Katsuzen is, at the time of writing, the only Michelin starred tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) restaurant in Tokyo. It moved to the prestigious Ginza ward from Ikebukuro in 2005, and has just eight seats plus a private dining room. It is on the fourth floor of a building in the Ginza that currently houses the Barneys department store. To get to the restaurant take the lift to the fourth floor from the main department store. This level houses a series of restaurants, so follow the corridor round until you find Katsuzen (the pictures show what the entrance looks like, as the sign is in kanji characters only).
Owner Etsuo Nagai has five decades of experience cooking this Japanese dish, and has gone to some lengths to perfect it. He (or to be precise, his daughter) makes his own panko breadcrumbs rather than using pre-prepared ones, and the black Berkshire kurobuta pork is from a free-range farm on the hillside of Mount Kirishima in Kyushu. The owner's wife and other daughter handle the front of house, so it is very much a family affair.
A little plate of cooked vegetables appears as a sort of amuse-bouche. These were fairly bland, including a surprisingly tasteless potato and rather better sweet potato, along with a carrot, bean and lotus root. They lacked any discernible seasoning (11/20). Better was tuna and avocado in soy dressing (13/20), and nice crab spring rolls, the shellfish tasting very fresh (13/20). Better still was a salad of crab, with radicchio, apple, celery and radish. This was superb, the quality of the components top notch, and the acidity of the apple working nicely with the crab (easily 15/20).
Breaded and fried scampi was excellent, served with finely shredded cabbage. The shellfish had good sweetness, the breadcrumb coating crisp and golden (14/20). Even better was the tonkatsu, in his case the tenderloin kurobuta version, served with shredded cabbage, mustard and a lovely barbecue sauce made by the chef involving Worcester sauce and garlic amongst other things. The meat had superb flavour, definitely a step up from versions I have had elsewhere, such as at Maisen (15/20).
Service was charming, and the bill came to ¥9,975 (£54) per head with drinks, though that involved ordering lots of side dishes. The tonkatsu itself cost ¥4,700 (£26). As Robbie Swinnerton in the Japan Times said, Katsuzen is "a cutlet above" other tonkatsu joints. It is certainly pricier than most, but this was top-notch food where a lot of effort had clearly gone into every aspect of the core dish, and I did not begrudge the size of the bill. After all, if you are going to come all the way to Tokyo to eat tonkatsu, why not go the whole hog?