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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Korea Roundup 2011: And Then There Was Tonkatsu, Real Tonkatsu

Ok, here's the deal. Every day of the week beginning today, I'll post about one amazing restaurant or food item I had in Korea, culminating in the end of the year, where I'll be posting, you guessed it, the Best of 2011!

Today's entry is about tonkatsu -- remember that ethereal fried thing featured on my rant a while back? Well, I'll be damned, because I came to the sad realization that Korea has better tonkatsu than LA.

Yes, it's true. Welcome to Saboten, probably one of the world's largest tonkatsu franchises. I suspect it may be easier for a Japanese mega-franchise like Saboten to open a branch in Seoul, but hey, what about us over here in humble Los Angeles? I had other puzzling moments, wondering why the Korean website and the main Saboten Japan site were both so hard to find (I smell a major opportunity with SEO and web business).

But I digress. Ok, so what if it has like 500 shops throughout Asia? It serves excellent tonkatsu and that's all that matters.

I tried the most luxurious of them all -- a mix of quality pork tenderloin and loin in 17 layers! So not only was the outer shell incredibly crispy with perfectly fried bread crumbs, but the meat inside was also extremely soft -- even softer than if it were one chunk of tenderloin because it consisted of thin layers of meat that was tender and easy to bite into. We've all had the experience of trying to vigorously bite off the tonkatsu flesh off. This layered approach gets rid of the problem.

The lunch set came with rice, a cabbage salad, miso soup, pickled daikon radish and a mild soy sauce-based dipping sauce that had grated radish and green onions that went well with the fried beauties.

I didn't crave the classic mustard and thick soy sauce-based sauce usually had with tonkatsu but it was available.

It also offered all sorts of other tonkatsus like stuffed with cheese, etc, but I'm a purist and don't think they would go well so stuck to the (layered) classic.

Not sure if this is the norm, but management at the Myungdong location was shaky with poor service and lax restroom maintenance.

I later learned Saboten shops were indeed ubiquitous throughout Seoul and the suburbs. All I want to know is, WHEN ARE YOU COMING TO LA? THE MASSES DEMAND IT. That's it. I'm starting a petition and sending it to Saboten HQ. Who's in?

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