But reviews had us concerned about whether it offered what we wanted or not. 

One of Japan’s ultimate comfort foods is katsudon, a crispy fried pork cutlet cooked with egg and dashi broth and served over rice. While this is an absolutely delicious meal and should never be passed up, there is just one problem: since it’s been cooked in egg and broth, the final result is a bit of a soggy cutlet.

Since this, like the katsu in katsu curry, is a contentious issue for many people, some restaurants have come up with a simple solution: keeping the egg and the cutlet separate. This is called tojinai katsudon (with tojinai meaning “unbound”) and it’s become a trend among foodies in Japan. But though it’s become popular, there are still only a few restaurants that serve it, so our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa has been on a mission to find all the tojinai katsudon out there.

As such, browsing reviews of katsudon restaurants has become something of a hobby for him. In fact, the other day he found a tonkatsu restaurant called Agetaro in the university neighborhood of Takadanobaba in Tokyo that had somewhat conflicting reviews. One said that the restaurant offered tojinai katsudon, but the pictures on other reviews showed regular katsudon with the cutlet cooked in the egg. What’s more, both reviews said the menu item they ordered was merely called “katsudon”.

▼ Regular katsudon. Delicious, but soggy.

Seiji checked more pictures of the katsudon on the popular restaurant review site Tabelog, and he found both toijinai katsudon, with the pork cutlet clearly nestled on top of the egg rather than in it, and regular katsudon. To make it more confusing, pictures of the menu also revealed that only “katsudon” was listed. If they served tojinai katsudon, they would list it…wouldn’t they?

Then Seiji had a realization. The pictures of the tojinai katsudon were from more recent reviews, and the older reviews showed regular katsudon. So perhaps the restaurant made a recent switch from regular katsudon to tojinai katsudon?

The restaurant only opened in May of 2022, but with the rise in popularity of tojinai katsudon, they may have recognized a trend and changed their menu to take advantage of it. Seiji chose to believe that they now serve tojinai katsudon, and decided to make his way to Takadanobaba.

Agetaro is a tonkatsu specialty restaurant that serves different types of pork katsu rice bowls, including ones with different kinds of sauces drizzled over them, like demiglace sauce, mayonnaise, and miso sauce. They also serve unusual pork cutlet dishes like Turco Rice, a Nagasaki dish with a pork cutlet served over noodles and buttered rice, so Seiji was genuinely excited to check them out. The restaurant is right up the hill from Takadanobaba Station and at the very back of a shopping street, so reasonably easy to find, too. However…

…the signboard outside of the restaurant showed a decidedly normal katsudon, with the cutlet cooked into the egg. It even seemed to be highlighting the egg, offering a bowl that uses two eggs instead of one that you have to eat with a spoon. This caused Seiji to hesitate. Maybe they didn’t serve tojinai katsudon after all?

Seiji dithered for a bit, wondering if he should go somewhere else. The restaurant wasn’t open yet, after all. But as Seiji returned to the entrance of the shopping center, he stopped. “I don’t have to eat tojinai katsudon today,” he thought. “I can have regular katsudon for lunch, too.” He likes regular katsudon, after all, so he might as well eat at Agetaro. At least, that’s what the traditionalist in him decided.

When he returned to the restaurant, it had opened, so he went to the food ticket vending machine to choose what he wanted. He only saw “Katsudon” listed for 750 yen (US$5.77), so he accepted that they probably didn’t sell tojinai katsudon.

That’s what Seiji thought until he spotted, at the very bottom, a different dish: “Katsudon (Sakkuri)”. Could it be…?

Seiji ordered that, and…

…it came with the cutlet and the egg separate!!

As it turns out, the restaurant serves two kinds of original katsudon (that is, without special sauces), and the “Sakkuri” (“Crispy”) type is the tojinai katsudon. Well, strictly speaking, the bottom part of the cutlet was lightly cooked into the egg, and the egg appeared not to have been fried but rather boiled with a sweet sukiyaki-style sauce.

Since the top of the cutlet wasn’t cooked with egg, the batter was nice and crispy, the exact thing that Seiji was looking for from tojinai katsudon. If he had to give a name to this dish, he’d call it “Half-tojinai Katsudon.” It was a whole new type of katsudon!

When Seiji spoke to the restaurant’s owner, they revealed that the dish wasn’t influenced by anything. “I personally just wanted a crispy katsudon,” they said, which is why they gave it the name “Sakkuri”.

This person, Seiji decided, was clearly a master in pursuit of the perfect katsudon, which was something worthy of respect. Trying out their new iteration of tojinai katsudon served to further deepen his world of pork cutlets, and with this discovery, a new star was born, to shine among the likes of breakfast katsudon and chilled katsudon.

Restaurant information
Agetaro / 揚げ太郎
Address: Tokyo-to Shinjuku-ku Takadanobaba 3-4-13 Nittetsu Building 1F
東京都新宿区高田馬場3-4-13 日鉄ビル1F
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Open every day

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