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Food of Japan: Learn and Enjoy

PONTA HONKE since 1905

Time-Honored Shops - Japan’s Hidden Treasures by Mr. Shoku-iku, Yukio Hattori Series


日本の食 知る・楽しむ 「ぽん多本家」 since 1905 連載 ― 世界に伝えたい日本の老舗 服部幸應

Since its founding more than a century ago, Ponta Honke has used lean pork loin trimmed of its outer ribbon of fat. The recipe for their original sauce remains unchanged, too. Shown here is a neatly sliced serving of pork cutlet (\2,700).

text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Toshio Sugiura / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

My love for sweet bean paste has been well documented in this column; this time I’ll share my next-greatest weakness: fried foods—particularly breaded pork cutlets. Those served at Ponta Honke in Ueno, a specialist in Western-style dishes since 1905, are light in color and refined in taste. Fourth-generation owner Yoshihiko Shimada tells us more.

Full-Flavored Pork Cutlets

My grandfather, who worked in the Imperial Household Ministry kitchens preparing Western-style meals, started this restaurant as a place to enjoy non-Japanese recipes with rice. In those days, Western-style foods were a luxury, so he catered to special occasions, preparing customized menus for each party on a reservations-only basis. Sometime after the mid-1920s, he added a la carte dishes to the menu, with a set of aka-dashi miso soup, rice, and pickles as an optional side order, just as we offer today.


The shop has always called Ueno home; several decades ago it moved to its present location from nearby 4-chome. The stately wooden door gives a first sense of the focused care and quiet atmosphere that preside within.

We trim all the rib-side fat from our pork cuts, using only the lean, tender loin meat. In reviews of fried pork, one often sees comments about the sweetness or quality of the fat as a decisive factor in determining the flavor, but we take a different view.

Since the cooking times for fat and muscle differ, no matter how tasty the fat you’ll wind up with overcooked meat if the two are fried together. That’s why, just as my grandfather did, we trim off the fat first, render it as lard, and use that to fry the cuts. Deepfrying with lard is tricky, but it recaptures some of that rich savory taste while the meat itself stays perfectly tender.

In other words, lard is to our cutlets what vinegar is to sushi rice. No matter high-quality its fish topping may be, no sushi will taste good if its rice base is not properly prepared. So it is with pork; the flavor imparted by the frying medium makes all the difference.


On the first floor, an intimate counter with just four seats looks over the open kitchen.


The second floor has table seating for 20.

Our cutlets are blond in color because we start them off at a relatively low temperature, taking care to keep the coating closely wrapped around the meat.

We think you’ll be surprised at just how light a dish like fried pork can be. We serve it with shredded raw cabbage that we first separate leaf by leaf, pound once, and then cut perpendicular to the veins for a softer, less crunchy bite.


Fourth-generation owner Yoshihiko Shimada and his brother stay true to their grandfather’s recipes.

Since our aim is to serve Western-style dishes that complement rice, we make our beef stew with less wine than is typical, adding instead a bit of soy sauce for flavor. And we use only Kuroge Wagyu for our tongue stew. This has become increasingly harder to source, but it’s got an aroma and flavor all its own. Our sauce is three weeks in the making, so we like to encourage our customers to savor each bite. We have quite a lot of shellfish and seafood on the menu too, both deep-fried and sautéed with butter.

Another bestselling item at Ponta Honke is the beef-tongue stew (¥4,320), which arrives with a generous portion of tender meat that falls apart easily with chopsticks. All dishes are seasoned to complement rice, which appears on the menu separately as a set with aka-dashi miso soup and pickles.

Ueno 3-23-3, Taito-ku, Tokyo
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 8 p.m. daily except Mondays.
Three minutes on foot from JR Okachimachi Station.