Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin (Honolulu, HI)

I’m not particularly a big fan of tonkatsu but I will eat it. I’m usually indifferent and, if given the opportunity, will normally order something else. But it is Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin’s specialty. In this land known for its love of chicken katsu, this Ginza-based restaurant has set up business in Honolulu. There is also a branch in Singapore. The ones here are in Waikiki and at Ala Moana Shopping Center (Shirokiya).

The prices at the Waikiki location are pretty steep, up to $35 for a kurobuta tonkatsu teishoku, $32 for a la carte. For a brief time, the restaurant is offering a special of Kurobuta Tonkatsu with Demi-Glace Sauce (top photo) for “only” $26, which includes “mashed” potatoes that served as a bed for the tonkatsu (it was more like smashed potatoes), shredded cabbage, and Japanese-style spaghetti (mediocre). Having the demi-glace served on the side let me sample their signature tonkatsu unadorned and also left me with other sauce options. For example, the condiment tray held a small crock of restaurant-made tonkatsu sauce, a bamboo shaker of shichimi, and a small container of prepared dry mustard. The other option was the dipping sauce that my wife got with her Wafu Oroshi Pork Loin Katsu ($21). The demi-glace is a tasty, cornstarchy concoction of two kinds of mushrooms (nameko and shiitake), stock and long-cooked onions (as in an onion soup) and other ingredients I couldn’t identify. But the tonkatsu sauce and the wafu oroshi were even better. The tonkatsu sauce itself is light (not as thick as some commercial stuff) and not too sweet, easily the finest and freshest we’ve ever tasted.

The wafu is an astounding dipping sauce–grated daikon artfully mounded in a pool of ponzu, soy sauce, and dashi, with shreds of katsuobushi for added flavor and texture.

The menu offers two kinds of pork: Canadian kurobuta (which seems to be the rage nowadays) and standard pork tenderloin. The difference is mainly in the fat content (kurobuta has more, making it a little more succulent, almost buttery) and pork flavor (again, a nod toward the kurobuta). The difference in flavor though is less apparent when the tonkatsu is sauced. Either selection is fork (or hashi)-tender. The panko batter is thinly applied and nicely crispy from being fried in premium cottonseed oil.

Even the shredded cabbage gets special treatment. You get your choice of several kinds of light and refreshing dressings. We chose the ume and the wafu. You could also dress it with that magnificent tonkatsu sauce.

Lunchtime offers a plate for $13.

The beverage list includes several premium sakes and beers.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin prepares entrees and other dishes with care. They obviously use the best ingredients and offer a great dining experience, but prepare to pay for the privilege.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815
Menu (photo)

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