Thursday, May 17, 2012
When in Japan...Eat Tonkatsu!
Wako - Ark Hills 3F, 1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-6003 Japan
As I hinted at the end of last week, I'm currently in Tokyo Japan. Yes...really, Tokyo! I was so excited at the prospect of working here this week, and it's totally lived up to my expectations. And then some.
I'll be keeping you updated about my adventures, and wanted to start today with something a little different than the sushi feasts you're expecting, and that is Tonkatsu. A fried pork cutlet, it's a pretty popular specialty in Japan that was really unique and different, but at the same time provided a hint of familiarity.
We tried Tonkatsu at a typical basement mall restaurant called Wako in the lovely Roppongi Hills neighborhood.
Located in the Hollywood Plaza building, Wako is situated in the basement, along with a lot of other shops and restaurants, many of them being traditional Japanese, but also some that are international chains. After some research, I found out that Wako is also a chain, but a Japanese based one with about six country-wide locations.
The decor inside is modern and simplistic, similar to other Japanese restaurants I've encountered so far. You'll notice a lot of sleek wooden furniture, large lamps, minimalist artwork and a few token plants that showcase the Japanese respect for nature. You can't help but feel serene and peaceful even before sitting down and ordering.
We came for the tonkatsu (pork cutlets) of course, but tried other fried goodies such as chicken and shrimp as well. As is customary, our plates were accompanied by other small dishes such as a slaw salad, miso soup, rice, pickled radish and various sauces.
Tonkatsu Platters - As we both wanted tonkatsu, we each ordered it in the form of a combination platter, mine containing a pork/veggie mixture, shrimp and chicken, while my colleague Sumie's included a special chicken cutlet with a sliver of sweet plum in the middle.
I enjoyed all the fried goodness in general, as all the meat had a really crunchy, airy crust that wasn't greasy. The meat inside (in all instances) was tender and delicious, and I especially enjoyed the pork hybrid cutlet I mentioned above. It was the most interesting, and I think the veggies added something unique and earthy to it.
While this dish is generally pretty heavy, due to its fried nature, there was plenty of stuff to cut the richness, such as the delicious veggies, especially the fresh slaw and the soy-based sauces that went on top. I loved eating the tonkatsu and then cleansing my palate with the crunchy slaw or the pickled radish that further excited my senses.
Service and Cost:
The service was really good and I'm still amazed at how polite and kind everyone here is. There's nothing like observing the pleasantries that happen between the fellow Japanese folks and the beautiful way in which they express themselves. It's fascinating! But on top of that, everything was delivered to us in a prompt way and the service was very precise and thoughtful.
Costs are really moderate for all the food you get and set us back about $35 total - no tip needed! Arigatou gozaimashita.