The Return of The Best Tonkatsu Restaurant in Tokyo!
All great restaurants in Japan that accept only walk-ins have the longest queue in the world: especially the famous one. Although, some places implement a 2-tier ticketing system that customers can use to come in the morning and come back at a specified time slot. The wait could be 1-3 hours, but that’s nothing unexpected for Japan. I recall an anecdote of a Japanese couple meeting by chance while waiting to get into a famous oyakodon in Tokyo. They got married after getting to know each other during the queuing, and even subsequently invited the restaurant owner to their wedding anniversary to reminisce where they met.
Now, the famed Narikura even have internet booking via Omakase, whose seats were snapped within minutes. Many foreigners would scratch their heads and wonder why it’s so difficult just to eat a good Tonkatsu; All I could say is that it’s better than waiting for hours just to find out the meal is sold out before your turn in the queue.
Would it be possible to find a great restaurant with no queue? It’s quite impossible in the age of ubiquitous information. A hidden gem is quickly discovered. Unbeaten paths are so quickly conquered by avid foodies these days.
Last year, tonkatsu fans were taken by sad surprise with the abrupt closure of Maruyama Kippei in Taito due to an unexpected accident, and that the chef at Maruyama Kippei had been hospitalized. Much to my regret, I searched and searched for another tonkatsu restaurant, but couldn’t help missing the golden brown deep-fried tonkatsu.
The good news is the owner recovered. Maruyama Kippei commenced by the end of last month at the new location; a stone throw from Kanda JR station and about 1.3 km south of the original location, which was subsequently taken over by Tonkatsu Aoki. It seems that this neighborhood is rather quiet during weekends. I rushed to the new address to discover the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Much to my surprise, there was no queue at all. I pondered if this could be a warning sign as Japanese diners are known for their devotion.
The ambiance had changed, and it seemed that the chef was mellowed down. When I walked in, he graced my friend and me with a warm welcome. He is now very friendly and open. There are two kind ladies and another gentleman who help him out in the kitchen.
I picked Loin from the ticket machine so I can taste it while my friend ordered rib. At dinner time, rice isn’t included, so you need to buy a ticket for your rice. The ticket machine is quite loud and plays a melody during the ordering process, unlike the old location where I could almost hear a pin drop.
When my tonkatsu arrived, it was so crisp. The crust was golden brown from deep frying at a high temperature. This is the main difference when comparing it with the one served at Narikura, which is fried at low heat. Hence, the crust there is both light and elegant, which could be described as feminine, whereas Maruyama kippei’s style is quite macho and bold with flavor.
At first bite, the pork is packed with deep umami flavor. The juice from each bite is extremely flavorful. The chef must have spent a lot of time thinking and reflecting during his sabbatical leave. My verdict is that Maruyama Kippei is still my favorite tonkatsu, and the pork is one of the best, if not the best.
Some diners might fear consuming too much fat. Not all types of fat are the same. Most of the time, fat at many tonkatsu restaurants is so greasy, and it clouds my palate. It takes hours, as fat can’t be washed away easily by drinking water alone. I felt the pork here is of the highest quality and must have been fed with good feedstock. It’s so flavorful, yet washed down easily after drinking some water. I could feel the refreshing taste of the cabbage after having tonkatsu. One example of the fat myth is fish oil. Not all fishes are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Wild salmon, yes, but farmed salmon, not really. Take farmed Tilapia for another example; it’s loaded with saturated fat.
A lunch featuring loin, which comes with rice, costs 1,300 yen. A 200-gram meal costs 1,600 yen. All other menu items cost pretty much the same. I would recommend 200 grams for any regular dinner.
At this location, the owner introduced fried aji and pork shabushabu as part of a new menu. Pork shabushabu has to be reserved for a minimum of two guests. Reservation to be made in-store at least five days in advance. Pork shabushabu’s price starts at 8,000 yen, which is even more expensive than some beef shabushabu. The owner is quite confident of his pork shabushabu, so I hope to try it during my next visit.
I really hope Maruyama Kippei will soon be a great success at the new address. It would serve as an inspiration for anyone who thinks they are in despair and hopeless. I’m happy to see that the chef rose back with his spirit and is thriving. During his sabbatical, he even said he dreamt of frying tonkatsu. For all tonkatsu fans, this would be a window of opportunity to try high-level tonkatsu without spending hours in the queue or competing online to book a seat. You can waltz in and get a seat right away, at least for now. After they iron out all the kinks of a newly-open restaurant, it will be one of the top tonkatsu restaurants, which might not be easy to visit, so before the word spreads, it is a good idea for TTT readers to be ahead of the crowd.
29 Kanda Tomiyamachō, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 101-0043, Japan
Wed-Fri 11.00–14.00, 17.00–20.00
The last order is 10 minutes before the closing time of each round.
Maruyama Kippei is on Facebook. You can check for updates on their opening hours and holidays.
Local taste had taken a long journey searching for delicious meals long before the dawn of social media, roaming from one city to another from the Far East to the west, over 160 cities in four continents and more than 400,000 miles during the last 37 years.
His dining spots over thousands of restaurants range from eating in a hole in the wall in Asia to all ten Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris. More than decades was spent on chasing for perfect xiao long bao.
Because he is not in food business nor food writer, his article won’t be found elsewhere but exclusively on tokyotabletrip.com as a tribute to Leo Saito’s altruistic deed to help international visitors discover the beauty of Japanese cuisine.