Delicious Japanese food that leaves a lasting memory is hard to come by, especially after you’ve tried the real thing in its origin country.
And among all the dishes available in Japanese cuisine, good tonkatsu may be the hardest one to find – simply because it’s not an easy dish to master.
But, we think we may have found it in Maruhachi Donburi & Curry, which recently opened its second outlet right in the city centre at Havelock Road in the hip Tiong Bahru neighbourhood.
In conjunction with its new outlet opening, AVENUE ONE had the opportunity to sample Maruhachi’s value-for-money donburi and curry dishes served by chef-owner himself, Chef August Wijaya who used to be the tonkatsu chef at Ginza Bairin.
Keep reading to find out what you should order on your upcoming visit to Maruhachi!
What to eat at Maruhachi Donburi & Curry at Havelock Road
Chef August, the man behind Maruhachi, is all about making restaurant-quality Japanese fare accessible to the masses at wallet-friendly prices since the opening of his first outlet in an inconspicuous location in Punggol back in November 2020 after calling it quits at the high-end Ginza Bairin right in the height of the pandemic.
His gamble to be his own boss paid off, as he put everything he’s picked up on the Japanese art of panko (a technique of breadcrumbing) to good use.
At Maruhachi, thick and high-quality pork cuts are used and breaded with fresh Japanese breadcrumbs using the panko technique.
We’ve been told that the pressure must be right and it takes time and talent to perfect the technique which results in a katsu that is crispy, light, and fluffy outside but soft and tender inside.
Chef August is very adamant that his kitchen staff are also well-trained in this technique. He shared that the softer the ingredient, the harder it is to achieve the perfect coat of breadcrumbs.
The other key difference to Maruhachi’s tonkatsu dishes is the use of 100% cottonseed oil which has zero trans-fat and a lighter and refreshing taste without the greasy feeling.
The Donburi sauce or Original sauce, as Chef August calls it, is his secret recipe for the donburi dishes served at Maruhachi.
This Original sauce is created from ingredients imported from Japan and is used generously in the signature Pork Katsu Don (S$9.80).
For our lunch, we first tucked into the Special Pork Katsu Don (S$12.80) which comes with not just the pork katsu that’s braised in the Original sauce, but also an onsen egg that’s added on top of a bowl of fluffy Japanese rice.
The pork katsu was crunchy on the outside yet moist on the inside, as promised by Chef August, and the onsen egg doubled up as a sort of gravy that brought the pork katsu and rice together. The katsu was not too salty either, which we appreciated.
For something heartier, opt for the signature Pork Katsu Set (S$11.80) or Black Pig Pork Katsu Set (S$15.80) which is served with Japanese rice and miso soup.
We got to try the latter, which tasted even more decadent and mouthwateringly delicious than the regular pork katsu.
In our opinion, the price tag of this premium set (which is the second most expensive item on the menu) is definitely hard to beat given the restaurant-level quality and taste of black pork that you can get at a fraction of the price.
If you crave something more, definitely give Maruhachi’s curry rice dishes a try – the curry is made from scratch by Chef August with his unique formulation, so you know it’s flavourful.
Curry rice dishes that are equally popular among Maruhachi customers are the Pork Katsu Curry (S$9.80) and the Black Pig Pork Katsu Curry (S$13.80).
As good pork-based ones were difficult to come by in other shops, we were personally more used to chicken-based curry rice dishes, so it took a while for us to reconcile with the slightly firmer-textured Pork Katsu Curry by Maruhachi.
After savouring the Maruhachi version which paired the thick, moist pork katsu beautifully with a generous portion of Chef August’s proprietary curry gravy, it’s safe to say that we’ve finally found a pork-based katsu curry rice that we love.
All of the pork-based dishes use the same premium-grade pork cuts, and you can rest assured that there won’t be any of the “porky” smell that comes with certain pork meat.
So, the million-dollar question here is: is Maruhachi worth the calories? Well, it didn’t take long for us to return to the hawker stall to dig into the Special Pork Katsu Don and Black Pig Pork Katsu Set – so our answer to that question is an irrevocable yes.
In fact, Maruhachi has now become a firm favourite eating spot for us, and after eating the must-try dishes, we bet it will be your new favourite too.
Maruhachi Donburi & Curry (non-halal) has two locations islandwide: Block 51 Havelock Road, #01-06, Singapore 161051 and 671 Edgefield Plain, #01-01, Singapore 820671. Both outlets open daily (except Tuesdays) from 11am to 9pm. For more information or updates on opening hours, follow Maruhachi Donburi & Curry on Facebook and Instagram.