Monday, April 16, 2012

Porky goodness


Pork cutlet sandwiches - a kind of meibutsu? Well, delicious, anyway!

One of the best things about travelling by train in Japan is getting a special bento lunch to eat on the journey. But for my money, the best lunch is katsu sando! A delicious fried pork cutlet (similar to schnitzel), with a thin layer of katsu sauce (basically barbecue sauce), sandwiched between soft, crust-less white bread.

And when you’re after katsu, there’s one place to go: Maisen! It’s tucked in the back streets near Omotesando hills, in a converted bath house. Maisen was founded in 1965 in Yurakucho and moved to the distinctive bathhouse building in 1978. The d├ęcor is still very Showa-cool. Although the restaurant is one of chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s favourites when he visits Tokyo, it’s definitely not posh! Tonkatsu is working class food: fried, filling and great with beer. You can make it easily at home – just dip your pork cutlet in egg and some panko before frying. And yet, at Maisen it’s perfectly crispy on the outside, not at all oily, and soft and juicy inside. They use “kurobuta”, black pig (a kind of Berkshire) from Kagoshima, hand raised by one Mr Okita. Shredded cabbage and rice is all you need to go with – and at Maisen you get unlimited refills of both (no free refills of the cutlets, unfortunately).

The restaurant sits on a corner


Cool display case

The restaurant is at 4-8-5 Jingumae. The easiest way to get there is to take the A2 exit from Omotesando station, walk down the hill a few steps and turn right at the big building site (you’ll see a sign for Gold’s Gym). Go along the street, past Royal Harvest and Gold’s Gym and turn left then first right. There’s a nice second hand kimono shop on your right. Walk a few more blocks and you’ll see the restaurant on your left  (incidentally, in the block behind Maisen, you’ll find Omotesando Koffee, which is set in an old house; the coffee is excellent).

So, the food is delicious, but don’t forget the graphic design! The Maisen logo is so simple and distinctive: They’ve combined the traditional Edo style mon – a family emblem – with funky 70’s mustard and brown shades and strong Helvetica type for the perfect retro packaging.

The distinctive packaging


Inside, a wet towel and the precious sandwiches...

Delicious!


There’s a little take-out booth at the restaurant, but you can also pick up Maisen’s delicious katsu sando at a lot of department stores and train stations. Prices start around 360 yen for a pack of 3 little sandwiches. 

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