Tanakatsu is a Japanese restaurant in London that specialises in Tonkatsu. It is surprising that there are not more Katsu restaurants in the UK – especially when Katsu curry is so popular. In fact, if you search for “Tonkatsu” online, the majority of the entries on the first result page are for Tonkotsu ramen!
What is Tonkatsu?
First, a quick explanation if you are not familiar. Tonkatsu is a “Western style” Japanese dish made by coating pork cutlet with flour, egg, and panko (breadcrumbs), before deep-frying. “Ton” means pork in Japanese while “katsu” means cutlet. As you can see in the Tanakatsu menu, there is also Chicken Katsu (with or without the curry sauce) or prawn Katsu. Tanakatsu also offers a special vegetarian option – a pumpkin croquette, and more about this later.
How authentic is the interior of Tanakatsu?
The restaurant co-founders wanted to create a place where Japanese expats wanting to eat katsu in London could feel at home. Tanakatsu is located in Angel but makes up for being off the beaten path with a truly Japanese minimalist aesthetic. From outside, an elegant lamp illuminating the restaurant sign guides your way to the restaurant entrance. Once inside, you’ll find sleek concrete walls, dark wood counters, and immaculately arranged tables. This is exactly the kind of stylish interior you’d expect in a trendy café or contemporary restaurant in Japan.
How was the food?
We should mention that Tanakatsu offers chicken and salmon Teriyaki dishes, sushi, sashimi, and authentic sides like Hiya-Yakko (a lovely silky tofu side dish). We decided to order some sashimi while we waited for our Katsu to arrive. As we expected, we found their salmon to be a perfect appetiser, however we felt the tuna sashimi could have been richer in taste.
Our Katsu dishes arrived at the same time as the sashimi, so we could quickly move onto the main event. I ordered the Pork Katsu set which is a very generous set that features Tonkatsu, a large piece of prawn katsu and a pumpkin croquette. As with all the Katsu and Teriyaki sets, this comes with a bowl of steamed white rice, Fujin-zuke pickles, and a good quantity of shredded cabbage.
I dug into the Pork Katsu first. This was the perfect marriage of pork, batter, and evenly applied panko breadcrumbs. The pork is a lean cut that is equally filling without being too heavy. Then there was the batter and panko breadcrumbs. This outer layer was crispy and the soft panko flakes simply melted away in your mouth. The sauce to pour over the Katsu reminded us of a traditional Japanese katsu restaurant too – it was sweet with hints of spices but without being overpowering.
As you can see in the photo, the prawn katsu was large and consistent in quality to the Pork Katsu. I enjoyed the jumbo fresh prawn wrapped in a light and crispy panko exterior. Something that unexpectedly surprised me was their pumpkin croquette. This Japanese winter squash croquette is deep-fried like their Tonkatsu. It also has a crispy exterior and the soft and sweet pumpkin inside balanced beautifully with the batter. This is obviously great news for vegetarians as you can have the pumpkin croquette set by itself.
My friend ordered a Tonkatsu don (a pork cutlet on top of a rice bowl). He also felt his Tonkatsu had that authentic Japanese flavour, and their rice was high quality Japanese rice. This essential element is often overlooked in reviews, however Tanakatsu fully delivers in this department.
Katsu restaurant in Japan all serve a voluminous side of finely sliced cabbage. Tanakatsu also adds a healthy portion of cabbage but drizzled with their own home-made dressing. This dressing is worth a mention as it is far superior to your standard fare. It really elevates the sliced cabbage to being an integral part of the meal and not just an afterthought.
Would we recommend Tanakatsu?
If you are looking for Tonkatsu in London, we completely recommend Tanakatsu. The food is authentically prepared and served, and this is an excellent restaurant if you want to experience Japanese food outside of the regular sushi and ramen options.
In addition, their Tonkatsu set only costs £13.95. There are not many times in London when the cost of Japanese food is not far from the price it would be in Japan!
Lastly but not least, the couple who run Tanakatsu have worked in the Japanese restaurant industry for many years. This means you can experience the quality of food and service you’d receive in prestigious restaurants at far more comfortable prices. Koko and Joe have done a spectacular job of delivering an understated and elegant restaurant where they can spread their love for Katsu and Teriyaki dishes. We are certainly looking forward to our next visit.
Have you eaten at Tanakatsu? If you have, please feel free to let us know your thoughts about your dining experience in the comment box below.