My Quest For Perfect Tonkatsu in Japan: Tonkatsu Manger
Tonkatsu is one of the meals which would cost only 1,000~2,000 JPN, yet the level of satisfaction from good tonkatsu is beyond words. I’ve mentioned Manger before, but this time more details and the premium dish in their menu shall be covered. Not many reviews by international foodies cover Manger due to its location, which is not quite in the tourist’s path. It must take someone crazy enough for this kind of tonkatsu pilgrimage.
Manger opens for lunch at 11:00, and lunch admission lasts until 14:00. Don’t even think about walking in. You will go back with an empty stomach, as there are no great restaurants in Yao — unlike in Tokyo, where you can always find plan B. Their website indicates that they will have a sign-up sheet at 9:00. However, diners queue up before 8:30. If you arrive after 8:30, your slot might be 14:00, or you might be turned down if they reach 80 customers. There is a limited number of customers due to their focus on quality and capacity constraints. Dinner starts at 17:00, and you can sign up for dinner when they open for signing up as well. Dinner is less competitive. I don’t think it’s very different, as there’s nowhere to kill 5 hours, so coming back at 14:00 or 17:00 would make a big difference.
Manger was founded in 1996 by Chef. who prepared his tonkatsu with meticulous care. The chef even shared his frying technique on his website.
Pork is a good source of Vitamin B1, but not all pork are equal. It’s just like wine; both breed and terroir affect the quality. Hence why it tastes different. These are the four kinds of pork offered at Manger:
1. Aji pork is raised in Miyazaki. It’s fed with 100% vegetable, no corn, and drinks mineral water.
2. Kurobuta, or black pork, which is basically Berkshire, is raised in Kagoshima. This pig takes longer to be raised as it grows slower than a normal pig.
3. Tokyo X is a phantom pork that is specially bred to get the best flavor and vitamin content. Supply is very limited because of small production, so it’s classified as a phantom. It is similar to fish like Kue, which is regarded as a phantom fish.
4. Iberico is from Spain. They said happy pigs taste better. They roam freely without stress.
At 160 grams, aji pork costs 1,840 JPY, Kagoshima Kurobuta costs 2,390 JPY while Tokyo X costs 2,980 JPY and Iberico is the most expensive at 3,460 JPY. This got a much higher price as the starting price is only 1,000 JPY. As I’ve tried Iberico many times, in this visit, I planned to have Tokyo X for the first time so that I can share my experience with TTT readers. Unfortunately, as I ordered, my heart sank to hear that because Tokyo X is super popular, it’s completely sold out. I resorted to black pork from Kagoshima instead. I chose the big set so I can try their special hire again.
The chef carefully prepped his tonkatsu. I observed and found out that he did what he suggested in his tip on his website. There is nothing secret about it. He then fried it at 170°C and let it rested for two minutes. Resting is very important as it’s internal heat still does it’s magic, and your tonkatsu won’t leak myoglobin or the liquid, which is the protein in muscle tissues out of the meat. The frying is textbook perfect. The pork was succulent.
You can choose between white truffle-infused salt or black charcoal. I chose black truffle salt. The chef’s assistant will sprinkle the salt on an empty plate so you can glaze the salt over the tonkatsu. Maybe if they offered the salt on a saucer, some diners couldn’t sprinkle or spread the salt evenly.
Their secret tonkatsu sauce is made from 10 kinds of fruits. What an effort to make this sauce with so many ingredients! This is one of the best tonkatsu sauces, thanks to its mild yet complex flavor. It’s also not too sweet. I find a sauce that is too sweet quite a put-off. Many diners would be surprised to get sweetness in their savory dish. Nevertheless, it’s sometimes a good match, e.g., foie gras and jam, haru maki or spring roll with plum sauce, roast pork with apple sauce, Peking duck with sweet black sauce, jjajangmyeon in Korea, etc. I also love applying a bit of mustard to enhance the flavor further.
While you need to expend so much effort before you can dine at Manger in Yao, I still think it’s a great tonkatsu restaurant you should visit if you happen to be in Yao or somewhere nearby. Sign up at 8:30 for dinner at 17:00, and then you can plan around the visit. To make a special tonkatsu trip just to dine at Manger might be too much work for the average diner, as it will take you one whole day and may waste lots of time.
Tonkatsu Manger Menu List
120 grams 1,000 yen
160 grams 1,260 yen
250 grams 1,770 yen
320 grams 2,290 yen
380 grams 2,810 yen
◆ Pork Shoulder Loin
170 grams 1,100 yen
Tenderloin Tonkatsu (130 grams) 1,000 yen
Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu (200 grams) 1,620 yen
Superior Tenderloin Tonkatsu (160 grams) 1,120 yen
Log Tenderloin Tonkatsu (170 grams) 1,460 yen
Tenderloin and Onion Skewer (2 skewers) 1,360 yen
One Bite Sized Tonkatsu (110 grams) 980 yen
◆Aji Buta Pork
M (160 grams) 1,840 yen
L (260 grams) 2,420 yen
◆Kuro Buta (Black Pork)
M (160 grams) 2,390 yen
L (260 grams) 2,920 yen
◆TOKYO-X (160 grams) 2,980 yen
◆Iberian Pork (160 grams) 3,460 yen
Fried Shrimp with head (1 piece) 420 yen
Fried Scallop (1 piece) 360 yen
Crab Cream Croquette (1 piece) 60 yen
<A la Carte Menu>
Fois Gras Tonkatsu 1,780 yen
Rich Tonkatsu 1,030 yen
Cheese-wrapped Tonkatsu 1,000 yen
Gorgonzola Tonkatsu 1,180 yen
Yuzu Pepper Tonkatsu 1,100 yen
Fried Tenderloin and Prosciutto Scallop Roll 800 yen
Shrimp with Head Chesterfield 740 yen
Garlic Tonkatsu 1,050 yen
<Supreme Tonkatsu Assortment Menu>
Superior Loin and Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu
Aji Pork and Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu 2,580 yen
TOKYO-X and Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu 3,800 yen
Iberian and Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu 4,300 yen
<Original Set Menu>
◆Select Set A 3,100 yen
Fois Gras Tonkatsu x 2 pieces
Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu x 2 piecss
Superior Loin Tonkatsu x 120 grams
Champagne Sherbet x 1
◆Select Set B 3,100 yen
An Angel's Fried Shrimp x 2 pieces
Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu x 2 pieces
Superior Loin Tonkatsu x 120 grams
Champagne Sherbet x 1
*Loin Tonkatsu can be changed to the following
Change to Aji Buta: Plus 300 yen
Change to Kuro Buta: Plus 500 yen
Three Types of Tonkatsu 6,000 yen
Aji Buta Loin (Change to Kagoshima Kuro Buta (260 grams) for 500 yen plus)
Superior Loin Tonkatsu 260 grams
Super Special Tenderloin Tonkatsu x 6 pieces
Loin Katsu Sandwich 1,250 yen
Tenderloin Katsu Sandwich 1,400 yen
Shrimp Katsu Sandwich 1,520 yen
Superior Loin Katsu Sandwich 1,630 yen
Superior Tenderloin Katsu Sandwich 1,660 yen
Aji Buta Sandwich 2,240 yen
Kuro Buta Sandwich 2,400 yen
Address：2-3-22 Yokoen, Yao-city, Osaka
Nearest Station:5 minutes on foot from JR Kansai-hon Line's "Yao Station"
Closed:Mondays and Tuesdays
Local taste had taken a long journey searching for delicious meals long before the dawn of social media, roaming from one city to another from the Far East to the west, over 160 cities in four continents and more than 400,000 miles during the last 37 years.
His dining spots over thousands of restaurants range from eating in a hole in the wall in Asia to all ten Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris. More than decades was spent on chasing for perfect xiao long bao.
Because he is not in food business nor food writer, his article won’t be found elsewhere but exclusively on tokyotabletrip.com as a tribute to Leo Saito’s altruistic deed to help international visitors discover the beauty of Japanese cuisine.