It takes a bit of work finding Tonkatsuya despite it being near Makati’s Central Business District. It’s in one of the city’s quiet neighborhoods, and it’s located in a building that practically feels abandoned. The only indication is a small sign hanging outside the building, and even that is easy to miss. Unless you know where you’re going, you have to ask the building’s security guard.
We go downstairs and pass some beauty parlors in a grim hallway to get there. A host of female waitstaff acknowledges our arrival with a loud greeting. In this no-frills place, where long tables fill the narrow dining area, we encounter a group of Japanese men in their forties who have come for relatively affordable tonkatsu – deep-fried pork cutlets that are Tonkatsuya’s specialty.
Despite the first impression, the restaurant serves some of the best tonkatsu in this side of the world. Tonkatsu is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, and while it has not attained the level of passion that ramen has in the Philippines, it still has a substantial following. And true to the Japanese stereotype of healthy food, this dish of deep-fried pork isn’t as greasy as it sounds, thanks to a technique of quick frying in fresh oil that seals the meat and prevents it from absorbing too much oil.
The Tonkatsu Set is the dish in its most basic form. There are no Japanese mortar and pestles containing a layer of sesame seeds here. Neither can you help create your own condiment. What you receive is a tray containing a bowl of excellent miso soup, a saucer of sesame-infused bean sprouts, and a bowl of Japanese rice.
Dominating the center of the tray is a beautifully fried cutlet coated with Japanese bread crumbs and sliced to ease handling with chopsticks. Paired with the ready-made sauce on the table, the meat is moist and delicious, though the breading isn’t as crunchy as those of in more expensive tonkatsu joints.
Tonkatsuya also has the pork cutlets in other forms. For instance, the Katsu Curry comes bathed in a rich, robust curry sauce, and satisfies the same hankering for melt-in-your-mouth pork.
Tonkatsuya is owned by a Japanese expat who worked as a chef in Japan for 30 years, and so you’re assured of the taste. It doesn’t offer much in the way of atmosphere or elegance, but it is an authentic Japanese experience.
LGF Palm Tower C,
7 Saint Paul Road,
(02) 895 1990