Chef Jason Lee knows more than most about how to make the perfect tonkatsu – the flagship dish of his Newmarket restaurant, Katsu Katsu.
Lee co-founded Japanese restaurant Waku Waku in Remuera, and Katsu Katsu is another joint project with his good friend and fellow chef Makoto Tokuyama – who also has acclaimed Ponsonby restaurant Cocoro.
Katsu Katsu is designed to be more approachable than Waku Waku and Cocoro, serving tonkatsu, torikatsu (chicken) and ebikatsu (prawn) sets, as well as udon and other snacks such as takoyaki (deep-fried octopus pieces), karaage, and house-made gyoza.
The 30-seat space is on Khyber Pass Road, right by Malaysian restaurant Selera. It's long and narrow, with several high stools for dining at the bar looking into the kitchen, as well as a few tables at the front and a couple outside. Black walls echo Waku Waku’s interior palette, and bottles of Fuji mineral water line the shelf along with Suntory highball glasses and wine tumblers.
Every katsu – whether pork, chicken, prawn, or topped with melted cheese – comes as a set with rice, miso soup and cabbage salad that you can have replenished for free. In Japan, this is called “okawari” – essentially, “More, please!” Their tonkatsu is on the thicker side, and is tenderised without being too rough so it doesn’t ruin the texture. The accompanying dipping sauce has a rich miso flavour with natural sweetness, and a hint of sour flavour to cut through the katsu’s richness.
A soul-warming selection of udon ranges from simple kake udon (just noodles, kakejiru broth and pared-back vegetable garnishes) to kushi udon (topped with fish cake skewers) and goboten udon, which comes from Fukuoka where udon originated, and is served with tempura made from the root vegetable native to Japan, burdock.
To drink, Katsu Katsu is licensed so you can sip an Ippin sake, Asahi or Sawmill beer, or New Zealand-made wine with your meal. They also have several fruity flavours of chu-hi, the Japanese canned cocktail, and canned Suntory Highballs.
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