Tonkatsu (돈까스) is a panko breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet originated from Japanese cuisine. Tonkatsu consists of two main parts of the pork, fillet and loin.
During the Japanese colonial period in Korea (1910-1945), there was an influx of Japanese dishes and seasonings to Korea. Although the Korean and Japanese cuisines have similarities in themes and cultural references, the Korean tonkatsu is comparatively different from the Japanese tonkatsu in that it is thinner and often served unsliced, thus eaten with a knife and fork, not chopsticks. The Korean tonkatsu is often served with demi-glace on top of the fried meat (or in case of fish cutlet, tartar sauce on the fried fish).
Having lived in Koreatown for many years, these are some of my favorite tonkatsu places I often enjoy with my katsu-loving father. Let us know in the comments below whether I missed any of your favorite tonkatsu spots in Koreatown.
Located in Koreatown Galleria food court (Olympic location).
Galleria Tonkatsu food portions are large. I would say the portion size of their tonkatsu plate can easily be filling for two hungry adults. The little pickled spicy radishes, the Asian-style fruitilicious salad dressing, and the side of miso soup all compliment this breaded cutlet. The warm katsu sauce also really compliments well with the tonkatsu, without getting the cutlet too soggy. If you need a quick bite, Galleria Tonkatsu is a perfect place for a quick, tasty meal. On the side note, I also enjoy their pasta selections. There’s just something about that Meat Sauce Spaghetti with their homemade pickles that balance well with the “cheesiness” of the pasta dish. If you happen to be hungry after shopping at the Galleria Market downstairs, go upstairs to the food court to eat at Galleria Tonkatsu.
Located in Koreatown Plaza food court.
Just like Galleria Tonkatsu above, Tonkatsu House provides large portion sizes. The warm katsu sauce is on the thicker side, and the side of potato soup serves as a great appetizer. The tonkatsu dish here reminisces our older folks of their childhood times. Many of our Korean parents choose Tonkatsu House as their favorite go-to tonkatsu spot.
2 locations: Olympic Blvd. & Wilshire Blvd.
Wako Donkasu, a Korean-owned restaurant, is more authentic to the Japanese style tonkatsu. Wako Donkasu is definitely the obvious local favorite tonkatsu spot. Wako Donkasu is well known for serving their self-grinding sesame katsu sauce, along with their large, juicy chicken katsu and gingery salad dressing. There were days when my father and I ate at the Olympic location three times a week!
Notice: Wako Donkasu now charges for extra katsu sauce.
If you enjoy having an interactive experience with your food, Tokyo Hamburg is where you want to be at. Known for their ribeye katsu and signature hamburg, you can watch your food sizzle on top of a hot stone plate. Warning: You may experience splattering so keep some distance in the beginning, especially when that stone is extremely hot. Tokyo Hamburg is also popular for their cheese katsu and curry katsu.
2 locations: 5th St. & 6th St.
Craving curry? Craving katsu varieties? CoCo Ichibanya has it all. If you’re craving simple, Japenese-style curry and tonkatsu, visit CoCo Ichibanya (Japanese food franchise) around Koreatown. There are multiple locations. Check their website to locate a restaurant near you.
Located in Koreatown Galleria Shopping Center.
If you want to try some old school style tonkatsu, try some at Ma Dang Gook Soo. Our Korean folks often mention that Ma Dang Gook Soo’s tonkatsu reminds them of their childhood meals. If you want to experience what this reminiscence “tastes” like, try ordering their katsu and jjolmyeon, a spicy, chewy, sweet & sour cold noodles.
If you want nice ambiance to dine in and have great selections of Asian-fusion cuisines, Heyri is the place to be at. I remember going to Heyri Cafe often during my college years. Check out their food and desserts below.