Right before Christmas, we took a weekend trip to Tokyo to see my grandparents, who lived there for 30+ years. We had a free night for dinner and I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Tonki’s — a restaurant I remember vividly from my visits to Japan as a child to visit my grandparents and still my cousin’s favorite restaurant in the entire world. The Mr. had never been and I would venture to say that it is now one of his favorite restaurants.
Tonki’s has an open kitchen surrounded by a beautiful cedar bar. My grandfather thinks it was started right after World War II to cater to the GIs and it’s still popular with foreigners although we were the only toeheads at the counter on the night we dined.
And they really only serve one thing: tonkatsu or deep-fried pork cutlet. Kushi-katsu has some fatty meat as it is a boneless pork chop. Hire-katsu is only lean meat or pork tenderloin. The meals come with rice, miso soup (which not surprisingly has pork pieces in it!) and Japanese pickles (I am OBSESSED with Japanese pickles!) Or you can just get the meat skewered with onions. That’s it. No salads here.
Tonki’s is a male-only, family-ran establishment and grandpa rules the roost! He deep fries the cutlets and slices them as well. No one else is allowed!
Oh how I love grandpa!! It seems he hasn’t aged at all since I was last here when I was 19! Even though the cutlet is deep-fried in giant vats, there is not a drop of oil or grease to be found on the end product. I don’t know how they do that, but they have been doing it for decades. It really makes you think: maybe it is better to just do one thing, literally, and do that one thing really well.
Ooh and that spicy mustard is delicious. And I got thirds of that cabbage… it’s so fresh and crispy–the perfect compliment to the pork. Check out this video of the breading, battering and frying in action… (I have never seen women working at Tonki’s–I think maybe they help with serving during rush hour, but I highly doubt they touch the pork.)
Here my grandfather is right before diving in. Being a pseudo-local, he is trying to pretend like he doesn’t know his tourist granddaughter who is photographing every inch of the restaurant… this is a serious place. People are all about the eating. At times, it’s so quiet you really could hear a chopstick drop. People come, they order, they eat, they grunt, they leave happy.
If you are ever in Tokyo, I say Tonki’s is a MUST! If you’re Hong Kong based and looking for the best Tonkatsu here, I reccomend Ginza Bairin–although equally delicious… it’s a bit different than Tonki’s. At Tonki’s the meat floats in the shell–there is a lot of empty space in it–whereas at Ginza the batter sticks to the pork. They also offer the tonkatsu in rice bowls with an egg cracked on top. American readers, do you know of anywhere good to get tonkatsu in the States?
Tonki is located at 1-2 Shimo-meguro 1-chome, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. (West side of Meguro Station) They are open from 4:00PM – 11:00/11:30 PM (Last Order is 10:45 PM). They are closed on Tuesdays, and the third Monday of every month.