We take on the 50 Challenge of Kyoto gyukatsu chain Katsugyu.

When they hear the words “Kyoto cuisine,” most people’s minds turn to haute multi-course kaiseki meals, or maybe the subtle flavors and locally grown produce in an obanzai array. But there’s a more direct, visceral appeal from the chefs at Katsugyu, a Kyoto-based restaurant chain that specializes in gyukatsu, or deep-fried beef cutlets.

▼ Katsugyu

▼ Katsugyu’s gyukatsu

Katsugyu’s deliciously meaty yet non-greasy cutlets have been sweeping the nation, and this summer they got even more tempting with a special offer that lets you have unlimited cutlet refills for your set meal for just an additional 290 yen (US$2.60). But as of August 25, there’s an even better deal: if you can eat 50 cutlet refill pieces within 60 minutes of starting your meal, the entire thing is free!

▼ A giant pile of beef cutler refill pieces, though still not as many as you have to eat to get a free meal.

Being a guy who’s happiest when both his stomach and his wallet are full, our crack reporter Mr. Sato knew that this was destiny calling, and so he made his way to Katsugyu’s branch in Tokyo’s Nishi Shinjuku neighborhood, not far from SoraNews24 HQ.

To get started, you have to order a regular set meal from the menu and also then tell the staff you want to try the 50-refill challenge (the phrase in Japanese is gojuko charenji shimasu). Then, once they bring out your set meal, you’ll have 60 minutes to eat it and your 50 refill pieces for it all to be free.

Mr. Sato opted for the most basic, least expensive set meal, the Gyukatsuzen set, which comes with a standard 120-gram (4.2-ounce) entree-size beef cutlet.

It also comes with cabbage, rice, miso soup, and various dipping sauces, and to qualify for the free meal, you really do have to eat everything. Leave any of the rice, soup, or veggies behind, and you’re on the hook for the bill.

▼ Essentially, this becomes your appetizer.

As Mr. Sato started chewing and the clock started ticking, he re-confirmed some of the rules. Following the entree cutlet, you get five refill pieces in your first refill order, and then ten each time after that. It takes about five minutes between asking for a refill and it being prepared and served, so customers attempting the 50-piece challenge are advised to take that in mind when timing their orders.

As an experienced big eater, it wasn’t long until Mr. Sato was ready for his first refill, and he polished off the first of his five supplementary pieces 15 minutes into the challenge.

He was pleasantly surprised t find that the refill pieces were every bit as delicious as the entree-sized cutlet, These aren’t popcorn chicken-like balls of 90-percent breading, and each has plenty of juicy meat waiting inside the crunchy coating.

But past fried food gorgings told Mr. Sato that the real hurdle was yet to come. It’s been his observations that the filling effect of fried morsels is slightly delayed, and while he was off to a brisk start, he wondered if he’d be able to keep up the pace.

His progress was smooth through the second refill batch (refill pieces 6 through 15), but when his next plate of 10 came out, he could feel victory starting to slip away. Each time he ate a piece, he was taking longer and longer breaks before starting on the next, slipping into and out of blissful little food comas.

After finishing off the second plate (refill pieces 16-25), he knew he’d hit the wall and regretfully admitted defeat.

▼ Though he did eventually drink all of his red miso soup.

Having failed to eat 50 refill pieces, Mr. Sato would now have to pay for the full cost of his set meal and the all-you-can-eat add-on plan. Stomach and spirit heavy, he walked up to the register to pay. Having done his best but only made it half-way to the deep-fired finish line, Mr. Sato wondered if there’s anyone out there can eat 50 refill pieces.

“Actually, we had someone come in and eat 80 just yesterday,” the employee told him.

“80?!?” Mr. Sato asked in shock. “He must have been a huge dude.”

“Actually, she was a normal-sized woman,” the cashier corrected him. And even that’s not the current national record, as someone else walked into a Katsugyu branch in Osaka and scarfed down 101 pieces.

Now feeling triply defeated, Mr. Sato got out his wallet to pay his bill, but the next words out of the cashier’s mouth made him feel much better: “That will be 1,270 yen (US$11.50), sir.” Luckily for our reporter, Katsugyu is a very affordable place by beef cutlet restaurant standards, and considering that he wasn’t going to need much, if anything, for dinner after this massive lunch, it was still a serious bargain, even if it wasn’t free.

Related: Katsugyu location list
Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]