefly marinading the thin cutlet in a salty-sweet sauce before it is coated in the breadcrumbs. The resulting taste is not overpowering, but enough of a change from the standard to make Tare Katsu a noted restaurant brand throughout Tokyo.
Address: 2 Chome-8-9 Nishikanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0065
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11am - 9:30pm; Sat - Sun: 11am - 8pm
A restaurant that opened eighty years ago in the Meguro area of Tokyo, Tonki is very much a stalwart of the city’s traditional dining scene. The charming eaterie has changed very little over the eight decades since it opened, serving people the classic katsudon dishes as they were intended to be enjoyed. Of course, katsudon is on the menu, and the perfectly-cooked rice merges delightfully with the crispy pork to give you a taste of traditional Japan.
Address: 1 Chome-1-2 Shimomeguro, Meguro City, Tokyo 153-0064
Opening hours: Wed - Mon: 4pm - 10:45pm (closed on Tue)
7. Katsudon-ya Zuicho
You can definitely get katsudon at this restaurant - in fact, you can ONLY get katsudon, as it’s the only dish on the menu. Fortunately, this means the chefs have plenty of practice in getting the process just right, and in this small diner in the Shibuya district you can pull a stool up to the counter and experience a delicious, steaming bowl of broth, rice and perfectly fried egg topped with a huge cutlet of pork - and it won’t break the bank either, coming in at about half of what you might pay for it in a larger restaurant.
Address: 41-26 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 6pm; Sat: 11:30am - 8pm (closed on Sun)
Despite its location in Tokyo, Sakamotoya is in most respects a Chinese-style restaurant. However, it has developed a reputation for its katsudon, which is rated among the best - and the most affordable - in the city. Unlike in many restaurants, the fried egg is served on top of the pork cutlet, allowing the soft-fried yolk to run down into the breaded coating. With sweet dashi and onions also to be found among the mix, there is a spectrum of flavours that has stood the test of time here, the dish having been a specialty of Sakamotoya for three generations.
Address: 3 Chome-31-16 Nishiogikita, Suginami City, Tokyo 167-0042
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 11:30am - 3pm; Sat: 11:30am - 3pm, 5 - 8:30pm (closed on Sun & Mon)
From the outside, Katsuman does not look like much - a small storefront with a narrow doorway. However, once you’re inside it’s an expansive, welcoming restaurant which offers all of the wonderful deep-fried dishes for which Japanese cuisine is famous. The popular options of Katsu curry and tonkatsu are available here, and of course they offer a very tasty katsudon, which is served in double-quick time and prepared right in front of you. Servings are more than ample for a main meal, and won’t hurt your pocket unduly either.
Address: 1-6-1 Kanda-Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11am - 2:30pm, 5 - 8:30pm (closed on Sat & Sun)
10. Tonkatsu Suzushin
Diners at Tonkatsu Suzushin invariably comment on the welcoming nature of this family-run restaurant, and that may be why it’s generally a busy place to eat - you should make sure to show up early after it has opened to avoid disappointment. It would certainly be a shame if you couldn’t get seated and served, because their katsudon is among the best in the city - a thin cutlet is fried to a perfect crispy exterior with tender meat inside, and there is just enough rice to provide a filling meal along with the raw veg and tasty miso soup.
Address: 10 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo-to 160-0007
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 11:30am - 2pm, 5:30 - 8pm (closed on Sun)
Katsudon cooked by the experts: Your Tokyo taste tour starts here!
Without a doubt, the mere description of the dish of katsudon will make any meat-eater’s taste buds stand to attention. To enjoy it as cooked by the experts is an experience that you’ll never forget, and you may well find yourself trying to replicate it in your own kitchen. Whenever you visit Tokyo, it is essential that you take the opportunity of trying the quintessentially Japanese taste of this tasty, nourishing bowl. You’re sure to find yourself coming back to these fine restaurants time and again!
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