What do you feel like having for dinner? Crispy, succulent katsu please.
Katsu is a deep fried cutlet of seafood or meat made with flakey panko breadcrumbs. Saku, a restaurant specializing in Katsu, is operated by LHH Eatery group, which also owns Tako and Taishoken Ramen in downtown Vancouver.
Nestled amongst other eateries on the corner of Robson and Denman Street, Saku’s polished wooden exterior with an enclosed patio hints at an architectural style one would find in Japan. The interiors by Emily Danyl Chuk are intentionally designed to provide a cozy, homey feeling, with light-coloured wood against a clean, white backdrop punctuated by pops of orange and peach. Circular pendant lights hang from a wood-planked ceiling and a rounded mirror spans the length of the restaurant to make the room feel more spacious. The space is warmed by natural light coming in from the windows, creating a comfortable dining environment.
The team behind Saku began their research into the art of Tonkatsu in earnest two years ago, travelling to Japan, Korea, New York and Toronto to try different Tonkatsu restaurants. After experiencing a spectrum of Tonkatsu offerings, the next step was to search for quality ingredients that would meet Japan standards; the team wanted to bring an authentic Japense Tonkatsu experience to Vancouver. After trying over thirty different farms, the finally discovered a farm in Alberta that exports pork to Japan that would provide the foundational ingredient.
Another key ingredient to perfecting the Tonkatsu recipe is panko, and for this, the team devised their own recipes using bread from local bakeries. Every detail was considered to replicate the Tonkatsu experience, from the serving platter to the side dishes.
We had the good fortune of trying each of the restaurant’s Katsu sets and select sides, and we all agreed that the crispiness of their katsu is amongst the best we have had.
For Katsu Don fans, we recommend their Katsu Nabe Set, which features Saku’s deep-fried pork lion mixed with caramelized onions and creamy eggs. Each of Saku’s dining sets comes with unlimited rice, tonjiru (miso soup made with pork and vegetables), and shredded cabbage. It should be noted that the team creates all of the sauces in house, even the delicious sesame salad dressing.
The Hire Katsu is a great option for those who prefer tender pork fillet. Use the small wooden block to grind the white sesame seeds to mix in with the housemade katsu sauce to create your own dipping sauce. The pork fillet is a bit leaner in comparison to the signature Rosu Katsu.
Next we tried the signature Rosu Katsu set. At first glance, you can see that the deep-fried pork loin is twice the thickness of the pork fillet, and the meat is moist and succulent, retaining the fat within the meat. The tenderness of the meat makes it easy to bite through, so you can enjoy the maximum crunchiness of the katsu mixed in with the tasty meat juices. The cut is also a bit wider to provide for a heartier flavour in each bite.
Prefer something saucy? Try the Curry Katsu set, where the katsu can be enjoyed alongside sweet Japanese curry. The ratio of sauce to rice is high, meaning you have plenty of curry sauce to dip your katsu in.
If you are feeling hungry and love cheese (who doesn’t?!), you will not be able to resist ordering the Cheese Katsu. Does that mean it’s just deep-fried cheese? No, no, no. It is much tastier than that. Aged mozzarella cheese is wrapped in thinly-sliced pork loin and then deep fried to make the cheese katsu. If you love heavier foods and have the stomach for it, this is your ideal option. You are likely to experience food coma afterward, but it will be well worth it.
If you finish the pork loin or fillet that comes with your dining set, there are other delicious add-ons, such as the Jumbo Ebi served with housemade tartar sauce and the Cheese Menchi, which is made with minced beef with melted cheese in the middle.
A visit to Saku for either lunch or dinner ensures that you will never leave hungry. Stop by to enjoy a well-researched, thoughtful and authentic Katsu experience compiled from the team’s learnings from all around the world.
1773 Robson Street, Vancouver
11AM - 3:30PM
5PM - 9:30PM
Photos by Florence Leung