Tonkatsu Nanaido
Photo: Lim Chee WahTonkatsu Nanaido

10 best tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo for golden deep-fried pork

These restaurants serve some of the best fried-and-tested pork cutlets, or tonkatsu, in Tokyo

Lim Chee Wah
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Tonkatsu is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine. These breaded and deep-fried cutlets are usually offered in two cuts: the clean-tasting lean fillet (known as 'hire'), and the fattier loin (called 'rosu') which has more flavour. On top of that, many tonkatsu specialists are also offering heirloom pork at a premium price. 

Enjoy your cutlet with a drizzle of the tonkatsu sauce, which is basically made up of ketchup, Worcestershire and soy sauce – it sometimes comes in a spicy variant, too. You'll be glad to know that tonkatsu is often a filling meal, as a standard set comes with rice, miso soup, thinly sliced cabbage and pickles. More often than not, the rice and cabbage are refillable.   

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  • Japanese
  • Harajuku

The deep-fried pork cutlets at Tonkatsu Nanaido are textbook perfect: gently deep-fried in lard on low temperature, coated in a golden layer of crispy panko breadcrumbs that’s never oily, and featuring premium pork cuts that are tender and still oozing juices. Plus, they are served on gorgeous Imari porcelain plates. Everything is well executed, refined but still unpretentious; it’s honest good tonkatsu that perhaps deserves more than just its Bib Gourmand rating.

Tonkatsu Nanaido uses several types of brand pork. The selection changes from time to time, but we’ve seen Tokyo-X as well as the famous Hayashi SPF (‘Specific Pathogen Free’) pork from Chiba prefecture. All is served with shredded cabbage (refillable, of course), rice cooked in earthenware, pickles, miso soup as well as three condiments: mustard, pink salt and the beautiful house-blended tonkatsu sauce that has a hint of plum.

  • Japanese
  • Jiyugaoka

Tonkatsuya Sato is known for its use of coarse panko breadcrumbs in the coating for a fuller and crispier mouthfeel. The pork cutlets are fried to a mouth-watering golden goodness and, more importantly, are dry on the outside, without a lick of grease. The meat, on the other hand, remains beautifully tender and juicy. With the set meal, you’ll get a big pile of fresh and crisp sliced cabbage on the side as relief from all that meatiness, plus rice, pickles and miso soup.

Tonkatsuya Sato offers both rosu and hire cuts in a few different qualities of pork, including the premium SPF (Specific Pathogen Free) Peach Pork from Towadako Kogen Farm in Akita prefecture. The finest thick-cut loin (250g) set meal will set you back ¥3,000 while the top-shelf fillet set meal (three pieces, 150g) costs ¥2,800. However, even the regular loin set meal is good enough and priced at only ¥1,400, which is a good deal for a Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated restaurant. 

 

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  • Japanese
  • Nihonbashi

Renowned tonkatsu outlet Nihonbashi Tonkatsu Hajime has opened its second venue just a two-minute walk away from its first. The original location, which opened in May 2022, is wildly popular for its chunky deep-fried pork cutlets served with an omelette on rice – so much so that the queue can sometimes stetch to three hours long during peak times.

Here at Hajime Hanare, pork is still the main attraction, and you'll find three types on the menu: a premium Yongenton pork that’s been aged for ten days, whey-fed pork from Hokkaido, and Kobe premium pork that’s been raised on bread and mineral water. All three are prepared in two or three different ways depending on whether you want a rice bowl or set meal. So yes, you can also get the deep-fried pork and egg rice bowl that propelled them to culinary stardom here at this new outlet.

Many visit this restaurant for the atsugiri yaki katsudon (from ¥1,980), which features a thick slab of pork that’s almost triple the size of your average tonkatsu. If you’re lucky, you can even try the premium atsugiri rib eye yaki katsudon (from ¥2,480) – this one has an even richer taste and is only available in limited quantities.

  • Ochanomizu

A humble Ogawamachi eatery that's earned a Bib Gourmand honour from the Michelin guide, Ponchi-ken's perfect pork loin cutlets draw enthusiasts from all across Japan, so you’re bound to find a long queue come lunchtime. But the wait is worth it: the first bite is crispy, but you’ll soon taste the juices from the lean Okinawan-bred pork. We recommend the thicker fillet cutlet, and do add on some of the slightly spicy 'special sauce' along with a sprinkling of French salt; the latter has been mixed with nori for an extra umami kick.

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  • Japanese
  • Ginza

From the folks behind the Michelin-starred crab speciality restaurant Kitafuku comes a unique restaurant that elevates tonkatsu (deep-fried breaded pork) from a casual meal to an omakase experience. And with prices that won’t break the bank: lunch costs as little as ¥3,800 while dinner starts from an affordable ¥7,700.

The restaurant uses two types of pork: Yonezawa-buta Ichiban Sodachi, which has a good balance of umami and sweetness, and local Tokyo X-buta, favoured for its sweet, juicy fat. The pork is served fresh off the fryer, piece by piece, like a set course meal, and the chef will recommend the best condiment for each one. It’s an eye-opening experience exploring the various flavours and textures of pork, and you can really taste the difference from cut to cut.

  • Nishi-Azabu

Set in a beautiful traditional Japanese house, Butagami offers an encyclopaedia-like menu of brand pork. It lists more than 20 varieties of largely Japanese premium pork. There are Imo-buta from Chiba, Akan pork from Hokkaido, Hyo-on two-month aged pork from Gumma... and it goes on, with the varieties and cuts listed from lean to fat. Who knew there’s so much to pork?

For those who aren’t a pork connoisseur, the entry-level Ryuka-ton from Okinawa is a good place to start. The lean fillet we had was cooked perfectly. It was crisp on the outside without any trace of oily residue; the meat, though had a slightly dry mouthfeel, was so tender that it ate almost like duck.

Butagumi has a sister restaurant that is more casual at Roppongi Hills. The menu here is relatively more limited, but prices are also more affordable, with lunch starting at ¥1,200 (dinner from ¥1,500).

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  • Japanese
  • Ryogoku

A Bib Gourmand-rated restaurant in the latest Michelin guide, Ryogoku stalwart Tonkatsu Hasegawa uses premium Hiraboku Sangenton pork from Yamagata. The house-made panko breadcrumbs are outstanding as well – they produce a golden crispy crust that is light and never oily.

The lunch and dinner menus are similar, but for lunch, certain sets (which come with rice, miso soup and pickles) are offered at a lower price. For example, a regular pork-loin cutlet meal is ¥1,450 at lunch, instead of ¥1,800 for dinner (although the dinner portion is slightly bigger).

But if you’re looking go the whole hog, so to speak, get the super deluxe pork-loin cutlet meal (¥2,800 for 180g; pictured). The thick slab of pork is beautifully marbled while the creamy white fat is meltingly good and packs lots of umami flavour.

  • Meguro

Opened in 1939, there’s nothing radical or new about what Tonki does, but what it does, it does very well indeed, from the lip-smacking tonjiru (pork and miso soup) to the fiery blob of mustard. There are two main options, both breaded and fried pork with rice and trimmings. The difference is that one cut of pork (the rosu-katsu) is fattier than the other; the lean meat (hire-katsu) is no less delicious.

Make sure you snag a counter seat on the ground floor (the second floor features table seatings fit for groups) – that’s where you get to watch the chefs at work, churning out perfectly browned cutlets like a well-oiled machine.

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  • Takadanobaba

Ton-kyu's drawcard is the tokusen rosu teishoku ('specially selected loin cutlet set’); it uses Hayashi SPF pork, a brand variety from Chiba prefecture famed for its flavourful fat. It's still surprisingly light – especially if you eat it with the ponzu sauce and grated daikon. One quirky detail is the 'Neapolitan' spaghetti, a small portion of which are served with all cutlets.

If you don't mind spending a little more, go for the tokusen hire katsu teishoku – the highest-quality fillet. Only two portions of it can be cut from one animal. The batter for this one is finer than the one used for the loin and coats the cutlet thinner. All sets include a choice of either tonjiru (pork-based miso soup) or red miso soup with shijimi clams.

  • Shinbashi

The family-owned restaurant has hardly changed since opening in 1950, making it a piece of living (and delicious) history. For three generations, the Ma family has specialised in serving juicy tonkatsu to hungry locals. Enraku’s tour de force is their rosu (loin) katsu teishoku – a set of tonkatsu, shredded cabbage, rice, creamy potato salad, pickled vegetables and hearty miso soup. Their Sangenton heirloom pork tenderloin from Yamagata is leaner and lighter than at most places, but also tastes gloriously fatty.

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