Saturday, November 7, 2009

In pursuit of the Katsu: Tonkichi

with Eddie and Ken

Katsu, or breaded pork cutlet is one dish I am quite fond of...and I find myself eating katsu fairly often, though it has not really turned into a quest in the same manner like the series on steaks, or the series on ramen, I find myself with enough material to do one.

My gold standard is set by Katsukura in Tokyo. And personal bests in Singapore are found at Tampopo or at Tom Ton. (both owned by the same Japanese gentleman). And another favourite, since their first store in Isetan Scotts, and more recently in Suntec City and Ngee Ann City. I noted they opened up a new store at Orchard Central, and since it is literally a stone's throw away from my office, we decided to have lunch.

The decor was pleasing...the interior of the restaurant was bright. The menu looked different from the other outlets' and feature kurobuta. The Japanese black pig is one of my favourites when it comes to pork...usually very tender, bursting with flavour, and typically includes a generous marbling of fat...this is superior pork.

I spied that the menu had something I have never tried before...kurobuta layed pork katsu.

What is that, I enquired to the Japanese waitress...who struggled to, she muttered...ah so des neh, I go...what means, layered...err...layered...she repeated...hmm. So that was that...the menu said this was their best katsu...and having liked their regular katsu before, I put myself at the chef's hands and ordered the layered kurobuta katsu.

It turned out to be exactly as the waitress said...kurobuta pork was sliced thinly, then rolled up to look like a piece of pork chop. The roll is battered, and deep fried. As can be seen in the picture above, the layers of sliced pork is evident. Tastewise, it was rather more tender...offering less resistance to the bite than a regular rosukatsu. I imagine the cut of pork used had some fairly generous measure of marbling...judging from the flavour and texture, but it is difficult to detect the fat from a visual inspection. The batter was very crisp, slightly hard even, and as is typical of good and great katsu, there was no hint of grease on it...somehow the Japanese has mastered the art of deep frying to achieve crispiness, and sealing in flavours, while keeping the crisp batter dry and grease free.

Ken had the mixed curry...comprising of a breaded deep fried prawn, a slice of rosukatsu, and a slice of deep fried breaded minced pork.

The curry was thick, rich type...complete with chunks of potatos, and sinews of pork. I didn't try the dish, but had a small piece of the minced pork to was very good. Brings back memories when Tampopo used to serve kurobuta minced pork in a katsu-style batter. Excellent.

So final conclusions...satisfying...yes! unseat my personal bests? not quite. The quality and taste of the pork at the Tampopo/Tom Ton are still better...of course the gold standard set by Katsukura remains golden. But Tonkichi's katsus are way better than Ginza Bairin I recently reviewed, and many, many others. Stay tuned for more katsu tastings.

Tonkichi - Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road, #07-06
Orchard Central
Singapore 238896
Tel: 62387976
Fax: 62387312
11.00 am to 11.00 pm

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