Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Katsu-gen - Marunouchi Building, Tokyo

A big lunch after soaking up all the history in kokyo gyoen.

This was a nice restaurant in Marubiru (Marunouchi Building), which is a very stylish upmarket office/shopping center in Chiyoda-ku. They only serve traditional Japanese katsu (pork/chicken/beef cutlets). A high-class one, in fact.

Glancing at the menu (which is written entirely in classical Japanese, which made me scratch my head a few times, not to mention asking the waitress the meaning of some words several times), I had no idea there are tons of varieties of katsu. Using what unexceptional Japanese ability I had to full strength, I tried to decipher the array of tonkatsu varieties offered in this restaurant. And soon, I realized that the variety of tonkatsu they serve is based on the origin of the tonkatsu. Since this is Tokyo, their speciality is kanto-style tonkatsu. I was actually thinking of ordering a kanto-style tonkatsu, but what the hell. I decided to be more adventurous and try a Chuubu-style tonkatsu instead.

Besides, given the prominence of Kanto region in Japan and its popularity and commonplace-ness in the world, a Kanto-style tonkatsu might be what the rest of the world consider a 'regular-type' tonkatsu after all. I've probably eaten those common tonkatsu like, billions of times anyways.

Note to Cla: If I may be so bold to announce, I think I've found a tonkatsu much better than Tonkichi's. What the hey, it's not better than Tonkichi. It's much much much mucho mucho 1000x better than Tonkichi's!





According to Japanese ideology and culture, a big part of having a nice meal in a nice place is appreciating the utsuwa (tableware/crockery). In fact, it's not un-common to see some Japanese tilt their dishes to take a peek at the brand / mark at the bottom.
"Yo no bi" (Beauty of/through use), that's what they say.




After serving the sencha (tea), they brought the beautiful vessel containing tonkatsu sauce and a small pot of karashi (horseradish). From what I understand, half of the reputation of a tonkatsu-ya (tonkatsu restaurant) depends upon their accomplishments in making delicious sauces. That's why tonkatsu sauce is an integral part of the meal and its presentation must be taken to utmost care.




These small jugs contain dressing for the shaved cabbage, an ideal accompaniment to a tonkatsu meal. They served goma mayonnaise (sesame mayonnaise) and yuzu (citrus) dressing.




The shaved cabbage is served before the tonkatsu. A small plate is provided so that guests can place a small portion cabbage and dress it. That way, you can try all the different dressings.




Echigo rosu katsu zen

-> First of all, let me explain the name. Echigo is the old-timey name for Niigata prefecture in the Chuubu region of Japan. Rosu means loin. Most Japanese tonkatsu is made from two types of cuts, either rosu (loin) or hire (tenderloin). Hire has better texture and tenderness, but for aroma and taste, nothing beats rosu. Zen just means "small tray" or "meal set". You see why was I confused by the language? I mean, regular restaurants could just call it "Niigata rosu katsu teishoku", which means exactly the same as "Echigo rosu katsu zen", but in everyday language - and I would understand it perfectly.




The tsukemono (pickles) and two small pots containing a salt-pepper-sesame powder, and a mystery powder I could not identify.




The rosu katsu. It was such perfection, and I'm not being over-the-top here. It's simply the most delicious tonkatsu I've ever tasted, and honest to God, I almost cried tears of joy when I sunk my teeth into this beautiful cut of meat. What can I say? The texture is perfect. Notice how the meat glisten. A perfect fat-to-meat ratio (as expected from Japanese pork), and it's perfectly fried you can't even tell it's fried. It's crispy, moist and tender. Truly a memorable dish!

At almost 3000 yen, it isn't cheap, but well worth it!




Asari no aka misoshiru
(Clams red miso soup)

-> This red miso soup has clams to enhance its flavour. The clam meat is too small to eat, and it's not supposed to be eaten. A unique twist to your regular miso soup (well, maybe not so in Japan, but it's the first time I've seen anything like this).




Shirasu boshi
(semi-dried anchovies)

-> This is unlike anything I've tasted before. These small fishes are really big in flavor, as soon as you chew them, you can notice several flavor on its undertone. I'd say, mostly like tea, citrus, and clove. It's strangely delicious. Maybe it's a Niigata speciality.

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