Craving a quick meal in Roppongi? Head to Butagumi Dining - a casual tonkatsu restaurant taking this B-grade cuisine staple to heavenly heights.
The 110g premium pork loin cutlet, which comes with a tiny flag stuck into it. - image © Florentyna Leow
Much has been written about Butagumi, the hallowed tonkatsu restaurant serving up some of Tokyo’s finest deep-fried pork cutlets out of a quaint little house in residential Nishi-Azabu. But location-wise, it’s not especially convenient or easy to find, especially for the time-pressed traveler.
Butagumi Dining is right next to Afuri ramen - try hitting up both in one night! - image © Florentyna Leow
Enter Butagumi Dining. This is a casual outpost of Butagumi located in the basement floor of the North Tower Roppongi Hills - a skip and a hop from exit 1a of Roppongi Station. The restaurant itself is right next to the Roppongi branch of Afuri ramen, and opposite another branch of Dashichazuke En - both of which are also great options for dinner if you’re not in a porcine mood.
Counter seating around an open kitchen, where you can watch tonkatsu cutlets being fried. - image © Florentyna Leow
It's far easier to get a seat here than it is at the original restaurant in Nishi-Azabu. On a drizzly Thursday evening, a few friends and I were seated at 7.30pm with no issues. I’d wager that it might be busier at lunchtimes or on weekends, though.
The restaurant is much more spacious than it appears at first glance. There are 10 tables at the back for around 20 diners, beyond the 14 counter seats you first see when entering. Unlike quite a few of the other restaurants I’ve written about, this is somewhere you can dine at with a few friends without much waiting. It’s perfect for an after-work dinner meeting.
The English menu at dinnertime. - image © Florentyna Leow
Not much English is spoken here, but there’s an English menu. Unlike the original Butagumi, which has a several page-long list of pork breeds to choose from, your options here are limited to 3 - standard, premium, or super premium grades of pork - saving you the agony of trying to decide whether pigs from Okinawa are tastier than those from Miyazaki. If you’re only going to eat here once, go all out and hit up the super premium breed on offer for the day.
As is standard at tonkatsu restaurants, you’ll choose between hire (tenderloin/fillet) or rosu (loin) - a leaner, tenderer cut or a fattier cut. You can also specify your portion size. I went for 110g (3.8oz) which is on the lighter side, but I would recommend upsizing to a 165g (5.8oz) or 220g (7.6oz) cutlet if you can finish it!
Tea, appetizer, and a small dish for tonkatsu sauce. - image © Florentyna Leow
They’ll serve you a small appetizer with your meal as above. That day it was a small saucer of simmered pumpkin.
All the cutlets - which are deep-fried in sesame oil here - come as a set with rice, freshly shredded cabbage, pickles, and miso soup. The cutlet itself arrives already sliced, and on a wire mesh tray to prevent the breadcrumb coating from going soggy.
A cute Japanese-only hand-drawn graphic. - image © Florentyna Leow
The small graphic above specifies how you should try eating the tonkatsu. The key takeaway from this is that the order in which you eat the pork with seasonings is quite important. First, try the tonkatsu as is; then with a little pink Andes salt sprinkled on; and finally, dipping it into a small plate of house-made tonkatsu sauce, as you would a piece of sashimi. There’s also a dab of yellow mustard if you like a little heat. Generally speaking, beginning with more delicate flavors and finishing with heavier, saucier ones is a good rule of thumb to follow for most meals in order not to overwhelm your palate.
The full shebang. Cabbage is refillable. - image © Florentyna Leow
Serving the pork cutlets with tonkatsu sauce - sometimes known as Worchestershire sauce - is de rigueur at most tonkatsu specialists. What I really like about Butagumi, though, is how they offer the option of pink Andes salt table side. I’m not the biggest fan of sweet, fruity sauces and prefer a salt-only approach for my pork.
What dreams are made of. Check out that rim of fat! - image © Florentyna Leow
And what of the premium pork loin cutlet I ate for dinner? It had a crunchy breadcrumb batter that shatters between your teeth, light enough to fool you into thinking that deep-fried food might actually be good for you. Juicy, moist, fatty slices of loin within that batter. Bites of cabbage between to refresh the palate. Everything worked and the meal was over too soon.
With its glowing floor lights, stylish open kitchen layout, and nary a hint of grease in the atmosphere, Butagumi Dining is more reminiscent of a modern sushi bar than a deep-fried pork cutlet restaurant. But what you get here is nothing less than an excellent meal. As you can see, what distinguishes Butagumi’s offerings is the hyper-attention to detail and quality ingredients, elevating the everyday to something phenomenal. Roppongi isn’t my favorite area in Tokyo, but I’d happily make the trek to Butagumi again and again.
Name in Japanese:
B1F North Tower, Roppongi Hills, 6-2-31 Roppongi, Minato Ward, Tokyo
東京都港区六本木6−2−31 六本木ヒルズ ノースタワーB1F
Roppongi Station (Exit 1a), Nogizaka Station (Chiyoda Line)
Official Website (Japanese only)
:: Read customer reviews of Butagumi Dining on TripAdvisor
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