There’s no shortage of places to eat in Melbourne’s Chinatown. But new Japanese diner Katsuretsu Co makes a compelling case for breaking away from your old favourites.

The short menu at this casual spot in Midcity Centre is laser-focused on tonkatsu: golden, deep-fried Japanese pork cutlets.

Each piece of pork – they’re all loin cuts here – is brined overnight in a mixture of salt and garlic. It’s then coated in nama panko (fresh, not dried) – which is imported directly from Japan and helps create the dish’s signature crunch – before being deep fried.

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Oyster and prawn katsu options are also available, while marinated wild mushrooms and a seasoned squid salad provide a refreshing contrast to the main event.

While the tonkatsu is undoubtedly the star, the house-made sauces are a critical component of the dish. On offer here is a classic tartare; Japanese curry sauce; and a Nagoya-style dark miso, which has a richer, deeper flavour than the more-common white miso.

There are just two alcoholic drinks on the menu: Kirin Ichiban and Kizakura Kyoto Matcha IPA. You can also get hot tumblers of sencha and genmaicha tea, along with sparkling fuji apple juice and umeshu soda.

The restaurant is the work of husband-and-wife duo Michelle Yap and Jason How, who moved to Australia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

How is a banker-turned-chef-restaurateur, who ran Western-Japanese eatery Ante in KL. The couple made their first foray into Melbourne hospitality in 2018 with Ton & Co, Windsor, which is known for its pork rib-eye katsu and an extensive menu of classic izakaya dishes.

The pair’s newest venture is a heartfelt ode to a small tonkatsu restaurant they frequented during their early dating days in KL. The cosy, minimalist fit-out is reminiscent of a neighbourhood katsu spot, with dark walls, small but sturdy tables and chairs, and a no-fuss ambiance that lets the food do the talking.

“We wanted to recreate that simple yet satisfying style of restaurant that was a love letter to our local date-night spot back home,” Yap tells Broadsheet.

“It’s our own style,” How adds. “A Melbourne-born version of tonkatsu that represents where we’ve come from and what we’ve learned along the way.”

Katsuretsu Co
6/200 Bourke Street (Midcity Centre), Melbourne
(03) 9943 4023

Tues to Sat 5pm–9.30pm