Tonkatsu is a hugely popular dish in Japan. You can find tonkatsu everywhere from the lowliest suburban combini (convenience store) to the poshest depachika (department store food hall) in the swishest of neighbourhoods. There's even specialty shops dedicated to the stuff.
So we are most happy to see Miso in World Square taking their tonkatsu very seriously. A sign outside says the pork is free range from Western Plain Pork, which has got to be good, right? According to the menu only female pigs are used, and only the good looking ones (we made that last bit up).
Miso is constantly busy and there's the occasional queue outside. Inside it's pretty squishy. It's fun if you're in a good mood, invasive if you're not. The tables are so close together it's impossible not to hear the conversation (and mastication) at the next table. On our last visit, Mr Shawn was 'this close' to asking the guy at the next table to eat with his mouth closed. We found the trick is to go for one of the tables up near the kitchen, it's way less crowded, and the kitchen is a hoot to watch and hear.
So Miso is about as romantic as a prison visit, but the food is great. Most dishes are served teishoku style: a main dish served with rice, miso soup, and some veggie side dishes. It's a super terrific happy fun way to eat. The menu claims it is healthy, though a deep fried pork cutlet is about as healthy as a Winnie Red. For folks who like their arteries, there are much healthier options such as sashimi, pan fried pork and chicken dishes, and grilled salmon.
Tonkatsu pork loin set - $16.80. Deemed 'most popular' on the menu. We're not experts (far from it) but the tonkotsu at Miso tastes pretty good to us. The crumb on the pork was crunchy, light and and not too oily, while the pork inside was tender and thick, like a kind-hearted football player.
Katsu-tama set - $17.80. Tonkatsu pork chopped up and topped with a wonderful sweet gooey mix of and onion in a sweet soy/mirin broth. The sweetness of the sauce mixed with the fried pork is perfect. Mr Shawn is over the moon with this one.
Set of the day - around $19. Pan fried wagyu steak in miso sauce with tempura soft shell crab, salmon sashimi, oden, miso soup and various nibbles. The steak pieces were a little chewy, not too bad but tricky to eat with chopsticks. The miso sauce was a salty flavour boost that really worked well. Miss Chicken questions the appeal of soft shelled crab, she reckons it's often more batter than crab. Overall it was a nice meal but not as fun as the tonkatsu.
Iced mugicha, roasted barley tea - a little bitter but refreshing, a taste that is quickly growing on us (we've since started drinking it by the litre at home). And let us introduce a new favourite: Pocari Sweat (Japanese sports drink) with mint, a surprisingly magic combo. We kinda wish they had a liquor licence...
At lunchtime the magic takeaway bento window opens. There's a few dons (stuff on rice) for around $9.80 and some fancier-pantsier bento boxes around the $15 mark. These are all made fresh to order, so you may have to wait a few minutes, but it's worth it for fresh food.
Spicy pork fillet -$9.80. There's three hunks of deep fried pork in sweet, mildly spicy sauce with veggies on top of rice. It's quite a filling lunch.
Salmon sashimi bento - $9.80. Salmon, fish googies, seaweed and mash potato on rice. The rice is wonderful, delicious on it's own, warm and sightly wet, subtly flavoured with rice vinegar or the like. Awesome.
Miso is at Shop 20, World Square, 680 George St Sydney.