Header image: Kyoto Katsugyu’s gyukatsu
Most people are familiar with tonkatsu, even if they do not particularly seek out Japanese cuisine. Fewer people have tried the beef version called gyukatsu (牛カツ), in which beef is breaded with panko, deep-fried and served with rice and shredded cabbage. The main difference with the beef cutlet compared to the pork version is that you can savour the meat deliciously rare.
Restaurants like Wagyumafia have made the Wagyu katsu sando Internet-famous (at $1,000 per sando, thank you very much), yet gyukatsu has not yet transcended the language barrier to become as ubiquitous as tonkatsu (in the English-speaking world, that is).
As its name suggests, Kyoto Katsugyu specialises in gyukatsu. They cover steaks in the golden ratio of Japanese breadcrumbs, flour and egg batter and deep-fry them fast at 190°C to get a crispy coating. The brand opened their first shop in Kyoto in 2014, topping the Japanese Twitter search list not long after.
There are two Hong Kong branches, which both opened this year. We visited the basement branch at TOWER 535 in Causeway Bay and gave immediate points for an excellent plastic food display at the shopfront – missing travels as we are and so easy to please.
Armed with a glass of Sapporo (buy 1 get 1 free at $48/330ml), we set about deciding what to order from the selection of set meals built around gyukatsu. We chose the A4 Kagoshima Wagyu striploin set ($438) over the M9 Wagyu beef flap bavette set ($285), and to contrast the cuts, we also ordered the classic beef chuck flap, fillet and sliced beef set ($228).
Classic beef chuck flap, fillet and sliced beef set ($228)
So many condiments
Each set comes with rice and shredded cabbage, as well as sansho pepper salt, pickles, the eatery’s signature curry sauce and a selection of other sauces that go by many names. Whilst the steak is beautifully labelled, the sauces are not, but in the end, this doesn’t matter.
The A4 Wagyu set also comes with a signature onsen egg, and you can order this separately too ($15).
Anytime we have onsen egg, we feel a compulsion to take yolk pictures. So we did. However, the creaminess of the egg was too much when combined with the premium Wagyu cut, due to the richness of the A4.
Our favourite condiment was definitely the sansho pepper salt. Dip all your pieces into the “steak sauce” (aka gyukatsu sauce, aka Worcester sauce) and then into the pepper salt. That’s it – that’s the advice.
A close runner-up is a dollop of the excellent freshly grated wasabi with a soaking of the house dashi soy sauce (aka bonito sauce).
Which cut to choose?
In all the cuts of beef, the panko layer is thin and crisp, made with a special super-refined katsu panko, so you can focus on the beef within. The chuck flap and A4 were delivered medium instead of rare, but the cuts were juicy and tender.
The A4 is an ultra-premium Japanese category that qualifies as Kobe beef and is luxuriously decadent. Even though it was not served as rare as we had expected, we did still need to sear it (did we mention each table has a grill to perfect your level of doneness?) in order to enjoy more than a few pieces. It’s very, very rich.
In the mixed set, the sliced beef was slightly sweet and a little thin for our liking. The chuck flap was great, but our favourite was the fillet (labelled as tenderloin). It was the only cut that came rare, but it was so tender (and lean) that it didn't need a sear. Next visit, we will order the beef fillet set ($208) so that we can enjoy more of this cut.
If this is all too much beef for your liking, you can also order pork and salmon katsu, as well as a variety of side orders such as deep-fried king prawn ($48/1) and deep-fried Hiroshima oysters ($48/2). These would be delicious as snacks with beer, but superfluous when you’re already ordering a set.
The Sapporo beers were cold, crisp and dry and went down very easily with the katsu. We think another good drink choice would be one of the cold sake on the menu, which might not be as filling as beer.
We were happy to see that local brewery Tai Wai has two beers on offer here for those who wish to support local, but at $68 per bottle, this is a significant step up.
We found gyukatsu to be a heavier meal than tonkatsu, but even with the most luxurious of cuts, it was not too much when paired with healthy servings of the shredded cabbage with yuzu-ponzu dressing and the freshly grated wasabi. Even though we ordered the most expensive cut of beef, the total bill was under $1,000 for two people, so we think Kyoto Katsugyu is excellent value. The restaurant was nearly full on the Monday night we visited, and we can see why.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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