Tonkatsu at the Izakaya Restaurant in Ottawa
Tonkatsu is a Classic in modern Japanese cuisine. It consists of a Pork cutlet that is deep-fried after being breaded, typically with Panko, although you do occasionally see non-standard versions where a light batter is used. The traditional serving is over a bed of shredded Cabbage, with a thick Japanese-style Worcestershire Sauce based preparation called Tonkatsu Sauce. There are variations, of course, and the version at the now defunct Itzakaya Restaurant in Ottawa really jazzed up the basic form.
First, the plain cabbage bed in this interpretation was replaced with a mix of white and red cabbage that had briefly been cooked and then tossed in a spicy-sweet chili-based sauce. Other interpretations of the classic will make more of a mixed salad out the plain shredded cabbage bed, and I have seen bean-sprouts used as a replacement occasionally. In any event, the sweet and spicy sauce was a novel addition and I rather liked it.
The pork cutlet, however, was rather thickly cut and not pounded out for the tenderness you should really expect with this dish. It was also a bit too vigorously fried in this particular case with the result that it was just a little bit dry and overdone.
The biggest deviation from the basic theme was that the cutlet was slathered (a little too liberally, perhaps) with a Teriyaki style sauce and Japanese Mayo. The effect was actually not that bad but to then serve the typical Tonkatsu sauce alongside was really overkill to my mind. As it happened though, I actually preferred the topping blend and, after the first few bites, didn’t bother with the dipping sauce again.
Possibly, purists might claim that the dish I was served can no longer be properly called a true Japanese Tonkatsu but I generally enjoyed the Tonkatsu at Izakaya and thought it inventive and interesting.