Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Katsuhiro

Location: Katsuhiro
Rating: Excellent
Meal:  Lunch for 2
Price:  2,000 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes:Tonkatsu Teishoku
English Menu: No
Smoking: Yes

No English, but you'll like whatever you point at
 Katsuhiro is a tonkatsu restaurant located between the Main and Womble gates of the base on road 16.  My first memory of this place was soon after arriving, we were walking back from our first dinner off base (Ringer Hut) and we walked by this little hole in the wall with a wooden sign above it.  There were 3 or 4 people standing outside taking pictures of it after having finished their dinner.  One of them exclaimed:  "Oh?  Was that your first time?"

There are lots of tonkatsu places around town which are pretty good, some not so good.  But for the pure manifestation of tonkatsu (pounded, breaded, deep fried pork), nothing beats Katsuhiro.  There is only the one chef, and he's obviously been doing this a long time.  He has it down to a very precise, but slow, science.  


Slowness and slight discomfort are the only two downsides to this place.  You had better plan for at least an hour and possibly more if you get behind the queue.  The most number of parallel dishes I've seen prepared is 4.  We arrived today behind two others and were worried we'd be there longer than usual, but luckily we got in as he was getting the others ready, so there were four dishes done at the same time.  Any more than that would probably have to wait until he was done before getting to order.  I thought he opened at 12pm prompt, but apparently he let these other two in early.  He didn't even have his pole with green noren out yet.  The other issue is comfort...there is only bar seating, with a narrow strip of tatami for your bum, and nothing to lean against.  I have to squirm about periodically to keep comfortable, but at least there's a place for your feet to go under.  One other thing is that smoking is permitted, and it's so small that if even one person decides to smoke, you'll be subjected to it as well.  In the 5 or 6 times I've eaten there, I've only had it happen twice.


There is no english menu, which is fine, because the cook pretty much assumes you'll be wanting the same thing every other gaijin wants:  the Tonkatsu Teishoku.  If you want anything different, be very clear (and possibly speak up...he might be a little deaf).  But really, the tonkatsu is amazing.  The lunch special is a rosukatsu (fatty pork) tonkatsu for 1000 yen.  Very hard to beat, and it's amazing.  In addition to the usual slab of fried pork, you get deliciously battered bites of apple, carrot, and whatever else he has prepared that day.   There is a small cabbage salad with different greens on top, a little bit of pickled cabbage (very salty) and some other small slices of vegetables.  The miso soup is unique and quite delicious, using what I'm pretty sure is a pork broth base instead of dashi.  If you are obviously foreign (read:  white or black), you will probably get a smaller than normal serving of rice.  I chose to forgive this micro-racism the first time I invited someone who ended up not eating their entire bowl of rice.  I was mortified, but couldn't say anything.  Just ask for more if you eat it all and he'll serve it up.

When he serves you, don't do anything until he tells you to start.  He will grind up some sesame seeds, pour in some sauce, and pour salad dressing and sauce over the salad.  Then he'll motion that you can start eating.  A polite "itadakimasu" is in order ("I gratefully receive this food").   The sauce used looks like a typical tonkatsu sauce, which I don't usually like as it is very vinegary.  But there is something special about his sauce.  I don't know if he makes it himself or not, but it wouldn't surprise me.  It's tart without being sour somehow..

If you want to try something else, there's menchi katsu (minced meat deep fried), chicken katsu, steak don, oyster (kaki), and ebi (shrimp) fry.  All are typically accompanied by the same stuff I think, so whatever you get will be incredible I am sure.

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