According to Japanese Wikipedia, cutlets were introduced to Japan in the early Meiji period, in the form of beef or chicken, breaded and fried in butter. The western-style restaurant Renga-tei, opened in Ginza in 1895, changed the meat to pork and the frying method to deep oil, and this was the beginning of tonkatsu (source: Ko-unsha's 2002 Igai to shiranai mono no hajimari). Later, beginning in the Showa period, the Tonkatsu created by the restaurant Ponchi-ken in Tokyo's Okachimachi spread throughout the country: pork cutlet served cut-up or in bite-size pieces for easy chopstick-eating, with cabbage, miso soup and pickles.
Now tonkatsu by nature is not gourmet food, though as Butagumi shows it's possible to take a gourmet approach. It's generally a cheap, healthy, balanced meal that appeals to all sorts of people, and tonkatsu places are a dime a dozen. What interests me is, what appeals to Japanese diners to make a tonkatsu-ya more highly rated than others; how valid the eternal Maisen / Tonki axis is; what will appeal to foreign diners (and of course, to me ); and how well the ratings reflect the reality of the dining experience.
I'm thinking to add to this thread when opportunity permits, each time I'm having tonkatsu and have the time (余裕) to report. When I have the chance I'll be referring to Tabelog and choosing some of the rated places. But I figure, why do it by myself ? Please post your tonkatsu restaurant experiences and let's find the good ones together.
As I post it, this link returns Tabelog's ratings-ordered list of tonkatsu-ya for all of Japan. The top-ranked place isn't even in Tokyo - it's Jintei in Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture. Futaba, Tokyo's top-ranked, comes in 7th...
Edited by Blether, 10 November 2009 - 01:29 AM.