If you’re only gonna serve one thing – you better do it well.
I’ve been eating a lot of good food recently here in Tokyo. Of course, the city isn’t short of options. You could probably eat in a different restaurant every day for the rest of your life and never get through them all. Obviously there are websites dedicated to rating the best spots – and I recently bought Miss IKIMASHO! a book for her birthday entitled ‘Tokyo Eatrip’, so we are never short of new ideas of places to go to. One such place, simply called Tonki, is within walking distance of my work in Meguro and so we decided to go check it out one Friday night.
I always said that if I opened my own restaurant I would just want to serve one thing. Limiting the menu is always a risk, but it’s easier, less hassle, and if you manage to do it right, people will be queueing out the door. Tonki is a prime example of this concept – basically only serving one thing: tonkatsu, deep-fried pork cutlet. Now, I’ve always had a love affair with tonkatsu. It’s my go-to comfort food here in Japan – essentially just a piece of pork fried in breadcrumbs, served with plain white rice and miso soup. My family has a lot of connections with Switzerland, and so as a kid I would chomp away on wiener schnitzel, a similar dish made from veal. I guess this could be where my love for tonkatsu comes from.
Anyway, back to Tonki. We had heard this place was popular, and so to play it safe we arrived about 5pm, an hour after it opened. Luckily, we didn’t have to queue and were seated straight away. Those who arrived at 6pm had to wait about an hour to be seated. It has to be said though, that even when you are seated you still have to wait a fair bit. Each piece of meat is fried to order – with staff in the open kitchen calmly preparing shredded cabbage onto plates as the cutlets fry away. (Soup and cabbage you can eat as much as you want of.)
As far as taste goes, it was the best tonkatsu I have ever had. Despite being fried, it almost felt healthy as there was no oil or grease. The tomato served wth it was of really high quality, and the miso soup had really good flavour. Just go easy on the mustard though. Seriously, that stuff blew my head off.
Just like after watching a movie, I always like to read a bit more about a restaurant after I have visited it. In some reviews, many complained that Tonki has now become too popular – with many tourists lining to up to try. It’s a double-edged sword this one. Yes, it was busy when we went, and yes, some of them were tourists. But when a place has been serving the same thing over and over again since 1939, it means they are damn good at it. And so of course people are going to want to try. I’m glad I did.
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