Tonkatsu in Tokyo

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Tokyo has been award more Michelin stars than any other city in the world. With this in mind, we wanted to check out a Michelin star establishment while we were in Tokyo. Even though we are typically budget travelers, food is something we don’t mind splurging on, and we happened to find an option that was within our budget but still offered a fine dining experience. 

Katsuzen is Tokyo’s only Michelin star tonkatsu restaurant. Tonkatsu is a breaded deep-fried pork cutlet that is often served with rice and cabbage or as an added protein on top of curry or noodles such as ramen or udon. Katsuzen is family run business that has spent the past 50 years perfecting the art of deep frying, so if you’re a fan of tonkatsu or all things fried, this place is a must. Read on to find out more about our dining experience at Katsuzen to see if it’s a good fit for you to visit while in Tokyo!

>> Related: What to Eat in Tokyo <<

Michelin Star Dining in Tokyo: Katsuzen

The Location

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Entrance to Katsuzen

Very minimal and easy to miss.

Katsuzen is located in Ginza, an upscale shopping district in central Tokyo. It is located on the fourth floor of a shopping complex that houses Barney’s New York on the ground level. The entrance is very simple with just a slit curtain and minimal signage, making it easy to miss if you aren’t paying close attention. 

The Restaurant

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Katsuzen is fairly small, offering only a communal bar that seats eight and a private tatami room big enough for a small group. If you plan on visiting, try to make a reservation ahead of time to ensure that they’ll be able to accommodate you. Fortunately even without a reservation, we went for an early lunch on a weekday and managed to grab a seat right away. 

The Service

Imagine our horror when we walked in wearing an oversized funfetti looking sweater and all the other customers were all salary men in business suits out for lunch. Despite our fail regarding the dress code, we were still well received by the staff.

There were three staff members, a server/runner and two chefs in the kitchen. We only interacted with the server/runner but she was very friendly and attentive. The moment we were done looking at the menu she was ready to take our order and everything about the meal flowed seamlessly. 

The Food

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The lunch set starts off with an amuse-bouche of seasonal vegetables that was beautifully presented and refreshing to eat, the perfect start to our meal. The tonkatsu followed accompanied by miso soup, rice, and a cabbage salad.

FYI: you “drink” miso soup in Japan, so you are not given a spoon.

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The tonkatsu is made fresh to order, so allow for 15-20 minutes before receiving your piping hot cutlet fresh out the fryer. The batter on the tonkatsu was light and crispy, and the pork itself was juicy and tender. The tonkatsu is served with a dollop of mustard and Worcestershire bbq sauce.  

Katsuzen has certainly perfected tonkatsu. Even though tonkatsu is far from our favorite Japanese dish, this was the best tonkatsu we’ve ever had. Legends (aka the internet) say the pork for Katsuzen’s tonkatsu comes from happy pigs that graze on mountains in the countryside, true or not, the pork is top notch. 

The Cost

The lunch set was 3,800yen, which is less than $40 USD. If you plan on going, go for lunch, as the prices are cheaper. Otherwise you’ll end up paying more during dinner for the same set. 

FYI: tipping is not required or encouraged in Japan.

*tipping is actually considered rude*

The Verdict

Katsuzen was definitely worth the visit. Even though this was the most expensive meal of our trip, we have no regrets. Would we go back? Honestly, probably not but only because it’s out of our typical budget for one meal and tonkatsu isn’t something we crave when dining out. 

For us, Katsuzen was a once in a lifetime experience. The tonkatsu was a cutlet above the rest. If you are a tonkatsu fanatic or would like to try a fine dining experience that won’t break the bank, Katsuzen is perfect for you.

Do you need a place to stay in Tokyo?

Would you dine at Katsuzen?

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  1. Once in a while its worth it to splurge in a lunch or dinner! A lunch at Michelin Star hotel is something that I haven’t done so far!
    Btw, is there actually a dress code or was it by chance that all were impeccably dressed?

    1. I don’t think there’s an official dress code, I think the other customers just happened to be impeccably dressed by chance!

  2. Katsuzen looks wonderful, and yes I’m hungry now. I love this deep fried pork dish, and would like to try a more refined version! Lol on the dress code, but it’s nice to know they still welcomed you as you were. A plus in my book!

  3. I need to dine at this restaurant. Japanese food is loved all over the world, which I am not surprised that Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants. I will definitely have to check this restaurant out, especially since I am a fan of tonkatsu!

  4. Wow this looks amazing! I would absolutely love to go to Tokyo, and have authentic Japanese food. I’d never heard of this place. Oops on the dress code, but nice to know they didn’t seem to mind haha.

  5. I had no idea that Tokyo had so many Michelin stars! The restaurant looks lovely, and the food too. Yum!
    Thank you for sharing your tips on tipping and dress code too – that’s really helpful!

  6. Ooh it’s my dream to eat at a Michelin star restaurant…ANY one! For some reason I thought they would all be super expensive, but it sounds like Katsuzen was pretty reasonable. I love that it seemed like a really intimate setting with a small seating area. The pictures of the food looked amazing! Of course it will taste amazing, no matter what you get. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow! It’s so funny that I encountered your post. I was just telling my husband that if I ever won the lottery my dream would be to go to all the Michelin starred restaurants around the world. I knew that Japan had the most, and I hope to get there and eat at some nice restaurants one day… whether or not I win the lottery!

  8. This looks amazing! I had so much good food when I visited Japan in high school, but I don’t think I got to try anything like this. I’ve definitely been in the same position of being a tad underdressed many times too. I’m glad the staff rolled with it and you got to enjoy this delicious meal.

    1. Same, I think I’m going to go with the rule it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed from now on!

  9. I’m also a big budget traveler, and I try not to go to expensive restaurants. But every once and while it’s nice to splurge. Sounds like the food was delicious.

  10. Oh my firstly that food looks so very yummy. I can’t afford to go to many expensive places but I definitely do splurge every once and a while when travelling. 40 USD is not bad for a Michelin star restaurant. That is a cool fact to about it being the only Michelin star in Tokyo

  11. Interesting! I’m not sure tonkatsu sounds like something I’d enjoy, but I wouldn’t mind hitting up a Michelin starred restaurant for only $40!

    1. Right?! What a reasonable price for Michelin star, but it’s actually not the cheapest (Michelin) option out there!

  12. I love Tonkatsu, I would love to taste it in a michelin star restaurant. That’s good the staff received you well even though you didn’t dress up for it. The price is very good value for michelin star food, I’d go for lunch!

  13. Sounds like an interesting place to try out! Although I haven’t ever tried Japanese food and not sure if I would start off at $40 a plate. I enjoyed reading your review!

    1. I suggest starting out with ramen or sushi, this place definitely isn’t where you want to start your Japanese cuisine journey!

  14. Wow the food there looks amazing! I think it is good to treat yourself once in a while. I am very keen to go to Japan. My friend lived there for a year and loved it. I wouldn’t have guessed that tipping in Japan would be considered rude so thanks for telling me that.

    1. Yes, many people don’t know that tipping simply isn’t part of Japanese culture. It certainly helps to cut down on costs when traveling in Japan!

  15. I’m very much the same way when I’m traveling. I don’t mind splurging on a special meal every now and again, but not every meal of the trip. This sounds like an awesome experience that was well worth the extra money.

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