On our first full day in Osaka, we knew that it would be a lot quieter because a lot of people would be taking time off for the New Year, which is Japan’s largest holiday of the year. Unlike in places like China, Vietnam, or Korea, Japan had actually adopted the Gregorian calendar, so they do not follow the Lunar New Year calendar. Businesses tend to close for a few days or even a full week for New Year’s. So unfortunately for us, we would not see Osaka in its total prime from a restaurant/eatery standpoint. But never fear: there’s always something delicious around the corner!
While wandering through the Shinsekai neighborhood of Osaka on New Year’s Eve, we passed not just the Tsutenkaku Tower, but also walked through this relatively small and almost hidden shopping arcade called the Shinsekai Shijo. Inside, while a lot of stalls were closed likely for New Year’s, there were still a few stalls open, including a fresh noodle stall, a stall specializing in different tsukemono (Japanese pickles!), and a little grocer. What really caught our eye, though, was a little queue that was forming in front of what appeared to be a butcher stall. It was called Niku No Sakamoto Butcher, and we could smell some delicious deep frying happening. Upon closer inspection, we realized that people were not actually lining up for raw cuts of meat, but freshly fried beef katsu and pork katsu sandwiches! As soon as I saw there was fresh food and a tiny line, I did what any curious foodie/traveler would do: I joined the line!
There was one person in charge of deep frying and taking orders/handling money. There was an Indian man behind the counter whose sole job it was to cut the bread crusts off the perfect thick white slices of milk bread. And then there was another worker who was in charge of cutting meat into perfect, square shapes. One queue was there to order. A second crowd/pseudo queue was there to pick up the fresh order. There were markers to designate where to stand, where to order, where to pay. It was Japanese efficiency at its finest.
We ordered a tonkatsu sando, so pork katsu that was served between two pieces of thick cut toasted milk bread with what appeared to be a little Kewpie mayonnaise and a tad bit of mustard. There was also a sweet-savory brown sauce slathered on the katsu that was delicious. But what really got us when we picked up the sandwich, tucked into a plastic takeaway container and cut perfectly and symmetrically into six even pieces, was exactly how crispy the outside of the pork was. Each bite was extremely crunchy and just shattered in your mouth. There was certainly no reusing of any oil here, and those panko crumbs had achieved their desired effect of crunch, crunch, and more crunch!
If that is what a proper tonkatsu sando is supposed to be, then that was definitely perfection. My only regret was not ordering an additional beef tonkatsu sando, which was over double the price, but I did notice so many people ordered this and seemed to be salivating all over theirs.