3 Chome-17-8 Takada, Toshima, Tokyo, 171-0033, Japan

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Tonta is a highly regarded tonkatsu restaurant on a busy main road 4km north of the huge Shinjuku railway station. It is five minutes walk from Takadanobaba station. Tonta was rated number two on Tablelog for tonkatsu at the time of my visit (Tabelog ratings fluctuate over time as new votes are counted) and its reputation means lengthy queues since there are no reservations taken here. I went on a Tuesday lunch, when service opens at 11:30, and despite arriving fifteen minutes before the doors opened I still failed to get in for the first sitting. Peak times are presumably much busier. 

Once you make it inside, there is a counter seating ten diners arrayed around the kitchen, plus two very low tables that require sitting on the floor. A range of set menus is available, from ¥1,020 (£7) to ¥2570 (£18), and I opted for one that involved fried prawn and fish as well as pork, in order to try a few things. Whatever you order comes with the traditional shredded cabbage. Depending on the menu, there may also be rice and pickles and miso soup. Beer was from ¥515 (£3.54) for a glass of draft beer, a bit more for bottled Kirin.

The thing that struck me most about the cooking here was the delicacy of the panko breadcrumb batter. It was very thin and delicate, much more so than most tonkatsu I have tried elsewhere. The fried prawn and white fish were both excellent, and if you have tried something like scampi and chips in the UK then you will be struck by just how impressive the batter is here. In some ways I was almost more taken by the seafood than the pork itself, which was good but not remarkable, especially when compared to some I have tried elsewhere e.g. at Sugita. Nonetheless this tonkatsu is certainly very good, and distinguished by its ethereally light batter. Even the cabbage was good, cut thinner than most others I have tried (14/20). Naturally there is the usual accompaniment of barbecue sauce, soy sauce and dressing for the cabbage. The fish also came with some very good tartare sauce. Rice and pickles were fine, and although the miso soup was rather ordinary, that is hardly the reason for coming to a tonkatsu restaurant. The batter here is another example of the knack that the Japanese have for taking something and perfecting it. The bill, even with a beer, was just ¥2,110 (£14.52), a steal for cooking of this level of skill; settle your bill in cash only, incidentally. Tonkatsu may not be a grand cuisine, but a good version of it, such as here, it is a thing of beauty nonetheless.

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User comments

  • Peter McBrien

    The mixed plate only includes the standard pork. If you want the best pork you need to order the tonkatsu-only 'toku' (special) or the 'jo' (superior). The toku is better than the jo.