Way back before I knew anything about heritage breeds of pork and even less about Japanese food, I used to go Katsu-Hama in Midtown for their katsudon, or fried pork and chicken cutlets. The coolest thing about the place was its DIY sauce: Order the katsudon and the waiter brings over a bowl of toasted sesame seeds and a pestle. The sesame seeds are still hot and it’s strangely satisfying to grind them up against the ridges of the bowl. Ladle in some fruity usutā sōsu, or Japanese Worcester sauce, and voilà: tonkatsu sauce. The other day I had a hankering for tonkatsu, so I headed to Katsu-Hama.
I was pleased to see Katsu-Hama now has a Berkshire pork version in addition to the commodity pork cutlet. Since I’m a huge fan of this breed, which the Japanese call kurobuta, I had to order one. At $18, it’s almost twice as much as the standard variety, but man, is it good. It’s perfectly fried; you’re able to get a bit of crunchy coating and meat in every bite. And what meat it is—thick, juicy and packed with porky flavor it makes its less-pedigreed cousin look and taste positively anemic. The sweet-sour sauce does a great job of cutting through the rich fat, too.
Given that the tonkatsu includes rice, miso soup, and a small plate of Japanese pickles, I guess it’s not such a bad deal after all. Incidentally, Katsu-Hama means "cutlet beach." I could easily see eating their kurobuta tonkatsu as a way to beat the winter blues, and it’s still cheaper than a vacation.
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