Katsudon is one of those iconic dishes of modern Japanese cuisine up there with takoyaki, curry rice, beef bowls and okonomiyaki. These are all comforting dishes and a good katsudon needs to be comforting as well. The term “katsudon” is a mashup of tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork cutlet) and donburi (a dish consisting of rice in a bowl with other ingredients), but the associations with the dish go beyond the safe combination of carbs and meat. “Katsu” sounds the same as the Japanese term for victory, and donburi are given to people to acknowledge their hard work, which is why they’re commonly eaten before tests; another stereotype comes from film and TV dealing with crime, in which interrogators soften up suspects by giving them a comforting katsudon in the middle of a tense situation. But you’re here for the food descriptions, so let’s get to that.
Aki Restaurant is located in the Japanese food district around Paris’ Opera area, in the first arrondissement of Paris along with the Louvre and Palais Royale. Set meals are 13-15 euros and include several components; you can also order off an a la carte menu. I got a set for the soba but found the katsudon to be the unexpected highlight, so I’ll be going back for that.
Besides breaded and fried pork and rice, katsudon contain beaten egg, and Aki’s egg brings the katsudon to another level. It’s so delicately velvety, moist but not undercooked, a great textural contrast to the crispy cutlet and firm rice grains.
The soba included prepared flakes of tempura batter as garnish. Eat this as soon as you get it or else the tempura bits will turn into tasteless, greasy mush, and why would you waste tempura? (Which is what I did. You can see the dissolving mass on the right side of the bowl. I’ll have to eat it properly next time.)
Aki’s curry rice with croquettes and okonomiyaki also don’t disappoint. If you’re hungry after you’re done, which you shouldn’t be, there’s many Asian and French bakeries within minutes.
11 Rue Sainte-Anne, 75001 Paris