It was only after a few months moving here that I discovered this gem, which I now frequent. And it was not a moment too soon. This tonkatsu place, just five minutes from where I stay, is popular for great tonkatsu at affordable prices. The location is on the second floor in an alley on the south side of Shinjuku (map link below). So low profile, that you would probably not have seen this before restaurant on any travel guidebook so far.
Long, but fast-moving queues form during meal times regardless of which day of the week. Even on weekends, you will see a vibrant mix of salaryman, Korean tourists and solo foodies coming here. You queue on the stairs, where the menu will be available on the side of the wall. The staff will ask for your order while you queue, so the food comes almost as soon as you take a seat. Don’t be put off by the long queue as they go really fast. There is a chance that they might sit you opposite another customer on the same table in order to accommodate more customers, so be prepared for some awkwardness if you are seated opposite a couple staring at you wolf down your tonkatsu.
When choosing a dish, you can’t go wrong with chicken katsu (¥900) or tonkatsu (¥800). On days I just wanna get full without spending too much, I would go for the ikakatsu (¥620). All of the meals come with free flow rice and tonjiru (pork) soup, so you are bound to be full no matter what you order. This time, I ordered tonkatsu, which came promptly. The tonkatsu meal comes with a large serving of chopped lettuce salad, tonjiru soup, a bowl of rice, pickles and tea. If you are female, your rice bowl will default to a lesser portion, but of course, you can ask for seconds.
Sauces can be tricky for tonkatsu. For my salad, I usually go with the sweet chilli sauce. There is a choice between sweet sauce and a spicy one for your katsu, although the spicy is really too mild to be called spicy. I often go for the spicy one and have a dash of mustard on the side of my plate, ready to add a small kick to each bite.
The meat is soft, but not as crispy as some other restaurants like Tonkatsu Wako. It has more of the homely flavor that you won’t get bored of. The portion of meat is pretty big, so you can ask for half a bowl of rice for your second one if you are left with a few slices of katsu, but not quite feeling up to a whole second bowl of rice. The tonjiru, the soul food of Japan and cure for the worst of all hangovers, is flavorful and is something you get grateful for after meal after meal of miso soup. I usually eat less of the generous amount of daikon in the soup as that fills me up too fast for me to enjoy the rest of my meal. The service here is very attentive and quick. They often ask if you like a refill when they spot your empty bowl of rice or soup.
Tonchinkan is not a place for you to hang out in. It’s one for you to go in, get your fill of good food and get out. The place bangs on its fast turnover to stay in business all these years. It opens till late (2300) but closes on Sundays. I have brought many friends here and they only have good things to say. This place is one of the reasons I’m thankful to be here.