{tokyo} maisen

8:20 AM Sian Mei Yeoh 0 Comments

when we speak of japanese food, our minds would typically fleet towards sushi rolls, sashimi, shrimp tempura udon, ramen or perhaps teriyaki bento boxes. most japanese restaurants here serve a mish-mash of their popular dishes that we all know so well.

when i visited tokyo last year, i noticed one thing different about the food scene in japan, which i love - the opportunity to taste particular japanese fares at dedicated, specialty shops; each focusing on a narrow slice in the wide spectrum japanese cuisine variety.

one particular japanese dish that deserves more recognition globally than it has now is the 'simple' yet complex scrumptiousness, that is tonkatsu. tonkatsu is a deep fried, breaded pork cutlet, usually served with a thick and tangy sauce (tonkatsu sauce), shredded cabbage and miso soup.

considering my visit to japan was a short one, i have to admit that deep fried, breaded pork isn't what i'd typically choose to eat since it could be greasy and heavy and that might put a damper on the day.

but... my food itinerary planning revealed many foodies' experiences at this specialty shop dedicated to just tonkatsu was 'life-changing' and 'the best thing ever!' its name was maisen and i was curious if it would do the same for me.

finding the place was quite a challenge although i had a map printed out and read tips online on how to find the spot.  even though there were multiple little signs along the street lamps, i had to get into the right area first lol. its location is hidden behind the omotesando hills shopping complex, not too far from harajuku.

we were so thrilled when we finally found our first sign and after that, searching for the restaurant was a breeze.  smiles were carved on our faces when we found the restaurant cos we were tired and were growing quite hungry.

the restaurant is uniquely homed in a former dressing room of a public bath house with high ceilings. they kept some of the original architectural details which gave an old school kind of feel.  

maisen's signature dish is  the kurobuta tonkatsu (literally 'black pork'). kurobuta is known for its high fat content and intense juicy flavor, which can only mean good things when its breaded and deep fried.

now the question was to get the kurobuta loin {rosu} or fillet {hire} cutlet. the price tag for both is a tad hefty at ¥2,470.  we were interested in tasting the difference between the two hence ordered one of each although the loin is the way to go since it has more fat.

with no knowledge of the japanese language, we attempted to order using just our our body language and very little english. hehe which consists of mostly pointing at the pictures on the menu. :)

as the first item arrived - a mini cup filled with a shaved daikon garnished with a few strands of katsuobushi. we stared at it, confusion and intrigue stamped on both our faces prompting the waitress sharing with us to add some shoyu before trying it.

i took a small taste, and then another - nope, this was not something i could get use to. to the side it goes.

when our meal was served, it was a thing of beauty.

it came with a mountain of shredded cabbage, a side of pickled vegetable, light yet nice miso soup and a bowl of rice.

not quite knowing where to start, i topped the pork with a bit of the tonkatsu sauce and took a bite out of one of the loin pieces.

the first bite started with the crunchiness of the panko crust without harboring any hint of greasiness. then i sank my teeth into the juicy, perfectly seasoned with intense flavor of pork encased in the golden brown jacket. it amazed me how the crust did not fall apart from its meat. what is seemingly a simple dish, to make it as perfectly as they do is a feat as maisen's expertise shone in what i would call the best tonkatsu i've ever had so far!

there was only a very slight difference between the fillet and loin - the loin had a richer flavor to it (not in the way that may weigh you down) while the leaner fillet had a cleaner taste to it. i actually enjoyed having half of the loin and the other half fillet as i swapped some with {rmc}. oh, if you like to have more shredded cabbage, you can ask for refills.

maisen's mastery and awesomeness is unrivaled that it has made on of my top eats of 2012. my finishing the whole plate of deep fried pork cutlet that is testament of the amazing techniques the chef possesses. (deep fried food that is not greasy.. like whattt?!) AND considering it was my first meal in tokyo, this was a great introduction to my japanese food adventure. i'd be back at maisen in a heartbeat if i ever find myself in tokyo again :)

so was it 'the best thing ever'? i'd say so! oishiiii! :)

maisen | locations

4-8-5 jinguemae,
tokyo, japan

{yummy-ness | 4.5 forks out of 5 }
{worth trying | any tonkatsu
but kurobuta pork is recommended}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.