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      Top-notch Tonkatsu

      Where do Japanese go in Tokyo when they crave standout tonkatsu?
      The following restaurants are famous for the incomparable tonkatsu they serve. Queue up and experience some for yourself!

      Ponta Honkeぽん多本家

      Phone: 03-3831-2351

      Address:
      3-23-3 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Tuesday - Saturday] Lunch 11:00 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:45 pm) Dinner 4:30 pm - 8:00 pm (L.O. 7:45 pm) / [Sunday, National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:45 pm) Dinner 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm (L.O. 7:45 pm)
      Closed:
      Monday (open if a National Holiday and closed the next day)

      Ponta Honke serves Japanese pork cutlets in the traditional style and uses the best available pork, regardless of origin. "Try it first without sauce," suggests the confident chef.

      Plump, tasty and fresh from the sea, the fried whitings are prepared in the Edomae (old Tokyo) style.

      Simmered Kurogewagyu (Japanese black cattle) tongue. The homemade demi-glace sauce was stewed for 3 weeks.

      Chef Shimada in action. The over 100 year old restaurant was long frequented by famous writers and storytellers.

      Choose counter seats on the first floor, a table on the second floor or a reservable room on the third floor.

      Crispy golden perfection

      Every inch of the crispy crust is fried to golden perfection. This alone tells connoisseurs that Ponte Honke is different. But seize a slice with your chopsticks and another marvel catches your eye — there is no fat on the meat.
      "Roughly speaking, all I do is batter the meat and fry it in oil," says 4th-generation chef Yoshihiko Shimada. "If I were grilling the meat, I could vary the temperature more." To compensate, he removes the fat, which cooks faster than the meat, and uses it as frying oil, which makes his pork cutlets special indeed. He heats the oil to around 130°C, then fries the meat for seven minutes while gradually raising the temperature to around 160°C.
      When customers take their first bite without any sauce, they can't help but savor the crispy crust, flavorful lean meat and well-rounded aroma. The founder of Ponta Honke, who originally cooked for the Imperial Household, perfected this popular recipe by frying, instead of sauteing, Milan-style cutlets and replacing the veal with pork.
      "Use good ingredients, including high-quality fat, and always improve your skill. That's the philosophy handed down from the first generation," says 4th-generation chef Shimada. You can taste the proud history behind every bite of his golden pork cutlets."

      Phone: 03-3831-2351

      Address:
      3-23-3 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Tuesday - Saturday] Lunch 11:00 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:45 pm) Dinner 4:30 pm - 8:00 pm (L.O. 7:45 pm) / [Sunday, National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:45 pm) Dinner 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm (L.O. 7:45 pm)
      Closed:
      Monday (open if a National Holiday and closed the next day)

      Narikura成蔵

      Phone: 03-6380-3823

      Address:
      B1F, Ozawa Bldg., 1-32-11, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Monday - Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - L.O. 2:00 pm / Dinner 5:30 pm - L.O. 9:00 pm
      Closed:
      Thursday, Sunday

      A generous serving of thick Special Roast (250g) tonkatsu. One never tires of its light, straightforward flavor. Kirifurikogen Highlands pork is usually used.

      The walls were unadorned when the restaurant first opened, but have since been subtly decorated to relax the atmosphere.

      Chef Mitani relies on both his senses and scientific principles to determine the right timing, shape, color, aroma and sound.

      The chef meticulously selects roast with fine fibers and firm fat, and fillets with even thickness and fewer tendons.

      Most tonkatsu are fried in special oil from calf mesentery that maintains a high temperature for crisper crusts and juicier meat.

      Crisp, light and juicy

      The tonkatsu at Narikura is large and light colored. When you take a bite, you distinctly feel the crispy texture in your mouth. But a moment later it dissolves, as if the texture were an illusion, while the juicy flavors and aromas intensify in your mouth. The effect is simply irresistible and your chopsticks move faster than intended. Too late, you realize all the slices have disappeared from your plate. It is nothing short of magic.
      But there is method to the magic. The chef starts frying the tonkatsu at 110°C and gradually raises the temperature to 150°C before removing the tonkatsu. At this temperature, the breadcrumbs lose their moisture and the pork becomes perfectly steamed to deliver fragrant tonkatsu with tender meat.
      Low-temperature cooking is only part of the secret, however. Other factors include a pure copper cauldron that uniformly absorbs heat from all directions, calf ruffle oil with a high melting point, specially ordered low-sugar breadcrumbs, carefully selected pork, and the skills of an artisan who thoroughly understands the art of deep frying. These elements come together to achieve tonkatsu unlike any other. Through passionate attention to detail, Narikura takes tonkatsu to a whole new dimension.

      Phone: 03-6380-3823

      Address:
      B1F, Ozawa Bldg., 1-32-11, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Monday - Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - L.O. 2:00 pm / Dinner 5:30 pm - L.O. 9:00 pm
      Closed:
      Thursday, Sunday

      Deluxe tonkatsu Sugita特選とんかつ すぎ田

      Phone: 03-3844-5529

      Address:
      3-8-3, Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Monday - Wednesday, Friday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:45 pm) / Dinner 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm (L.O. 8:15 pm)
      Closed:
      Thursday (open if national holiday)

      The pork is domestic and mainly from Chiba Prefecture. It has a more straightforward flavor than most sweet and bitter alternatives.

      Customers top the lean Tonkatsu fillet with Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce or Sugita's homemade tonkatsu sauce.

      The rich, fragrant tonkatsu is fried in two pots at different temperatures using Camelia lard from Holland.

      The restaurant's warm atmosphere is made all the more welcoming by a proudly cared for Japanese cypress counter.

      Only Shinkame sake is served. "Whether it matches the tonkatsu or not, I love this brand," says chef Sato.

      Straightforward excellence

      "I'm more of an artisan than a chef, inching my way toward tonkatsu perfection," says second-generation chef Mitsuo Sato.
      There is nothing particularly unique about his coating or frying technique.
      And he refuses to serve larger cuts just for the sake of being different. "This is food for the masses," he exclaims, "but I strive to make it a delicacy." The flavor indeed achieves his lofty objectives.
      "Of course, the flavor of tonkatsu varies depending on who makes it," Sato notes matter-of-factly. He inherited the spirit of previous generations and approaches tonkatsu earnestly, using only fresh, carefully prepared domestic pork and high-quality lard from the Netherlands for the frying oil. In the past, he experimented with maturing the meat, but decided the flavor didn't match Sugita's standards.
      To prevent the crust from masking the meat's flavor, he makes it extra thin. A golden-brown color and grease-free texture is achieved by dipping the tonkatsu in high-temperature oil, slowly reducing the heat, and then briefly dipping it again in another pot of high-temperature oil.
      The crust fully covers the meat without gaps and is simply overflowing with flavor. A layer of high-quality fat below it melts instantly in your mouth and subtly intermingles with the flavor of the meat. This is the quality that defines Sugita tonkatsu — a delicacy for the masses.

      Phone: 03-3844-5529

      Address:
      3-8-3, Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Monday - Wednesday, Friday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:45 pm) / Dinner 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm (L.O. 8:15 pm)
      Closed:
      Thursday (open if national holiday)

      Agezukiあげづき

      Phone: 03-6265-0029

      Address:
      B1F, Yamanouchi Bldg., 3-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Monday, Wednesday - Sunday, National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm) / [Sunday, National Holidays] Dinner 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm) / [Monday, Wednesday – Friday] Dinner 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm (L.O. 10:00 pm) [Saturday] Dinner 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 10:00 pm)
      Closed:
      Tuesday, Third Wednesday

      Special Roast Katsu. Chef Hoshina assures us that Southern Island Pork with its soft, flavorful meat and melt-in-your-mouth fat is "the best pork you will ever taste".

      Special Fillet Tonkatsu from an uncommon cut of Southern Island Pork unlikely to be served at any other Tokyo restaurant.

      Chef Hoshina always batters his tonkatsu the same way using a special flour and breadcrumb blend for even frying.

      The chef's preference for warmed sake (rice wine) is revealed by his lineup of full-bodied varieties.

      The tables sometimes fill at lunch, but you can reserve one for dinner to try this well-known restaurant without queuing.

      A passionate pursuit

      Shop owner Go Hoshina resolved in his high school days to run a tonkatsu restaurant in the future. After graduating, he interned at a Japanese restaurant to study cooking basics and taught himself how to make tonkatsu. This self-learning mainly consisted of spending most of his salary at well-known tonkatsu restaurants to cultivate his appreciation.
      During his 28 years of making tonkatsu, what impressed Chef Hoshina the most is Southern Island Pork from Miyazaki Prefecture. It's the finest pork he has ever tasted, produced in limited quantities and sold wholesale to only a few prestigious restaurants in Japan. Unwilling to compromise, he arranged to procure the meat for his own esteemed restaurant and serves nothing else.
      When frying tonkatsu, Chef Hoshina stays focused and calls upon vast experience to cook every inch evenly. First he fries the tonkatsu for around 15 minutes at low temperature in an original blend of high-grade oil from Holland. Then he briefly dips the tonkatsu in another pot of higher temperature oil and sets it aside to cook in the residual heat. Since becoming independent seven years ago, he has never stopped taking daily notes on cooking details, temperature, humidity.
      When you bite into his tonkatsu, what first surprises you is the aroma. Unlike oil made from lard, it has a subtle hint of fruit. Flavor and sweetness pour from the meat and the non-greasy fat makes a fleeting impression before dissolving away.
      "My goal is to make the ultimate tonkatsu," says chef Hoshina nonchalantly. He's been pursuing this path for 28 years now and may finally be getting close.

      Phone: 03-6265-0029

      Address:
      B1F, Yamanouchi Bldg., 3-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Monday, Wednesday - Sunday, National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm) / [Sunday, National Holidays] Dinner 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm) / [Monday, Wednesday – Friday] Dinner 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm (L.O. 10:00 pm) [Saturday] Dinner 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 10:00 pm)
      Closed:
      Tuesday, Third Wednesday

      Nomotoのもと家

      Phone: 03-6809-1529

      Address:
      2F, Tamakawa Bldg, 2-3-7 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Weekday, Saturday, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm) / [Weekday, Day before National Holidays] Dinner 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm (L.O. 8:00 pm) * Available while supplies last on a first come, first serve basis
      Closed:
      Sunday, National Holidays (closed for dinner on Saturday)

      Choice thick tonkatsu from Kagoshima Berkshire pork. The lean meat and slightly sweet aromatic fat are so delicious that no seasoning is necessary.

      The standard tonkatsu made from domestic white pork is masterfully prepared and offers outstanding value.

      After frying, he firmly shakes off the oil. Its color and transparency help him assess the condition of the fire.

      It's a restaurant where adults can come alone and enjoy meals quietly. Only tonkatsu set meals are served.

      Kagoshima Berkshire pork. Excess fat is removed from the tonkatsu cuts and other parts are saved for the pork miso soup.

      Real Berkshire tonkatsu

      "People often ask me how long I cook the tonkatsu, what temperature I cook them at and how much I depend on the residual heat. I would grow less tired of answering if I could simply provide numbers," laughs owner Mitsuhiro Iwai. "I've made hundreds of thousands of tonkatsu, if you include my years of training. But I still make new discoveries every time I fry them."
      Battering the meat is easy. But even for this simple dish, the meat must be fried differently depending on its condition. Tonkatsu is profound, like a living thing. After removing it from the oil, he counts backwards while cutting it, arranging it on a plate and carrying it to the table to get the temperature just right before the customer takes a bite. It's a task that only an artisan with vast experience can master.
      How special is extra-thick tonkatsu made with care from Berkshire pork? Every time you take a bite of the 4cm-thick meat, the juices overflow, the flavor surges and your palate is astounded by the quality of the fat. Add some rock salt to reveal the fat's hidden sweetness, or perhaps try wasabi stalks, Kagoshima soy sauce, homemade sauce or a squeeze of lemon.
      It's easy to understand why so many people line up at this one-of-a-kind restaurant. The tonkatsu is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

      Phone: 03-6809-1529

      Address:
      2F, Tamakawa Bldg, 2-3-7 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
      Open:
      [Weekday, Saturday, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm) / [Weekday, Day before National Holidays] Dinner 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm (L.O. 8:00 pm) * Available while supplies last on a first come, first serve basis
      Closed:
      Sunday, National Holidays (closed for dinner on Saturday)

      *Articles are written based on information available at the time of publication.

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