Since the early 20th century, much of Japanese cuisine has taken inspiration from Western cuisine. It's a genre the Japanese call yoshoku (“Western food”). That fascination can lead to the obsessive replication of classic dishes, which is why you're just as likely to find excellent pizza in Kyoto as you are in Naples. But it can also lead to the reinterpration of Western staples into something uniquely Japanese.

The katsu sando is a great example of yoshoku. A katsu (a shortening of the Japanese word for cutlet, katsuretsu) is breaded and fried, and sandwiched between two slices of shokupan, fluffy white Japanese milk bread. Sando is the Japanese abbreviation of sandoitchi, which means sandwich. It's a triple-threat snack: photogenic, texturally interesting and deliciously moreish.

Katsu sandos are everywhere in Melbourne right now, and only getting more popular. Here are the best places in town to get your hands on one.

Related pages:
Best Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne
Best Sushi in Melbourne
Best Ramen in Melbourne
Best Sandwiches in Melbourne

Tamura Sake Bar

Restaurant

For this lockdown, Tamura Saké Bar is back to doing a takeaway menu filled with izakaya staples. The chicken katsu sando, a welcome returnee from past lockdowns, is not to be missed, but the rest of the menu is well worth a look-in, too. You can also buy records and saké there.

43 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Papirica

Cafe

Papirica's sandos are a joy for a few reasons. Firstly, there's a filling for everyone. You can go for a classic pork cutlet, panko-crumbed eggplant or tamago – Japanese scrambled egg. Secondly, the shokupan made for the sandos is house-made by the loaf. Lastly, it comes toasted. A katsu toastie. Head in-store for takeaway, delivery is available on Uber Eats.

22 Smith Street, Collingwood

Le Bajo

Cafe

At this Japanese cafe in a North Melbourne warehouse, almost everything revolves around fluffy-house baked shokupan (which you can get to take away). You'll also find fried-chicken katsu sandos, teriyaki fries and airy sponge cake. It’s from one of the founders of Bali’s Potato Head Beach Club – and it shares a space with his impressive old-school car collection.

8-14 Howard Street, North Melbourne

KUU Cafe

Cafe

Kuu had sandos on the menu far before they were so pervasive. They've been great since day one. There are prawn and chicken options, but the tofu is the standout: it's one of the best vegetarian katsu sandos out there.

190 Park Street, South Melbourne

Future Future

Restaurant

A crumbed meatball katsu sando with tonkatsu sauce and kewpie mayo is a highlight at this Richmond favourite. And it's still available during lockdown. Order here for pick-up on Fridays and Saturdays.

191 Swan Street, Richmond

Hibiki

Cafe

Melbourne’s lockdowns have given rise to Hibiki’s special rotating sando, which has all the polish we’ve come to expect from this Japanese cafe-bar. Past instalments have included a pork and beef burger with teriyaki sauce and yuzu-lemon mayo. And a Thai fish cake with apple slaw, aojiso ponzu and sweet chilli. It all comes between two slices of fluffy white bread.

1161 Toorak Road, Camberwell

Benchwarmer

Bar

This beer hall and izakaya is back to being a lockdown bottle shop. Head in to fill up your growler with something from the taps, or grab a beer or wine from the well-stocked fridges. Benchwarmer is also once again doing its izakaya-influenced packs. The sando special is a good one – past fillings have included well-sauced hibachi-grilled pork belly, and smoky sweet potato. Your $25 pack comes with onion rings, Japanese pickles and a free tinnie. You can't pre-order this one, so just keep an eye out on Benchwarmer's socials for its next drop.

345 Victoria Street, West Melbourne

Wabi Sabi Salon

Restaurant

Wabi Sabi does a bit of everything: bountiful bowls, ramens, curries and katsu sandos. There’s usually a range – from chicken cutlet to smoked tofu – all jammed between crustless slices of shokupan.

94 Smith Street, Collingwood
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Neko Neko

Restaurant

Although sister venue Wabi Sabi Salon has the more extensive sando line-up, predominantly plant-based diner Neko Neko has a couple of solid options. There's the all-vegan smoked tofu katsu burger with vegan Thai basil mayo. And there's also a swordfish katsu burger with spicy curry mayo. It's open for pick-up and delivery is available on Uber Eats.

83 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Bakemono

Cafe

We were all making – or at least, attempting to make – sourdough in lockdown last year. In any case, we were consuming a lot of it. This year's lockdown bread, though? It's all about shokupan, the katsu sando's carb of choice. So if you want to have a go at making your own sandos at home, we recommend stopping by this teeny bakery in the CBD, which sells shokupan by the loaf.

273 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Saint Dreux

Cafe

This cafe dedicated to sandos unfortunately seems to be closed for this lockdown. But you can still buy its absurdly soft shokupan over at sister venue Bench Coffee Co. Pre-order here.

Level 2 St. Collins Lane 260 Collins Street, Melbourne

Cibi

Cafe

A subtle and classic take on the pork katsu sando. Although its takeaway menu changes quite a bit in lockdown, you can expect the katsu sando to make regular appearances.

31-39 Keele Street, Collingwood