Throughout my eating excursions, I've discovered that fusion dishes can be a hit or miss, with the latter being the more prominent result. Katsuya prides themselves with the title of "Japanese Fusion Tonkatsu" on their storefront; a bold red outline of a kurobuta-like silhouette make up half of their simplistic logo design.
I suppose it was by sheer fortune that one of these spaces emptied a few minutes after our arrival; others were spotted parking elsewhere and braving the frigid trek to the restaurant.
Despite its size as viewed from the outside, the dining area was, in fact, very roomy. High ceilings boast room for intricate cage-like lighting; short planks of design-embossed wood posed for superb contrast against matte black walls. An amusing finish was the implementation of rustic faucet handles as coat hooks for backless booth and bar seats. And as someone who never travels light, the the fact that their hollow rectangular stools provided extra space for bags and personal belongings was much appreciated.
From the lofty chalkboard wall installation for doodles to the unlacquered toilet paper holder of a pipe to the widespread usage of wooden furnishings, this industrial vibe resonated throughout the remainder of the restaurant.
Anime played silently on a screen above the kitchen as cheerful banter took place amongst the customers below.
Served with separate dishes of sesame seeds, tangy Worchester sauce, steamed white rice, and ponzu-drizzled cabbage slaw, the original Japanese version permitted maximum user involvement in the consumption process. Toasted sesame seeds could first be ground to the customer's liking, then added into the sauce dish in the desire proportion. The tonkatsu itself was served independently on a cooling rack.
Eaten alone, it was liberating and satisfying; accompanied with a tangy-savoury sauce, it was comforting and easy on digestion.
Atop the sliced segements was a ladled portion of Katsuya's house sauce, which, according to the menu, had been concocted from a blend of fruits and vegetables to achieve the correct flavour blend and consistency. It is to my belief that the enzymes in particular combinations of natural produce aid in breaking down the meat even further, consequently enhancing texture.
In addition, washroom stalls were clean and filled with ample supplies. Most importantly, service was impeccable. The pleasant deameanours and friendly attitudes of the staff members were unexpected from such a casual eatery, but greatly appreciated nonetheless. I commend them for their unwavering patience despite the chaotic lunch rush.
A fellow K-Pop enthusiast strongly defended Soul Cafe's bingsoo after I relayed my choking concerns to her over a chocolate-filled hangout session, even comparing it to the likes of the desserts she tried while in Seoul.
I gave the rundown cafe the benefit of the doubt and decided to visit a second time to validate her claim.
For a quiet mid-afternoon shift, the two girls were operating below normal levels of efficiency; the one taking my order at the cashier seemed half-awake while repeating my requested items. The condiment table hadn't been properly replenished either.
For whatever reason the cafe chooses to tack on extra charges for iced beverages is beyond me, considering that the same absentminded girl was witnessed retrieving a plastic container of grapefruit pulp from the refrigerator and microwaving it before mixing. The resulting product tasted more of simply syrup than it did of tea, even though half the cup had been filled with pulp.
As with the previous visit, flavour powder/syrups had been spooned between layers of ice at varying depths, but all was drowned underneath the overwhelming amount of sugary syrups and stale cereal. It also melted quicker than I would have enjoyed. Perhaps its sole redeeming aspect was the chocolate chip-comprising coffee ice cream.
Onto the next adventure! (After this week's quizzes, that is...)