Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Katsuten – Tonkatsu

By Friday, I was getting extra squirrelly. I texted my brother Jacuzzi to ask him how he was dealing with B.C.’s pandemic restrictions. He said he loved staying in and he was happy playing video games with his wife.

L was already a step ahead of Jacuzzi. This ain’t his first rodeo. L suggested we order dinner from Katsuten, as it was conveniently located by our neighbourhood liquor store. For this post, let’s listen to “Ex’s and Oh’s” By Elle King.

Back in the day, Katsuten and Redheads Cafe were the only restaurants in Calgary that specialized in tonkatsu. Months after Katsuten opened, it was hard to get a table. With the pandemic and our cold snap, it was unusually quiet when L picked up our order.

I ordered the Tenderloin Katsuten ($16.50) and L picked the Loin Katsu with Curry ($15.99). Both entrees come with rice, salad and miso soup. I thought the portions were heartier than I remembered from past visits. Takeout from Katsuten travels well – everything was still hot and fresh.

Katsuten’s batter is different from Redheads, Koji Katsu and Shimizu Kitchen. Katsuten’s panko is made from white bread crumbs from Glamorgan Bakery, and the result is a fluffier, airier batter. Despite the fact our tonkatsu was deep-fried, it wasn’t greasy or heavy.

I tried a piece of L’s loin to compare to my tenderloin. My katsu is darker in colour and softer in texture. I was surprised that I actually preferred L’s loin, which is a thicker, leaner cut. The loin had this clean flavour profile that contrasted well with the richness of the batter. I noticed the curry wasn’t chunky like Redhead Cafe’s version, but runnier and more like a soup.

The shredded cabbage is refreshing. The yuzu dressing is tart and fragrant, with bright lemony notes. I also really liked the katsu sauce – much more subtle than the bottled stuff you can buy.

I’m pleased Calgarians have a variety of katsu restaurants, because each place has their unique take on tonkatsu. I would recommend all of them, each for something different. I love Koji’s supersized ebi katsu, Redheads Cafe’s chicken karrage curry, Shimizu’s ramen and tonkatsu combos, and Katsuten’s extra fluffy loin katsu. I’m sure right now, they could all use your business.

Cheap Eats · Curry · Japanese · Tonkatsu

Shimizu Kitchen – Dine-in COVID-19 edition

After a long day at work, L told me he was craving tonkatsu. He wanted to try Shimizu Kitchen, which is located near our house. I’ve been reading good things about Shimizu’s ramen, so I was in. For this post, let’s listen to “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles.

I recommend making reservations, as the restaurant only has a handful seats. By the time we left, every table was full. Shimizu was also busy with takeout orders. I was informed by our server that on the weekends, there is often a line-up outside the door.

The room is cozy, decorated with homemade signs and pictures of food. The overarching branches of the pink cherry blossom tree cover most of the ceiling. I saw an automated ramen contraption by the door, which is a common display outside restaurants in Tokyo.

L and I both ordered a bottle of Asahi ($6). L ordered the Tonkatsu Curry ($13.99) and I requested the Shimizu Miso Ramen ($12.99).

The deep-fried pork cutlets arrived still sizzling from the fryer. L had to wait a few minutes for the tonkatsu to cool before he could eat it. The pork itself was juicy, with a thin, crunchy batter. The spices in the curry was subtle and not as strongly flavoured as Redhead’s version. I thought the portion was generous for the price.

The broth in my ramen was so rich and heavy, with a nice smoky flavour. The broth was boiling hot, just the way I like it. When I pulled the noodles up with my chopsticks, I could see the broth coating each noodle.

The egg was cooked just right. The creamy yolk had the consistency of the centre of a Cadbury chocolate egg. The thick piece of pork was seared, salty and tender. The noodles were chewy and plentiful. Even the vegetables were stellar. The cabbage and sprouts tasted fresh and were crunchy and sweet. L thought my ramen was fantastic, particularly the complexity of the broth.

We received complementary ice cream for dessert. Despite feeling too full, I couldn’t resist polishing off the entire serving. Some people may find vanilla ice cream boring but I like the simple, milky sweetness.

I was chatting on Instagram with someone who knows the owners at Shimizu. She told me that the owners told her their little wooden spoons have grown legs and disappeared. Now they are trying to replace them but can’t because COVID-19 has changed their ability to buy supplies from Japan. For the love of small businesses, if you know of anyone that has taken these spoons, encourage them to bring it back. Wrap up the spoons and slip them in the mail slot in the morning or late evening. Maybe we can ask Crackmacs to retweet? This is what I would tweet out to Crackmacs, along with a picture of the missing spoons:

RT: MISSING RAMEN SPOONS IN GLENDALE! Help the owners of @shimizukitchen1 find their missing ramen spoons. These beloved spoons have miraculously grown legs and ran away. If you see any of these spoons in your kitchen, please return to Shimizu Kitchen, no questions asked. #yyc #yyceats @crackmacs

I’ll be back. The ramen is delightful and I’m interested to try the other noodle dishes. Our server told me he’s been obsessed with the owner’s newest offering – it was either tsukemen or mazemen. I couldn’t hear him properly through the mask, and he was busy so I didn’t want to ask him to repeat himself. Hitting the Sauce gives Shimizu Kitchen two fat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Koji Katsu – COVID-19 edition

L asked me which restaurant I decided on for our Saturday night dinner. I picked Koji Katsu because this business unfortunately opened up when COVID-19 officially shut down our social lives. For this post, I’d like to dedicate a song to L as he’s been my rock throughout this worldwide crisis. If there was an award for best pandemic husband of the year, he would win it.

In Tokyo, one of the most memorable meals I ate was at Hasegawa, a Michelin recommended restaurant. The tonkatsu batter was light and buttery, the pork so decadent it melted on my tongue. I bought the leanest and cheapest set. For this orgasmic experience, my meal was only 1,000 Yen, which is roughly $13 CAD.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 8.24.48 AM

At Hasegawa and other tonkatsu restaurants I visited, I noticed that there are several different grades of pork. There was an emphasis placed on the fattiness and breed of the pork. L was as blown away as I was from tonkatsu at Hasegawa, but he found the richness from the pork fat difficult to digest. He also find oily meats disgusting. Lucky for him, Koji Katsu uses leaner cuts of pork.

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L and I picked up our order. When we drove home, I could feel the heat permeate from the bags. Even though our ride back was only ten minutes, I cursed every single red light that prevented us from eating our food at the optimal temperature. When we finally made it home, I ripped open the containers as fast as I could to preserve the integrity of the batter.

hire

I ordered the Hire Katsu ($15, 220 grams), the Koji Special Mixed Katsu ($16.50) and a side of curry sauce ($3). Our dishes came with sides of kimchi, pickles, cabbage salad and miso soup.  We received a lot of food. If you have a big appetite, you are going to love the generous portions.

cheese

The first dish we tackled was the cheese katsu. I was surprised there was so much mozzarella in each piece. I think this dish would be best ordered at the restaurant because cheese cools down so quickly. The texture of the mozzarella reminded me of squeaky cheese curds. The cheese had began to solidify but the batter still offered a satisfying crunch.

ebi

The jumbo prawn was the star of the show. Man oh man. I’m going to quote Lovegastrogirl, who nailed a description of the mouthfeel of a good piece of shrimp. The prawn itself was long and large, with ‘that nice, plump bursty feel.’ If you are a prawn lover, you must try the Ebi Katsu ($15, five pieces).

platter

The pork used in the Hire Katsu was good quality meat. The tenderloin was lean but still juicy. If you eat a lot of Alberta pork, you’ll know what I mean. The meat was almost fluffy in texture with a clean taste. L prefers Alberta tenderloin to the fatty cuts I enjoyed in Japan.

ire piece

My only minor quibble is that I found that some of my rice was overcooked. L said his rice was fine. I enjoyed the deep spices in the curry and it helped to hide the clumps of rice. I would order the curry again.

sides

The sides and condiments deserve a shout out. I loved the smear of hot mustard and lemon, both of which helped cut into heaviness of the meats. I enjoyed the salty sweetness of the miso soup and the little pieces of puffed tofu, seaweed and enoki mushroom. L liked the sesame dressing for our cabbage, which I found nutty and heady.

coleslaw

L and I are looking forward to our next visit. When the COVID-19 restrictions lift, I can see this little restaurant being popular with the downtown foodie crowd. Hitting the Sauce gives Koji Katsu two fat thumbs up.

Koji Katsu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato