The recipe for a traditional katsu sandwich is simple. Take one Panko-crumbed pork cutlet and deep fry. Add shredded cabbage and two big squirts of tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise. Stack these ingredients inside the fluffiest, cheapest, Tip-Top-iest white bread you can find. Then cut off the crusts.
You can find this humble snack just about everywhere in Japan, in restaurants and train stations and suspicious vending machines which, cool-factor aside, should probably not be serving cooked poultry. Well, now it’s Melbourne’s turn. We’re officially katsu obsessed. We had multiple katsu bars open in 2018 (including the excellent Kyodai Katsu and Ton & Co), and 2019 looks like the official year of the katsu sanger. I can’t say I’m upset about it.
Here are the best places to get katsu sandwiches in Melbourne.
Abalone Katsu Sandwich | Cutler & Co
In some ways, Andrew McConnell deserves credit for bringing the katsu sandwich to Melbourne’s attention, even if this one is a tad unorthodox. His $16 abalone katsu sanger has been a Cutler & Co bar staple for years now, and it really is effing good.
You get two crumbed hunks of tender abalone inside circular discs of white bread, pepped up with shredded white cabbage and McConnell’s signature bulldog sauce. This is one of those Before-You-Die Melbourne dishes. Everything in the list below is pretty much-playing catch-up.
Meatball Katsu-Sando | Future Future
When Future Future launched a while back, they put this thing on the menu and it went bananas. Not surprising really. It’s two slices of self-proclaimed ‘trashy white bread’, stuffed with crumbled beef meatballs and sweet tonkatsu, supercharged with a hefty whack of garlic.
Each one is $8, and it’ll take every shred of willpower not to order a second helping. Special shout out to the other fried scrumpet on the menu: crispy tempura prawns in a milk bun with cucumber and pink thousand island-ish sauce. Not strictly katsu, but still bloody good.
Pork Katsu Sandwich | Saint Dreux
You’ve probably heard of Saint Dreux by now. It’s the new ‘coffee and katsu sandwich bar’ in St. Collins Lane. They do coffee and katsu sandwiches and that’s pretty much it (you can also get delicate black sesame castella cakes, but who are we kidding really, you’re here for the katsu).
Saint Dreux sandwiches aren’t cheap—the Wagyu beef sanger comes in at an eye-watering $28. For a sandwich. I guess it helps that each one comes served inside a matt black carry box like you’ve just purchased an Omega or something. I’d recommend the plain Chicken Katsu ($14) or Kurobuta Pork ($15) instead. Better value, equally tasty.
Tonkatsu Sando | The Moon
The Moon is highly underrated. If you don’t live in Collingwood, there’s a good chance you haven’t even noticed it on Stanley Street, serving rotating by-the-glass vino and sultry date night vibes. But locals sure know. And most of them head straight for the bar menu and its famous $13 Tonkatsu Sando.
This is straight up traditional Panko-crumbed pork, which I appreciate, and comes with a generous lug of tonkatsu sauce that soaks about 1/4 of the way through each high-fibre slice of crustless lunchbox white bread. They also do a $12 Reuben…on the off chance you’re into that sort of thing.
Prawn Katsu Slider | Tokyo Tina
I personally put Tokyo Tina’s prawn katsu slider up there with Andrew McConnell’s famous Supernormal New England lobster roll (which, incidentally, is now up to $17. It’d be cheaper to raise a lobster from scratch). That’s how highly I rate these things.
They cost $11 each and come served inside a squishy football-shaped brioche bun, crispy as a fresh bank note and served with shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and ranch dressing. Pair with a pint of frosty Kirin Draught and you can pretty much take on the world. The Tokyo Tina vs Mr Miyagi debate will rage until the end of time, but these katsu sliders are a definite point in TT’s favour.
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Image credit: Cutler & Co | Supplied