Maisen Tonkatsu has got the waiting system all figured out systematically. People go here for the tonkatsu (fried breaded pork cutlet) which is reputed to be one of the best in Tokyo. Note: we hear that Tonki also serves one of the best tonkatsu; Tonki has no English menu and Maisen has an English menu with pictures. Located inside a building that once housed a bathhouse during WWII, Maisen Tonkatsu restaurant has two floors. The kitchen and counter seating are downstairs; table seating is upstairs. Cushioned benches are by the wall downstairs and people move along in the seating positions as they move up in line to be seated. The line gets long quick and stretches out onto the stairs that lead to the dining room area upstairs. In Japan where everything is orderly and non-chaotic, Maisen Tonkatsu is no exception. As customers walk in, the polite employees usher the customers to join the line and they wait patiently (and systematically) by the wall. The line moves quick but for an even shorter wait, you can request for counter seating on the ground floor. After standing in line for 10 minutes, T curiously asks one of the employees if we could do kauntaa seki (counter seating) and to which we were unexpectedly seated right away at the counter. Score! Seating at the counter while being able to peak into the kitchen through the curtain-like cloth? Oh, yes.
The pork used at Maisen Tonkatsu are of prized breeds and it shows in the resulting texture and quality of the tonkatsu. Diners choose the breed type and the cut of meat. Rosu cut is loin and hire is fillet. Rosu is a big favorite as the loin has more fat; when the extra fat is rendered during cooking, it helps to keep the pork juicy. We decide on rosu (loin) for both the Okita Kurobota and Kurobota breeds. Though both are loin cuts, the difference between the breeds was noticeable-- the Okita Kurobota loin is a little more moist than the Kurobota loin. The Okita Kurobota is also priced higher than the Kurobota. If you are familiar with Berkshire pork, Kurobota is the Japanese word for it and it is considered the wagyu of pork.
The tonkatsu is fried to a perfect and delicate crisp. The meat inside for the Okita Kurobota is juicy and melts in the mouth; the Kurobota is tender and smooth. The meat tastes fresh and there is no hint of re-used or over-used oil taste in the pork cutlet. It really is the best tonkatsu we've ever had. The heaping of cabbage on the side is shredded the finest we've seen. When the shredded cabbage is almost depleted on your plate, the server will gladly top it up again. The meals are served with oshinko (Japanese pickles) and miso soup though the soup specifically for the Okita Kurobota meal is tonjiru (pork soup flavored with miso). The bowl of pork miso soup has thin-shaved pieces of fatty pork, daikon, konnyaku, and negi.
There is an outdoor booth where packed food is available for purchase to take home. The katsu sando (tonkatsu sandwich) is ever delicious. Grab a box and eat it later if you get hungry again from your fulfilling and satisfying lunch inside Maisen Tonkatsu.
Maisen Tonkatsu is hidden behind the Omotesando Hills shopping center and is located among the narrow streets. Follow the Maisen signs hanging on street poles.