While I have found the best tonkatsu (for me, that is) in Tokyo (that would be Akashi in Shimbashi where then Dentsu President Takashima san took me to lunch), my search for other memorable tonkatsu experiences continues.
On this last trip, I googled "best tonkatsu in Tokyo" and came up with quite a few recommendations.
The one that I chose to visit was Butagumi Dining. Butagumi's original store is in Nishi Azabu but it's not as convenient as this small branch in the basement of the North Tower of Roppongi Hills.
Butagumi Dining is easy to find and is even near the subway exit.
We chose to sit at the counter so we could see how the pork cutlets are made.
Tonkatsu lovers favor Butagumi because of its unique promise -- they serve premium quality pork from all over Japan, and even Iberico pork from Spain. If this were beef, you can say that Butagumi's pork is akin to wagyu Grade A5.
In the main store, you can choose your tonkatsu from numerous varieties from the best pork producing areas in the country.
However, here at Butagumi Dining, they only have the "standard brand pork" (which is still of top quality) and one premium "brand" that is served only at dinnertime -- to my mind, that's the "pig du jour".
Today's special is "Tokyo-X" and the card says that the pig came from Tokyo Prefecture.
Was it raised somewhere in the backyards of Shinjuku? Or maybe Shimbashi?
Did it live in a pen or in an apartment? I guess I'll never know.
The menu card also states that this pork is "SO GRATE!". That settled it!
I ordered the "pig du jour" ... Tokyo-X. I was in hog heaven to see that only rosu or pork loin is offered. This is my preferred cut for tonkatsu as it incorporates juicy, lovely, umami laden fat along with lean meat. Oink, oink!
It was like being in the audience of a cooking show, I watched as he took each cutlet -- floured it, dipped it in the egg wash then dredged it through the bread crumbs. He did everything himself, including keeping an eye on the deep fryer and making sure that each cutlet came out a uniform golden brown -- perfectly cooked to the last second.
This man is a master chef in my book!
All the aroma of frying pork is enough to turn one to drink! Yebisu Beer in the house!
This is Butagumi Dining's hirekatsu or fillet tonkatsu. It looks like a small golden log of pork goodness. However, I never order hire because I find the lean meat too ordinary -- not worth the cholesterol and calories at all!
And here at last is my "pig du jour". Butagumi's Tokyo - X rosukatsu.
How did this "premium brand pork" taste -- could I actually tell the difference between this and a standard brand pig?
Well, it was certainly juicy and very tasty (and yes, I ate all the fat) but it also had just the slightest hint of "pig essence" which was not at all unpleasant. This "essence" added to its distinctively rich taste.
I'm tempted to go to the original Butagumi to try how other premium pork varieties taste.
But that's for another day -- for tonight, Butagumi Dining was a great tonkatsu find.
Even in this small branch in the basement of Roppongi Hills, the superior quality of their premium tonkatsu shone through.