Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin: First taste of the Berkshire hog
255 Beach Walk, Honolulu, HI
The most amazing tonkatsu I’ve ever had is at this little Japanese restaurant, Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin just off the main shopping strip in Waikiki. Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin is a Japanese chain specializing in fried breaded pork cutlet. I’ve had my share of fried pork cutlet, there are many Japanese restaurants and even food court booths in Vancouver that serve up some pretty delicious pork cutlet but Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin serves up this incredible thick-cut, super tender, super rich Kurobuta pork loin katsu in limited quantities, only 25 servings per day. Kurobuta pork comes from a specific pig, the Berkshire hog (aka the black hog) from Reading, UK. The Berkshire hog was gifted to the Japanese from the British government as a diplomatic gift. Kurobuta pork is superior in taste, texture and marbling. No wonder it’s only served in limited quantities at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin.
As we waited for our tonkatsu to be served, we decided to order some appetizers. We were just about to order some calamari when our server told us about some off-the-menu items. She brought over a tray and we chose the sashimi immediately. Being away from Vancouver made us very homesick for quality sashimi. The sashimi in Vancouver is top-notch but we soon found out that Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin’s sashimi is more than comparable. The fish was fresh, silky and delicious. We took our top savouring each delicately sliced piece of sashimi. Our favourite was the yellowtail tuna, so smooth and succulent, I wish there were more slices of it on the platter.
The condiment for the Kurobuta pork loin katsu was a freshly ground roasted sesame seed sauce. The catch? You have to ground the sesame seeds yourself. They armed us with a ceramic bowl filled with roasted sesame seeds and a little wooden grounder and off we went, crushing the fragrant sesame seeds to powder. Well, actually, I did a pretty poor job and barely ground up any of the seeds before our server walked by our table and chuckled. She took the bowl from me and showed me how to properly ground the sesame seeds, “Really put your strength into it!” She told me.
When I finally finished grounding up the sesame seeds, they smelled rich and nutty, our server scooped in a spoonful of this secret sweet and savoury sticky sauce and our dipping sauce was ready! Our entrees finally arrived, my Kurobuta pork loin katsu looked amazing, thick cut and juicy. It tasted just as good as it looked, the meat was so tremendously moist. The pork was so juicy, I barely needed the sesame seed dipping sauce but since I worked so hard to ground it up, I had to try it. It coated the pork perfectly and enhanced the cutlet flavour. This katsu makes every other katsu I’ve had in Canada seem like insubstantial flappy pieces of scrap meat. The crust on the Kurobuta katsu was extremely crispy, it definitely tasted freshly fried. Even though the pork was so thickly cut, thanks to that amazing marbling, it still had this buttery, flavourful, rich melt-in-your-mouth quality. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Most of the entrees at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin come with unlimited cabbage salad and you can choose any dressing you desire. We stuck with Italian dressing and this tangy pineapple concoction made in-house. But the true star of the meal was definitely that thick-cut Kurobuta pork.
My boyfriend ordered the jumbo prawn tempura. They were not kidding when they said jumbo prawn because just one of those prawns was practically the size of my arm. Despite their gigantic size, the meat was very tender and moist. The tempura batter was crispy and fresh as well.
We were so stuffed from this meal that we didn’t even have room for dessert. If you’re in Honolulu, Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin is a must! It’ll completely change your perception of the fried pork cutlet.