Monday, June 1, 2015

Mr. Tonkatsu

Hailed as one of the most popular “western style” Japanese food in Japan, "tonkatsu" are thick slices of pork that are breaded and deep-fried in a manner similar to German schnitzel. The term "tonkatsu" comes from the word "katsu" meaning cutlet and "tonkatsu" meaning breaded and fried cutlet (not to be confused with “tonkotsu” which is pork bone broth). In Japan, tonkatsu are usually served as a set meal with shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, miso soup and pickles. The slices of tonkatsu is accompanied by tonkatsu sauce - think Japanese BBQ sauce - which can either be drizzled over the tonkatsu or poured on the side for dipping. Tonkatsu is a very common dish that can be found at a variety of restaurants across Japan because 1) it's tasty, and 2) a regular tonkatsu dish typically cost around 800 to 1500 yen (or $8 to $15 CAD). Very affordable. Tonkatsu is also very popular in Korea as the dish was brought to the country when it was under Japanese rule from 1910-1945. Over time, Korea developed its own styles and interpretations of tonkatsu (i.e. cheese katsu, kimchi cheese katsu, sweet potato katsu, etc.)

With the basics out of the way, let me now introduce you to Mr. Tonkatsu.

Opened earlier this year at 520 Bloor St. W., Mr. Tonkatsu specializes in *surprise* tonkatsu! While tonkatsu is by far the most popular katsu dish on the menu, Mr. Tonkatsu also serves other katsu variations made of chicken, fish, and beef. Also available are katsudon (tonkatsu and eggs cooked in seasoned dashi over rice) and katsu burgers (sandwich with tonkatsu as filling, weekday lunch only) as well as fried chicken and tempura.

A few shots of the Mr. Tonkatsu space. At the front are two large communal tables occupying the right side of the restaurant.

The room then opens up to an open kitchen on the right and more seating to the left.

Several counter seats at the back. The restaurant has a total of 34 seats.

To ensure that their katsu coating is top-notch Mr. Tonkatsu makes their own bread everyday. You won't find any store-bought panko here.

Aside from making their own bread, chef Seokmo Jung (pictured below) and the Mr. Tonkatsu team also make their salad dressing, tonkatsu sauce and katsudon sauce in-house. Absolutely no MSG is used at Mr. Tonkatsu.

The traditional way of eating tonkatsu is to add grinded sesame seeds to the katsu sauce. A cute instructional sign at each table explains to you how it's done. 

At Mr. Tonkatsu you get to grind your own sesame seeds at the table using a mortar and pestle. This is a fun way to kill time while waiting for your food.



Pork loin katsu, rice, kombu infused soy sauce reduction and poached egg

Pork loin katsu, cabbage, assorted vegetables and homemade special broth

Served with refillable shredded cabbage, miso-soup and steamed rice

A close-up of the pork loin katsu with cheese.

Mr. Tonkatsu. Cute name, seriously good tonkatsu. I was so happy with the food there that I've already recommended Mr. Tonkatsu to a few friends. Highlights of the dinner for me were the Japanese Style Deep Fried Chicken (Karaage), Katsudon and the Pork Loin Katsu with Cheese Set

That karaage is probably the best I've had. I know it's not your typical karaage in that Mr. Tonkatsu uses wing meat instead of boneless thigh meat but I honestly don't care (diners have the option of either boneless or bone-in, I didn't know this at the time.) The karaage is super moist and juicy, and the coating is light and not at all oily. It had a really nice crisp texture when I bit into it.  The Korean style deep fried chicken on the other hand consists of boneless thigh meat, a thicker, crustier batter and a more pepper-y flavour (there's an option for sauce that can be mixed in with the Korean fried chicken.) I personally prefer the karaage because I prefer its flavour and I found the meat to be a bit juicier. Having said that for my next visit I would need to try the Korean fried chicken with sauce for comparison. Anyway, moving on. With all the fried apps it was nice to change it up with the katsudon. Topped with slivers of carrots and radishes, a nicely poached egg and slices of thickly cut tonkatsu sit on top of a bed of fluffy rice. These ingredients are all married together with a flavourful kombu-infused katsudon sauce. Yep, I could  eat this hearty bowl of deliciousness every day. The breadcrumbs at Mr. Tonkatsu is truly everything; each individual piece of crumb contributes to the wonderfully light and airy crisp coating. It is the perfect breading. The pork itself is not dry and is actually quite moist. I wish there was more of that sweet katsudon sauce for the rice though. The tsuyuu katsu also had pork loin katsu but instead of rice the cutlet is served with cabbage, veggies and a broth. I didn't care for this combination because I loved the ingredients in the katsudon a lot more. Finally, the pork loin katsu with cheese set. Invented and made popular in Korea, the cheese katsu is a must-try at Mr. Tonkatsu. The ooey-gooey melted cheese layer underneath the crunchy breading really adds a nice texture component and dimension to the whole dish (i.e. something different than just meat and crispy breading in every bite). The tonkatsu sauce with the little crunchy bits of sesame seeds is absolutely perfect with this pork katsu w/ cheese.

Are you salivating yet? Well, you should be! And guys, remember to look for Mr. Tonkatsu's second location opening in North York in a couple of months. You're welcome!

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