Monday, August 4, 2008

Tim and Karen's Report Katsumasa -pork cutlet@Numazu-

I am an Australian who has been lucky enough to live in Mishima and Numazu for nearly 4 years.
I was given the chance to sample some of the areas first restaurants and would like to share my experiences with you. I went to only Japanese style restaurants in the hope to introduce this unique, traditional and delicious style of restaurant to people from all over the world.
This region is famous for all kinds of food ranging from seafood from the mysterious depths of Suruga Bay to rare mountain delicacies and the famous Ashitaka beaf.
‘Katsu’ occupies a unique position within modern Japanese cuisine, and over the years my English students have often ranked it highly amongst their favourite food in the usual first class introductions. The word ‘katsu’ probably comes from cutlet meaning ‘crumbed meat’ and has been shortened and adopted into the Japanese language. Few would argue that the famous German dish ‘schnitzel’ is most likely where this ‘crumbed meat’ phenomena began.

Given my German heritage, it was with a sense of keen anticipation that I looked forward to going to ‘Katsumasa’, a well-known Katsu restaurant in the Izu area. Katsumasa is situated in Hara, which lies between Numazu and Fuji city and was made famous by the painter Hakusai as a stage along the old Tokaido road. From the outside the restaurant looks somewhat understated but has a distinct Japanese look about it.
Upon our arrival at midday on Sunday for lunch, we were immediately ushered into a comfortable booth and had the daily special explained to us. We were pleased to be served both hot and cold tea, and the hot towels were appreciated too. One significant difference about Katsumasa that must be applauded is that it is entirely non-smoking. This courtesy allowed us to enjoy our meal in a pleasant smoke-free environment.

Katsumasa is decorated in a modern Japanese style, with some lovely traditional touches such as the lights and woodwork. It has an open and airy feel about it, and customers have the choice of sitting at tables or on the more traditional tatami mat. The atmosphere was cheerful and the mood relaxed. Although the restaurant was full by 12.30, the level of service never wavered. Our tea was refilled constantly, our orders were brought promptly, and although we felt completely unhurried during our meal we were ready to leave within 50 minutes of arriving ? our stomachs full and completely content.

I ordered the special that the waiter had highly recommended as ‘juicy’ and ‘high in volume’. At 1544 yen, the ‘kiri ro-su katsu’ was indeed juicy and extremely filling. My dining partner ordered the ‘cheese chicken roll katsu’ (1344 yen), and we were impressed to be offered a choice of soup (tonjiru or seaweed) and type of rice (white or healthy). The waiter used a bit of English to help us with our choices, and we appreciated his friendliness and helpfulness.

Next, we were served a rectangular dish with 3 kinds of pickles, and individual bowls with roasted sesame seeds for us to grind ourselves. The pickles were crunchy and delicious, and the roasted sesame grinding ? while not as easy as it looks ? released such a delicious smell that I had to dip my chopsticks in and try some. We asked the waiter what we were supposed to do with the ground sesame, and he explained that we added sauce to it and used it to dip our katsu into. There was a choice of sauces and also salad dressings already on our table.

Our meals arrived served on large black trays and were very attractively presented on a variety of Japanese dishes. We were told we were welcome to ‘okawari’ ? extra servings of cabbage, rice or soup at any time.
My first piece of katsu tasted just as good as it looked and was tender and juicy with a deliciously crispy coating that was not oily at all. The ground sesame and sauce mixture complemented the flavour perfectly, as did the ‘oroshi’ soy sauce, dashi and grated white radish dipping sauce that I tried with my second piece of katsu. The healthy rice I ordered was surprisingly soft and did not taste anything like the brown rice I have tried before. My choice of vegetable soup was also good, containing a selection of crisp vegetables and small pieces of pork that made me realise that it was more like pork and vegetable soup than anything else. The fresh shredded cabbage was an excellent accompaniment to the other dishes and provided a nice balance to the meal.

My companion’s chicken cheese roll katsu was just as good as mine and was also moist and tender with a subtle ham and cheese flavour and a touch of pepper to round it off. She chose the normal white rice which was excellent, and while the seaweed soup she had was good it was not in the same league as the pork and vegetable that I enjoyed so much that I accepted the offer of a refill even though I was very full at the time.

In conclusion I would have to say that Katsumasa is an excellent restaurant and if you are at all interested in cutlets you should try it. Highlights apart from the excellent cutlets themselves would have to be the ground roast sesame sauce, the delicious pickles served as appetizers, the presentation and the helpful and friendly service.

Address:2-13-11, Haramachinaka,Numazu
Budget:2,000 yen
Closed:open 365 days a year

Tim and Karen's review

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