And if you eat it like we did, there’s essentially a second rice bowl waiting for you too.

Let’s start today’s restaurant review off with a little linguistic appetizer. In Japanese, tonkatsu is the word for pork cutlet, and donburi the word for rice bowl. Since “tonkatsu donburi” is a bit of a mouthful to say, though, it gets commonly condensed down to just katsudon.

But remember how we said tonkatsu means pork cutlet? The katsu part really just means “cutlet.” Many restaurants also serve chicken katsudon or gyukatsudon (beef cutlet rice bowl). Recently, though, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a type of cutlet bowl we’d never seen before: salmon katsudon.

We found this creative cutlet creation at Ermitage, a seafood restaurant located in Tokyo just a five-minute walk from Yoyogi Station. Between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. they offer six different lunch options, but we immediately locked on to the toro salmon rare katsudon.

At 2,178 yen (US$16.15), it’s a little more expensive than our usual midday meals, but it comes in a set with a salad (pictured below) and drink, so it’s not too exorbitant.

After a short wait, the server brought over our main course, which was mouthwateringly beautiful and surprisingly colorful.

Accompanying the salmon cutlet bowl were a cup of mixed ikura and tobiko (salmon and flying fish roe), another with a soy-based sauce, and a third with an egg, mayonnaise, and diced onion. The biggest surprise, though, was the enticing orange of the salmon.

As a cutlet, the salmon katsu is, of course, deep-fried, but Ermitage’s chefs expertly cook it so that the breading develops a proper katsu crispness while keeping the salmon itself almost entirely raw, almost like salmon sashimi. The result is that each bite starts with a tantalizing crunch that gives way to a soft, creamy center, and we fell in love with the flavor instantly.

Honestly, the salmon katsu is great all on its own, but since Ermitage provides you with all those condiments, we decided to try them too. Starting with the cup of egg, mayo, and onion, this is actually a mix-it-yourself mayonnaise.

After stirring the three ingredients together, we applied a dollop to a piece of cutlet, and they worked great together, sort of like a seared salmon fish and chips sort of thing (just without the chips part).

Next we tried sprinkling on the ikura and tobiko…

and this was even better! As a matter of fact it was so good that we kept on adding the roe to every remaining piece of cutlet that we had.

Unfortunately, our lack of restraint led us into a problem. Ermitage is very generous with the condiments for the salmon katsudon, so we didn’t run out of roe, but we’d been so fixated on eating the cutlet that we’d forgotten to intersperse mouthfuls of rice. So now we had plenty of grains left in the bowl but no more cutlet.

This problem was easily solved, though, by pouring on the remaining roe and some of the sauce, giving us a sort of mini ikura and tobiko bowl.

In the end, it felt like we’d had two meals, and both of them fantastic, in a single sitting, so we absolutely recommend giving Ermitage’s salmon katsudon a shot. There is one thing to be aware of, though, which you can see in the bottom right corner of the photo below.

That’s a sign and a line marker directing people where to wait for a table to open up. On the day we visited, we were able to walk right in and get a seat right away, but the fact that Ermitage keeps this equipment on hand suggests that it can get pretty busy at lunchtime, so you’ll want to plan accordingly, even if the salmon katsudon is definitely worth a bit of a wait.

Restaurant information
Ermitage (Yoyogi branch) / エルミタージュ(代々木店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 1-45-4
Open 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (weekdays), 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (weekends, holidays)

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