In case it wasn’t apparently obvious, we spent the majority of our time in Tokyo stuffing our faces.
Or getting lost.
And then eating some more.
Our search for Gyukatsu Motomura combined getting lost about five times then getting pissed off at one another because neither of us could find the restaurant on a map, standing in two lines to two restaurants with the same name, and then finally sitting down to a delicious meal of buttery melt-in-your-mouth beef katsu.
Gyu-katsu, or beef katsu, is a variation of the popular Japanese dish, tonkatsu, popular in Kobe and Osaka. Tonkatsu, or just ‘katsu’ is eaten in katsu curries, katsu sammies, or on it’s own dipped in tonkatsu sauce. Whereas tonkatsu consists of lightly breaded, deep-fried, pork cutlet, gyu-katsu is essentially the Japanese version of a chicken fried steak. Except with much better meat, a lot less breading and no country gravy. (Mmmmm…country gravy…)
When one of Sly’s friends found out we were visiting Tokyo he insisted that we eat at Gyu-katsu Motomura, claiming their version of katsu to be one of the best things he ever ate. With such high praise from a fellow foodie we knew we had to give it a try.
We spent a good hour or more wandering around trying to find the original restaurant hidden on a small street off another small street, surrounded by construction and with no visible signage. I think we must have circled the block more than five times before we finally noticed a line of people that looked as if it led to a restaurant. After about five minutes in line one of the hostess’ came out and handed us a card with directions to the other restaurant. “You can wait here but it might be a long time because there’s only six seats,” she said. We surveyed the line. About 6-8 people were ahead of us, or according to the hostess, about an hour wait.
“Is the other restaurant far from here?” we asked.
“No, maybe 15 minutes,” replied the hostess.
Once more we studied the map on the back of the card considering our options.
“Just go down the street and turn right,” the hostess said as if to assure us.
“Down the street and right?” Sly repeated.
Famous last words.
The hostess nodded and pointed in the general area of the restaurant and for some reason we decided to try to find the other restaurant even though we had spent nearly an hour finding this one.
We were in the major transportation crossroads of Shibuya. Roads crossed over and under and crisscrossed back and forth. Straight was easy enough to figure out but turning right did not make sense. If we truly turned right we would have followed the highway overpass, a road we already explored when trying to find restaurant #1, and one we knew did not lead to any katsu. Thus we assumed that “turning right” actually meant crossing over the overpass via a series of stairs and bridges to go to the other side of the street. Once on the other side, there was no “right”, just two roads that split into a “v” shape. We chose one of the roads (of course the wrong one) walked about five blocks, then looped back around to the street we didn’t choose.
45 frustrating minutes later we found the second, larger, Gyukatsu Motomura and slipped into the line just before it snaked around the block. By this time the lunch crowd was finishing up so we didn’t have to wait too much longer. Our orders were taken while in line so that when we finally sat down it was only a matter of minutes before our food arrived.
The proper way to enjoy gyukatsu:
The beef cutlet (katsu) was served rare but it wasn’t chewy or cold on the inside. Instead it was oh-so-tender with a delicate crispy crunch on the outside.
I seared mine just a little bit on both sides…
…and then dunked the slice into the sauces.
I particularly loved the horseradish sauce.
I take my katsu very seriously
Gyu-katsu Motomura served one thing and one thing only: beef katsu. And like pretty much everything in Japan, it was made to absolute perfection. Was it worth the wait? I think so. The turnover was fairly quick and I have never eaten beef katsu, or if I did it certainly did not taste like this. Besides hamburgers, I’m don’t usually like steak-y red meat-y dishes. This katsu, however, was next level, especially paired with the simple yet delicious sauces.
Was it worth getting lost, walking in circles for about an hour, waiting in one line only to be told to go to the other, and then waiting another 30-45 minutes to eat? I’m not so sure.
Gyukatsu Motomura (牛かつ もと村) | CUISINE: Japanese / Beef Katsu | COST: Inexpensive, ¥;1200 (about $10 USD) for the basic set lunch menu | LOCATION: Multiple locations, we visited the larger Shibuya restaurant. | DESCRIPTION: Tiny shop serving only one menu item: beef katsu. I love when restaurants or chefs specialize in one thing and do it very well, which was definitely the case with Gyukatsu Motomura. In addition to the beef cutlet the basic set meal came with a tiny scoop of potato salad, shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice and a small bowl of soup. It’s a pretty good amount of food for the cost, and a bargain in Tokyo. The restaurants — both the “smaller” and “bigger” one don’t have much seating so you can pretty much expect a line — sometimes up to two hours long. At the bigger restaurant we stood in line just at the top of the stairs around 2pm and it was about a 35-40 minute wait until we were seated. I would not come here with more than 4 people in a group. It’s highly unlikely you would be able to sit together unless you got lucky. | VERDICT: Yum. Definitely worth a try though I would probably not wait two hours. There’s just too much good food to eat in Japan!