Ginza Bairin is one of Japan’s most well-known tonkatsu specialty restaurants with five branches in Japan and almost a dozen overseas locations in Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore,Manila and even in Hawaii. When we showed the taxi driver the address for the Ginza branch, he smiled and said “Oh, you’ll be having good tonkatsu tonight.”.
Ginza Bairin does one thing only and that is tonkatsu – Kurobuta (Berkshire pig) plus prawn cutlet and extra-large prawns coated in panko and deep-fried to perfection. The menu consists of tonkatsu sets that come with unlimited steamed rice, cabbage salad, pickled vegetables and miso soup. The place is like a Japanese diner with a long wooden counter running the length of the restaurant plus a few small tables at the back. Tables are set with just chopsticks, the laminated menu and a small tray of homemade tonkatsu sauce in sweet and spicy versions, extra spicy Japanese mustard and chili flakes.
Ginza Bairin opens all-day every day (except for new year’s day) from 11:30 a.m. till just 8:45 p.m. so you need to get there early for dinner. The restaurant facade is unobtrusive with no English sign and is located just off Ginza’s main drag. If not for the ubiquitous window display of plastic tonkatsu food variations right by the entrance, we would have missed it. It showcases tonkatsu sandwiches (crispy deep-fried pork cutlet sandwiched on soft white crustless bread) to curry katsu (tonkatsu covered in a gravy like Japanese curry sauce) along with the other versions of tonkatsu meals.
We all chose the tonkatsu set -crisp and not oily panko-coated kurobuta pork loin plus a side order of prawn katsu to share. The only thing we didn’t realize was that the restaurant only takes cash so after dinner, my husband and son rushed off to a nearby ATM while my daughter and I waited for them to get back. (My daughter didn’t mind the wait as she had her first encounter with a pink dialing pay phone and I had to explain to her how it worked). Dinner was a hit as the kids love tonkatsu and even if that was the only thing Ginza Bairin served, they do such good job that we enjoyed it thoroughly. Our taxi driver was absolutely right.
7-8-1, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061
Daily 11:30 am till 8:45 pm (except January 1st)
Cash payment only