When I holidayed in Tokyo, I stayed at the Citadines Shinjuku, which is more like some service apartments than a regular hotel. The rooms are bigger than average but the location isn’t that awesome. Or so I thought. Foodwise, it was probably better than the quiet streets let on. It’s also a stones throw from Kabukicho one way and Yotsuya the other. Anyway, I was looking for a tonkatsu place somewhere in Shinjuku. Turns out I was in luck because there are a few good options in the area, including Katsukura, Saboten and Suzuya plus a few more. The first featured grind your own sesame seeds for the sauce. The second apparently pioneered the rolled sliced version of tonkatsu, with 25 layers of pork and the last features chazuke tonkatsu. Regardless, I didn’t even want to bother to muster up the willpower to walk more than 100m that night, so I kinda lucked it by picking out a place with a 3.5+ rating on tabelog at the time I ate there. It was like 50m away. Perfect.

That little place turns out to be Katsusei and it was to become my best tonkatsu ever. We enter on a weekday night, there’s only one table of 4 enjoying themselves whilst we, a group of foreigners come in and the husband and wife realize we can’t speak much Japanese at all. Thankfully, they’ve got fake food on display, so we start to think, kurobuta probably. My dad kinda wanted to get the mixed set, with some prawns but eventually, this guy from another table suggests we don’t get the kurobuta for 2500yen and get the Iwate pork instead for just 2000yen. The chef also agrees and tells us it’s basically the #1 pork in all Japan. So why is it cheaper?

I dunno but we end up getting 3 Iwate and 2 kurobuta. Then comes the surprise. I tend to like small restaurants which do things very simply and Katsusei falls into that exact category. They do a few options besides just tonkatsu but I’m sure their tonkatsu is the main draw. Anyway, the chef starts to pull out these massive slabs of pork loin from the undercounter fridge and slices an inch thick portion each time. 3 Iwate, 2 kurobuta. I can’t really tell too much of a difference looking at the raw meat but I can tell they’re extremely firm, there’s absolutely no discolouration and there’s a healthy marbling of fat. Also, he fucking portioned it to order man! Nobody does that! Maybe in Japan they do but not many I’m sure. That’s definitely one way to reduce spoilage and retain quality of meat. Keep it whole.

Anyway, the guy crumbs the stuff and drops them into the fryer, marking out the kurobutas with toothpicks and then apologising and imploring us to be patient as it takes some time to cook. I know good tonkatsu takes time and I’m just exploding with glee from ogling the produce he’d produced earlier anyway. It takes like 20+ minutes and that’s just the low temp. fryer first. He then transfers to the higher temp. for crisping up and finishing but the colour is a very pale golden and exceptionally clean in appearance and smell. Meanwhile his wife is plating up the rest of the stuff, which includes some nice pickles, rice, soup and cabbage. The sauce is nothing fancy, pretty standard tonkatsu sauce served in a big plastic jug on the counter which you help yourself to.

I turn over a piece of pork and take some photos but I really just wanna smash that shit right there. It looked so good. It tasted so good. Oh man. Iwate pork. I don’t know if it’s the best but it was pretty damn bloody good in my book. I really really liked it. It wasn’t fall apart tender. It had bite, it had some chew and it had just about the perfect proportion of fat to meat. It was sick. I couldn’t believe this shit was 2000yen. Last year, I went to a big chain, Maisen, which is pretty famous and popular and it was double the price but what was pretty much straight up inferior and even then, that was already awesome. This Iwate pork though, from little Katsusei, was nothing short of better. The kurobuta, on the other hand, had more fat but also a bit of sinew to counter. Maybe it just felt chewier because there was more fat so you notice the sinewy tissue between the meat and fat more. It was good but by golly, the Iwate was on another level. Seriously, pay less and get better concept!

If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Shinjuku-gyoenmae, you owe it to yourself to skip the big joints and go to Katsusei, which is run by a Harley obsessed gentleman who’s clearly not bothered about pushing a profit. He’s just in it because he’s passing time and enjoying his twilight years and you should enjoy that too.

More than the absurd value proposition that the meal offered, I had a great time because of the hospitality of the owners, which was friendly and jovial despite the language barrier. The old dude was reminiscing about trying to fit his Harley into the shop but it was too big to get through the doors. He must’ve knew I really enjoyed my meal. My face must’ve said it all when I put that first piece in my mouth, eyes closed, nose hissing in delight and a smirk growing across. Shit is that good son. Best get prepared.

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