Ichi Katsu review

Deep-fried pork loin set.
Deep-fried pork loin set. Photo: Wayne Taylor

97 Kingsway Glen Waverley, VIC 3150

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Opening hours Daily dinner (lunch coming; liquor licence pending)
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 03 9560 9860

Glen Waverley is happening! Food fans line up for hotpot and bingsu on Kingsway. Families trawl The Glen plaza, starting with skewers, moving onto gelato. Parklet gazebos cater to chopstick-wielding social-distancers. It's vibrant, mostly Asian and entirely wonderful.

Into this mix comes Ichi Katsu, a smart-casual restaurant specialising in tonkatsu, Japanese crumbed and fried pork.

Tonkatsu comes at all levels in Japan: convenience stores, railway stations, backstreet one-roomers and fine dining temples to tonkatsu where there's a choice of pork breed, grade and cut and every bite feels like ceremony.

Ichi Katsu in Glen Waverley.
Ichi Katsu in Glen Waverley. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Expectations must be calibrated to setting and cost but the markers of success are always the same: crisp panko crumb coating surrounding an explodingly juicy pork fillet.

The classic accompaniments are finely shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, a thick, dark vegetable ketchup.

The classic crumbed cutlet can also come as sando (sandwich), don (over rice) or katsu-ni (in dashi-based broth).

Katsu-ni (pork in in dashi-based broth).
Katsu-ni (pork in in dashi-based broth). Photo: Wayne Taylor

Ichi Katsu is an astute iteration of a tonkatsu restaurant. Two veterans of Melbourne's Japanese dining scene, Ken Kee (Shoya, Shira Nui) and Ryoichi Saito (Shira Nui), are aiming at a mid-market crowd who prize crunch and juiciness but aren't seeking extreme finesse.

Everything is sourced and prepared carefully. Japanese Kurobuta pork loins are portioned daily and crumbed and cooked to order, using two fryers in quick succession.

The first sizzle is at low temperature to cook the meat through; the second sizzle is hotter, turning the crumbs golden and agitating them fiercely so they arise like tiny, angry hackles.

Ebi katsu sando (crumbed prawn sandwich).
Ebi katsu sando (crumbed prawn sandwich). Photo: Wayne Taylor

It's not just pork. Prawn cutlets are given the katsu golden-fry treatment and squished between thick white bread, wagyu is sliced paper-thin and served with greens, a grill cook stands in a charcoal haze turning chicken skewers.

Ichi Katsu is lively, fun and quick-fire, a tribute to tonkatsu rolled out with fuss-free flair.