KatsuCo is a Japanese eatery that has recently opened in Sherwood. They specialise in katsu, the Japanese dish of panko-crumbed, fried goodness (you can have a variety of katsu things). The now-closed Nikuya was the last specialist tonkotsu place we can recall in Brisbane. There are a number of other eateries here that serve a pretty good tonkotsu as well (for instance, Tokyo Chubo), but not as their key offering.
We went to KatsuCo on a weekend evening (on a Saturday, because they currently do not open on Sundays), and found a line of diners already waiting. Evidently Brisbanites have developed an appetite for new things, and others had also seen the pictures of their cheese katsu.
KatsuCo is located amidst a little block of shops not too far from the Sherwood train station. It was the only place open at that time of the evening. It was easily identifiable by the sign overhead and the lighted diners through the glass. It was also easy enough to find parking in the little complex.
We waited our turn outside in the chilly night. An A-frame outside the restaurant had pictures of their key offerings (different katsu dishes), and made it easy to decide what we would order when it was our turn.
The line eventually moved as diners finished their meals, and we were shown in to a table. It was pleasantly heated inside, and warmly lighted. Feature LED lights descended from the ceiling, like vertical halos. The decor was simple, with wood-look tabletops and black polymer chairs not detracting from the overall clean Japanese styling of off-white walls and light wood frames.
There was no music in the background, just patron chatter as the ambient sound. Because it was just all hard surfaces though, everything echoed, and it actually got quite noisy.
Menus and water were soon brought out to us. The A3 size laminated menu listed food items on one side, and drinks on the other. There was an explanation of the name “KatsuCo”, that it is short for Katsu Company. It states that they make their katsu fresh in-house, and that while traditionally pork is used for katsu, other meats can also be used.
Their katsus are mainly served as part of their katsu sets, although there is also the option of adding any of them on as a side serving (except the Tomahawk katsu). They offer a Tomahawk katsu, Tonkatsu, Cheese katsu, Chicken katsu, Ebi (prawn) katsu, and Tofu katsu. The sets all come with rice, sliced cabbage, miso soup, pickled vegetables, katsu sauce, and wasabi. If you don’t want katsu (so why are you there?), they also have a selection of Donburi bowls and Noodle dishes.
We noted that there was a refrigerator at one end of the service counter with cuts of pork. A sign on it said that they use Australian pork loin, aged for 6 days at KatsuCo. In case anyone was wondering if they take their tonkatsu seriously..
We ordered the Tomahawk katsu set, the Ebi katsu set, the Cheese katsu set (two of), and Udon noodles. The food did take a while to be served, around 45mins. The kitchen was clearly under the pump though, due to their possibly unexpected popularity.
The Udon noodles arrived first. The simple but classic dish consisted of udon noodles, and kakejiru broth. Kakejiru broth is typically made from a mix of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce. We found the soup well-seasoned, and the udon noodles appropriately springy.
The katsu sets arrived a little while later. Each was presented with its components neatly arranged on a wooden tray. The tables were just large enough to accommodate all the trays and glasses of water. If we had ordered any more side dishes though, we would have run into a space issue.
The Ebi katsu set had four breaded tiger king prawns. They were laid out on a small semi-circular rack. There probably is no elegant way to present prawns, with their scrabbly legs and antennae, and they weren’t very picturesque. The prawns were nicely cooked though, so they were still juicy. Although they still had their front legs, the middle sections of leg and shell had been removed, so you did not have to contend with de-shelling them. The prawns were not quite as large as Tokyo Chubo’s tempura prawns, and though there were four prawns in the serve, by the time the head and last tail segment were removed, there was much less actual protein. Also, we found that one of the prawns had not been deveined, which made for unpleasant eating. The tartare dipping sauce that accompanied it was a better option than the more standard tonkotsu sauce, which would have been overpowering for the prawns.
The Cheese katsu was certainly a popular item from shared pictures. There is something about melted, stretchy cheese.. It was described in the menu as Mozzarella cheese wrapped with pork loin. The Cheese katsu were presented like the menu photos, a line of little boats made from the pork, filled with melted mozzarella cheese. The outside of the pork was covered in panko crumbs. This was an item we had not encountered elsewhere, and is listed as one of their signature dishes. It was definitely a textural experience, with the soft cheese, tender pork, and crunchy chunky panko crumbs. Neither the pork nor the mozzarella cheese were perceptibly seasoned though, so flavour really came from the salt on the plate, or the tonkotsu sauce.
We had contemplated getting the TonKatsu, but then decided to get the Tomahawk Katsu instead, which had a larger serving of meat (350g of Pork rib eye compared to 200g of Pork loin), and also had truffle olive oil. This was presented like your classic Tonkatsu, the pork cutlet covered with golden panko crumbs, and sliced up for easier eating. The truffle aroma was initially quite strong, driven by the heat from the just-cooked meat. The pork was tender, and the crunchy panko crumb was a good textural contrast. The combination of the pork katsu with truffle was an atypical one, but it worked. If tonkotsu sauce was added, that tended to drown out the truffle though.
All the katsu sets came with the same accompaniments.
There was a heap of shredded raw cabbage on the same dish as each katsu item. This is a standard pairing with katsu. See here for a bit of background to it. The cabbage was thinly sliced..and there isn’t much more to say about cabbage.
There was a cup of miso soup, warm, hearty, and not too salty.
There was a small corrugated bowl with whole sesame seeds, and a pestle, for you to grind up sesame seeds to add to your food. This was quite a fun, interactive play-with-your-food thing to do, and maybe let people have a few moments of zen prior to eating.
There was a little bowl containing three types of tsukemono (including ginger slices), for a different crunch, and some acidity.
A square dish held a scrape of wasabi, and a diagonal sprinkle of pink-hinted salt. The dish was large enough that you could transfer your katsu onto it to roll it around in the salt if you wished, or use more judicious pinches.
Each set also had a bowl of rice. This, sadly, was a letdown. The rice was dry and hard, rather than being the fluffy grains we hoped for. The sets did need rice to make them properly filling. Unfortunately, the rice turned out to be properly unpleasant to eat.
On the whole, KatsuCo has promise. The main item they specialise in, the pork katsu, they did well. The Cheese katsu is worth trying if only because it is not a common find, particularly for those who also like mozzarella cheese sticks. Hopefully they get better at making rice. Noise aside, it was a comfortable setting. Waitstaff were clearly harried, but quite efficient. Be prepared for a bit of a wait for food at this early stage though.
Price point: Katsu sets $22 to $29 (that was the Tomahawk Katsu). Donburi $17 to $21. Udon $11 to $16.
Value: Variable, depending on the set.
Address: Shop 4/699 Sherwood Rd, Sherwood
Phone: 0448 745 417