Maisen Tonkatsu is often regarded as serving the best tonkatsu in Japan. It was one of my favorite bites from our trip and the restaurant I look most to forward to revisiting. I’d recommend coming here even if you’ve never been a huge fan of tonkatsu.Tonkatsu is a Japanese-style, breaded and deep fried pork cutlet and the version we had at Maisen Tonkatsu is in a class of itself. I think it is pretty common that when you travel overseas, there is the inevitable comparing of the popular version of signature foods for that country with the supposed authentic versions you’ve had in your own country. We made this comparison for nearly everything we tried: mochi, ramen, sushi, etc. And for the most part, while it’s hard to ever beat eating the food in its country of origin, the versions in Japan weren’t usually too drastically different from the versions I’ve eaten in the US. The one exception though, was tonkatsu. What we had at Maisen was nothing remotely like any of the tonkatsu we’ve consumed in the US.
The restaurant has several locations and we visited the one in Tokyo Station. This location is not nearly as crowded so we didn’t have to wait, but the lighting was dim. I hope to visit the original location in the future, as it is a much larger space with more natural light as well.
We initially had trouble finding the restaurant. Despite it having an English name, the English name was not written at the front of the restaurant. Once seated, you are handed a heavy menu book. For a restaurant specializing in tonkatsu, I was surprised by how many pages were in the book. The restaurant offers several breeds and brands of pork for their tonkatsu and you can find out more about each one in their menu. They also offer either a loin cut or fillet cut for each type of pork. The loin is often recommended as it’s a little fattier but also more flavorful.
Kurobuta Fried Pork Loin set
All of my research on Maisen prior to my visit pointed me towards ordering the Kurobuta Fried Pork Loin, which is also the most expensive one. Kurobuta is known as Japanese black pork. It’s a pure breed of Berkshire pork with a unique texture and fragrance. If you don’t feel the need for rice or miso soup, you can actually order just the pork loin without the set and save some money.
Tonkatsu is traditionally served with shredded raw cabbage. The restaurant also provides two dipping sauces: Worcester and a special tonkatsu sauce.
Here is a close-up of the pork. For me, two things really stood out about this. The most obvious is the pork. Thick-cut, juicy, flavorful and lightly fragrant. However, what I enjoyed the most was the breading. Like all traditional tonkatsu, the pork is coated with panko and fried. And yet, I’ve never tasted a breading quite like this. The panko was whispery light and produced the most satisfying crunch. It also didn’t feel or taste the least bit greasy.
Another thing we learned from eating here, is that the Japanese really love their raw cabbage. We saw this sign, but weren’t able to take advantage of it. While we did take a few bites of the raw cabbage to help cut into the heaviness of the pork, we weren’t able to finish an entire mound. However, we saw several tables around us ordering second and thirds of just the cabbage!
Deep Fried Selection Set
For variety sake, we thought to order something else. This was a nice combination of vegetables and seafood if you don’t eat or like pork, but it was underwhelming after tasting the tonkatsu.
I loved the tonkatsu so much, that I requested a second order. Just the tonkatsu this time! Mr. K thought I was a little crazy, but I reasoned that I wanted to eat my fill and not think about it longingly for the rest of the trip, and who knew when we’d return? So we ordered another one, to our server’s amusement. Mr. K was already full by this point, so I ate the entire order by myself. And it was quite satisfying.
Overall, this was one of our most memorable meals from Japan and I definitely recommend trying out Maisen Tonkatsu. I didn’t get a chance to try every tonkatsu restaurant in Japan so I can’t say it’s the best in Japan, but I can say that it is nothing like any version I’ve had in California. They also are quite English friendly, with English menus and English speaking staff.
Tip: If you visit the Tokyo Station location, look for this sign:
Japan, 〒100-6701 Tokyo, Chiyoda, Marunouchi, 1−9−1 大丸東京店 12F