It’s a good thing touring around Tokyo involves climbing a lot of stairs. Otherwise, how could you possibly forgive yourself for eating kushi katsu?
Kushi Katsu is bite sized meat and veggies skewered, battered and deep fried.
This dish has it’s roots in the Shin Sekai area of Osaka in the Kansai region. We will be giving it a go here in the Shinjuku San Chome area in Tokyo. As I’ve mentioned a few times, Shinjuku San Chome is a den of sin. Drunks feasting at every corner. One of my favorite places in Tokyo and boasting a near endless amount of tiny restaurants to explore. Tonight we visited Sei Chan.
You’ll find Sei Chan on the 3rd floor of what would appear to be a derelict building. It only adds to the atmosphere. This place is very much off the beaten path in the sense that it is not on the ground floor of the building which means that it may as well be invisible to international tourists. There were only locals inside when we arrived. The staff made no mention of an English menu and I doubt you’ll get far ordering in English. At the end of this post I will include most but not all of the things you will find on the menu and the names in Japanese. The ones that I do list you will generally find at ANY kushi katsu place you visit so you could use the same list elsewhere if you like. Just say the name in Japanese and indicate how many you’d like.
Lemon Sour and a Kalpis Sour.
Kushi Katsu is the perfect chance to try some Japanese Shochu Cocktails
First up let’s sort out our drinks. This meal is going to be salty, greasy and high on regret so drinks are in order. Meals like this go real well with beer obviously but I prefer sours when I’m having kushi katsu. A Sour is basically a chu hi. Chu Hi is the shortened word of Shochu High Ball. Shochu is the Japanese booze that isn’t sake. Shochu is mixed with soda water (hence the high ball) and then some fruit flavoring is added. Takao had the lemon sour and I had a kalpis sour. Kalpis is a yogurt based drink that you’ll see at any convenience store here. I realize that does not sound very temping, boozy yogurt. Give it a try though! You might like it. Other options typically include grapefruit, lime, grape and peach. Try all of them!
Kushi Katsu Menus
Unlike Tempura, this batter has bread crumbs in it. Tempura places will tend to be a little more on the stylish and classy side while kushi katsu is a little more like food you’d find at the state fair in the US. Think deep fried pop tarts, huge hair dos and stretch pants. What makes kushi katsu a bit special though is the foods you will find on the menu. I’ll try and walk you through it. The menu looks like an exam sheet. In the empty space next to each option you will write how many of each you would like. 1 is 1 stick of skewered nibbles.
After you’ve ordered you’ll be brought some supplies. We have dishes with 2 different types of sauce one savory another savory sweet. In the small part of the dish at the top is dipping salt. The base of the sauces is Worcestershire, so there is a nice tang to it. You’ll also be given a dish of raw cabbage. Go ahead and eat it by hand or chopstick and dip it in the sauces. The cabbage is meant to keep your tummy from feeling dulled down by all the deep fried morsels you’re about to overeat. The soup was a giblet kimchii soup that Takao likes and I am slowly starting to enjoy. I’m still not a giblets kind of guy but I’m trying to be less picky. This soup was actually really good.
Our food is here! 2 sticks of each deep fried morsel. We had (and these are some of my top picks) lotus root, eggplant, red onion, asparagus (topped with tartar sauce) cherry tomatoes and plain old beef. We kept it light because we went for gyoza after this. Hold your applause please.
This is a lot of fun to eat and while it is definitely not the healthiest or fanciest meal you can have in Tokyo it is one of the most enjoyable. I haven’t even told you about some of the crazy stuff they had on the menu yet!
If this is only your starter for a tour of Shinjuku San Chome then by all means stop here and move on. If you’re hell bent on more deep fried food then order another round of boozy yogurts and let’s look at the menu!
Some typical things to order at a Kushi Katsu Restaurant
Beef………………..Kushi Katsu Gyu Rice Cake…………………Mochi
Pork………………..Buta rosu Pollock (fish) Roe……….Mentaiko
One thing this menu had on it for 380 yen (about 3 USD) was deep fried Wagyu. Neat! Try it all! You can’t go wrong. And after dinner at Sei Chan I insist you go wander around Shinjuku San Chome. Taset Tokyo is a food blog that fully endorses over doing it while on vacation overseas.