Deep fried experience
The Japanese have always gone to fanatical lengths to make the simplest food an exquisite experience. Similar to New Yorkers’ obsession with the deli sandwich, or our own infatuation with the Hong Kong-style milk tea, few dishes, no matter how humble, have escaped the Japanese's devotion to connoisseurship. So it was with high expectations that we entered Ginza Bairin, the latest outpost of the famed tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurant in Japan. Established in 1927, it's been serving choice cuts of kurobuta (premium pork), breaded and deep fried to a golden brown, for decades. As a self-proclaimed tonkatsu junkie, I make special trips to Katsu Kura whenever I am in Kyoto or Tokyo and grab tonkatsu sandwiches from Maisen. Just last month I dined at Ginza Bairin’s Honolulu branch.
The Hong Kong branch is airy and spacious – dark wooden floors contrast with light beechwood tables. Most menu items range from $60 to $160, making this a good choice for families.
The menu is extensive, and mostly offers different variations of tonkatsu or deep-fried stuff, such as their famous rosu katsu don ($138), the piece de resistance by which tonkatsu restaurants are judged.
The rosu katsu don is a gourmet version of the omnipresent deep-fried black pork fillet with pan-fried egg on rice with “secret sauce”. All things considered, it was a decent version, but unfortunately no sparks. The rice used was of high quality – translucent short grain. The sweet soya base was aromatic and the soft egg cooked just right – silky and a bit runny. However, the pork fell short of expectations; instead of a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, it was a bit on the dry side. The flavourful panko coating was not able to work its magic as it was saturated with the sauce.
The hire katsu set ($148) is a better choice. The thick fillet was more tender to the bite, and not too oily. It offered a more complex experience simply because there was so much more to taste – the crunch of the coating, the tanginess of the dipping sauce, the refreshing addition of shredded cabbage and, of course, the warm rice. Ginza Bairin’s secret sauce is similar to most run-of-the-mill tonkatsu sauces in appearance. But taste it with your chopstick and it has a more fruity flavour than most (the sauce uses apples), which adds an interesting kick. It was nice to wash the whole thing down with the accompanying tianjiru (miso soup with pork). So in the end, I enjoyed the thinned hire katsu most. I paired mine with a cold Inaniwa udon. The meat was lean, the dish providing a great contrast of taste to the slurping of the udon. For reasonable prices in a relatively upscale mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, it’s a good choice, though it will not rock diehard connoisseurs. Leslie Chan
B1, Shop 24, K11, 18 Hanoi Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, 3122 4128.
Daily noon-10.30pm. Meal for two: around $400.
|Venue name:||Ginza Bairin|
B1, Shop 24, K11, 18 Hanoi Rd
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