The Ageing Gaijin – Tastes from Japan # 1

Maruichi – Oomori Tonkatsu restaurant


None of us likes to queue but in Tokyo if you spot a line outside a restaurant, it’s a sure sign that a good meal awaits at the front of it. Many local restaurants are small, family run businesses and don’t take bookings. If you want to eat there – you gotta join the queue.

And so it was yesterday when Kasumi and I were out shopping in our local neighbourhood of Oomori around lunchtime and spotted a group of about 10 people lined up outside a rather scruffy-looking tonkatsu restaurant. “Bet that’s worth a try,” she said.

So we joined the queue.

A sign on the window gives the opening times – lunch 11.30- 13.00 and dinner 17.00-19.00 (they eat early in Japan) – but a note underneath says if the food is finished, tough, they shut early.

About 10 minutes later we were relieved to be inside the tiny family-run restaurant with room for just 14 covers.

Tonkatsuis one of the staples of the Japanese diet – normally a pork loin or fillet cooked in breadcrumbs, often served with shredded cabbage. The secret lies in the quality of the pork, the crispiness of the breadcrumbs and the temperature of the oil.

Our pork was moist, tender and cooked to perfection. I guess if it’s all you serve – you’d better get it right. It came with a delicious, hearty miso soup – full of veg and bacon – as well as rice and pickles.

One of the common misconceptions about Japan is that eating out is very expensive. Sure, if you seek out the Michelin stars in the Ginza, you will pay top dollar. (There are more Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo than any other city including Paris, by the way).

But if you seek out the hidden gems, the small local favourites like this, you can eat for a song. Our meal including drinks and green tea came to less than the equivalent of £20 for the two of us – and that’s with a weak pound.


Take me to Chapter 2