After a post on a shop that's been doing business for 25 years, thought I'd go a little further back in time and decided to introduce you to the almost legendary deep-fried pork cutlet Tonkatsu restaurant "Tonsui" which is celebrating its 38th year tomorrow May 1st. I've referred to Iseya and Taisho as places that have been satisfying the hunger of generations of broken youth... Well, Tonsui is THE epitome of such precious business.
I first went to eat in this beanery about 20 years ago when a friend of mine used to live in the area, so this place definitely holds a special place in my heart. I was in college at the time and still remember having been blown away by the local atmosphere of this tiny shop (three small tables and a counter), the welcoming smiles of the couple managing the joint and the awesome food you could have for about ¥1,000.
The couple who are in their sixties now, started this pork cutlet business when the lady managing the previous restaurant had become pregnant and had to give up the location. Since then, they have not stopped!
This place is definitely not a gourmet restaurant, but everything they cook is always great. It might not be the best food you'll find in Shimokitazawa, but there's so much love in the recipe that it really doesn't matter. Can you believe that they have raised their prices only twice in almost 40 years? First, during the 1973 Oil Crisis that shocked Japan right after they started the shop, and then in 1988 when Consumption Tax was enforced. That's not a lot, and it's all because they want to keep everything affordable to everyone.
OK, sorry for the rambling thread. As I said, this place is specialized in Tonkatsu, which you should definitely try. I used to be an adept of the less fatty "Hire-Katsu" (deep-fried pork filet cutlet) for years until I started switching to the most popular "Cheese-Katsu" (deep-fried pork cutlet filled with melted cheese) upon the couple's recommendation. It has to be a calorie-bomb but talk about "B-Kyu Gurume"! (B-Class gourmet). Add some Tare (Japanese style Worcestershire sauce) and a bit of very hot Karashi (Japanese mustard) and go nuts! It's slightly crunchy outside (depending on the amount of sauce you put on the cutlet, as the liquid will gradually soften the deep-fried breadcrumbs) but soft inside because of the melted cheese.
It goes incredibly well with the excellent rice cultivated by the manager's brother himself in countryside Gunma prefecture. Not only the rice is good, but it is steamed to perfection in an old Kamado grill, a utensil you won't come up with often now.
Cheese Katsu Teishoku
Though they are a Tonkatsu place, "Tonsui" also serves all sort of Teishoku combination meal (each Teishoku comes with a bowl of rice, a miso soup and some Tsukemono pickles), such as Tori No KaraAge (fried chicken), Saba No Shioyaki (grilled Mackerel), Nira Reba Itame (stir-fried liver with Nira chives) and Kuriimu Corokke (creamy croquettes) so you should find anything you want even if you're not into a pork mood.
They also have an array of little dishes ranging from ¥100 to ¥300 that you can add to your main course: Hiya Yakko (fresh tofu with leek and ginger), protein-rich Natto (fermented soybeans), Medama Yaki (sunny side up eggs), Yasai Itame (stir-fried mixed vegetables) among many many others.
The above is one of my favorite of these little dishes, the stir-fried eggplant Nasu-Yaki, cooked with vegetable oil, shoyu and spiced up with chili-powder. The slices are quite flavored and should help you finish your bowl of rice easily.
I could go on and on and on on this place, so I'll stop here and leave it up to you to try and explore the fantastic menu of this authentic Taishu Shokudo (local eatery) that any youngster residing in Shimokitazawa must have, at least, heard of.
You will most probably get out of there smelling like grease so if that's a turn off for you, you can always order their take-out Bento menu.
Tonsui is open everyday from 11:30 am to 23:20 pm except on Tuesdays. (They will be open during the Golden Week except on Tuesday 4th)
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-39-13
Click here for a MAP