Tokyo Food-Otaku: Tonkatsu Yachiyo & Maisen

It was a day of Katsu as we headed to Tonkatsu Yachiyo in Tsukiji for breakfast, and Tonkatsu Maisen over in Omotesando for dinner. Two rather different places, both serving Katsu.

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Of course, part of this Katsu dining experience wasn’t exactly planned as we were really heading into Tsukiji early in the morning for the sole purpose of a Sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai. But it was not meant to be, even though we trotted out into cold early morning and reached Dai at 5:45 in the morning, an enormous queue had already formed and it looked like another 3-4 hour wait before we could even get close to the entrance. I sure remember it wasn’t like this just a couple of years ago, perhaps Dai just got even more popular (as we noticed many in the queue had tourist guide books with Dai featured), or maybe the impending closure of Tsukiji just made people more motivated to hit Dai one last time.

Not wanting to endure another (rather painful) 3 hour standing line, Jamie suggested we try out the Tonkatsu joint i had previously raved about and visited on my last solo trip. Good idea.

Tonkatsu Yachiyo (八千代) is located smack bang in the middle of Sushi Daiwa and Sushi Dai, so it really is not too difficult to find. There are actually two katsu joints sitting side by side, the one on the right is Yachiyo. On most days, you will usually find locals dining inside, which is of course a big plus sign for authenticity, or maybe they also just don’t want to join a 3-4 hour line for sushi.

Inside, it’s all very utilitarian, nothing fancy. Some old flooring, rickety stools and a table that has seen better days. You go in, order your food, eat, and leave.

But the food, oh such delicious yummy food. Usually in a Tonkatsu joint, they serve mostly Pork, but over here, the specialty is deep fried seafood. Very fresh deep fried seafood. The menu is on the walls but because everything is in Japanese, it can be a little daunting for the casual visitor. But to make things easier, there are sets you can choose from. All dishes come with a serving of JDM rice, vegetables and miso. Perfect for those cold wintery mornings.

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The A-set i ordered (and easiest to order since it was featured in an article stuck to the wall) consist of a big sized prawn, fish and a nice plump scallop, all fried to crispy perfection and served with a dollop of very-tasty-i-am-still-thinking-about-it tartar sauce.

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Jamie had the oysters, 5 fat and big oysters fried just right to retain the oyster’s creamy texture. It was fookin good.

Breakfast at Yachiyo was so delightful it turned out to be one of this trip’s foodie highlights. Though we might have missed out on Sushi Dai, having some tasty seafood katsu in the morning with time to spare for a nap back in our Airbnb apartment sure made up for most of the initial disappointment. Yachiyo also serves up a very limited char siew tamago dish but i’ve yet to try it. I hear it’s good.

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As we headed back to our apartment after grabbing a quick beef bowl (yes we were just being greedy), i grabbed one last parting shot of Tsukiji. This time next year, it will sadly be no more.

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Over in Omotesando in the evening, we managed to get in through the doors of Maisen just before it was time for their last orders. We had both read about this place online and given the rave reviews from other visitors, we had pretty high expectations. With prices averaging about ¥3,000-¥4,000 per person, this would also be one of the more pricier Katsu places we’ve visited. Definitely higher end than our breakfast hole in the wall.

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It was, not as great as i wanted it to be. To be fair, we reached rather late and as it turns out, Maisen serves up a limited number of their “Special Pork” each day and unless one was to reach there early, chances are, you’d be stuck with the more ordinary but still very good cuts of pork. Don’t get me wrong, the food was fantastic, and the crispy bits of the Katsu was very light and fluffy. It was also probably the best Tonkatsu i’ve had, but i’m not sure it was really worth the price premium. Would i return? Only if i get to try out one of their “specials”. For now, my Tonkatsu dreams are made of Seafood and Tartar sauce.

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