where: Minato, 1314 Leesburg Rd., 803-569-6536
Maybe it’s the season of Samurai Gourmet I just binge watched on Netflix, but I had an intense craving for both some adventure and Japanese food recently. After taking a look around town, my eyes fixated on Minato, a take-out Japanese sushi restaurant down Leesburg Road. Tucked in the back of a small shopping center, Minato is a very quiet, very small operation run solely by the owner.
On this day I stopped in and ordered the katsudon. A combination of the words “tonkatsu,” meaning pork cutlet, and “donburi,” which means large bowl, the popular Japanese dish is exactly what those words mean: a crispy, panko-breaded cutlet piled over rice. Egg is poured over the cutlet while cooking, and it’s doused with a sweet, dark sauce. If this sounds like something you made in school, it’s because it was invented by a Japanese high school student in the 1920s. Since then it’s been traditionally eaten by students before important educational events.
It’s the simple things in life here. Though the dish is unfamiliar at first glance, if you like crispy slices of pork, rice, sweet, caramelized onions and warm, soft eggs all enveloped in a lightly sweet sauce, there’s no reason you wouldn’t love this, or any katsudon.
The owner does it all on her own, so make sure you plan ahead by calling in your order. If you choose to wait, though, make sure you take a moment to enjoy the collection of paper cranes that the owner herself has crafted and hung all around her store. Minato is open 4-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.