Translated by Lester Somera
Sweet, Salty and Addictive! Tare Katsudon In Niigata City
Written by Ruriko Isokawa
Katsudon is a beloved Japanese rice bowl dish made with eggs and pork cutlets. Niigata offers its own saucy spin on the recipe, known as "tare katsudon".
Front of Niigata Station
Have you heard of Niigata City’s famous regional dish, tare katsudon?
The History of Tare Katsudon
A standard katsudon bowl, not a tare katsudon bowl
Katsudon, a well-known Japanese dish, typically consists of a bowl of rice, topped with a fried pork (katsu) cutlet and bound together with a beaten egg. However, Niigata’s typical katsudon is different. Instead being bound with egg, the cutlet is dipped into a soy-sauce based glaze, so it is called tare (“sauce”) katsudon.
The history of tare katsudon goes back to around 1929. At that time, there were canals located in the heart of Niigata City, as well as docks for the boat traffic. These canals are now roads, but it’s said that at the time, the areas around the canals were lined with food stalls.
Apparently, one of those food stalls served tare katsudon, and its deliciousness led to a steady increase in the dish’s popularity in Niigata City. To this day the regional specialty is still made in area households; Niigata residents enjoy tare katsudon from an early age.
This time, we went to Katsudon Matsuriya (かつ丼 政家) in Niigata City, a specialty katsudon restaurant operated by Tonkatsu Masa-chan, to find out what’s so special about tare katsudon!
Katsudon Matsuriya, Niigata Station South Branch
This is Matsuriya, located 8 minutes away from JR Niigata Station on foot.
The interior of the restaurant has table and counter seating, as well as tatami rooms. The atmosphere is relaxed and feels very Japanese.
Get More Value With Your Katsudon Lunch Set, Order a Beer
The first thing you see as you come into the restaurant is the katsudon lunch (1048 yen). Whether you order a soft drink or alcoholic beverage, amazingly, the price will remain the same! You can also order other alcoholic beverages in addition to beer. Some options include a red eye, a shandy gaff, or a panache.
The katsudon lunch arrived. You can get an extra-large helping of rice for free and unlimited miso soup when you order any variety of katsudon, with the exception of the mini-size katsudon.
We ordered a small draft beer from the drink menu.
Our katsudon came with a mountain of cabbage! You can choose to top it with dressing or mayonnaise.
Along with miso soup and pickles, the set also comes with an onsen-boiled egg (*1) which has been steeped in a sweet dipping sauce. Breaking the egg up and pouring it over the rice is said to be another delicious way to enjoy it.
*1: Onsen-boiled eggs are soft-boiled eggs, cooked by the heat from a hot spring.
The Appeal of Tare Katsudon Lies in its Koshihikari Rice and Soy Sauce-Based Secret Glaze!
Let’s get right into the main course: the tare katsu.
The rice is topped with three huge katsu cutlets.
When you take your initial bite of katsu, you'll find that it's quite tender and not as heavy as its appearance would indicate. At any rate, as the salty and sweet taste of the sauce spreads in your mouth, you’ll start craving your second helping!
We asked someone at the restaurant about what goes into the secret sauce, and we were told that it contains authentically-brewed soy sauce (*2), chicken stock, vegetables, and castor sugar. The recipe has been passed down for 50 years, and the bowl only gets more delicious as you go along, thanks to the drippings from the katsu glaze! It’s a flavor that can’t be replicated at home.
*2: Within the different varieties of soy sauce, this refers to soy sauce made from just soybeans and wheat, fermented over a long period of time.
The glaze sinks into the top of the rice, so you can really enjoy the sauce without reservation. Matsuriya only uses Koshihikari rice produced in Niigata, so every grain of rice is luxuriantly fluffy. Some restaurants in Tokyo try to replicate the recipe, but Niigata is the only place where you can enjoy rice cooked in clear Niigata water and tare katsudon made with local ingredients!
A Full Array of Menu Items!
Deluxe Double-Stack Katsudon
If you want the full tare katsudon experience, we recommend the item which draws immediate attention when you see the menu: the deluxe double-stack katsudon (1190 yen+tax). Its remarkable volume - with five sauce-glazed katsu cutlets inserted between the gaps in the rice bowl - means you can enjoy the taste of the sauce even more as it soaks into the rice.
The Salad Included in the Ladies’ Set Will Make Light Eaters Happy, Too!
If you’re someone with a small appetite at the best of times, fear not! You can get a mini-sized bowl, as well as your choice of 12 different salads and a small dessert, if you order the ladies’ set (1048 yen+tax). You can have a healthy meal and still satisfy your hunger.
Takeout Bento Boxes are Available
For customers who don’t have the time to eat inside the restaurant, we recommend getting a takeout order of tare katsudon. For prices starting at 600 yen (plus tax), you can bring home a very reasonable meal. Open the side window of the restaurant and place your order.
Going to Matsuriya
The Matsuriya branch we visited is an eight minute walk from JR Niigata Station’s south exit.
With JR Niigata Station behind you, head straight and go past the traffic light, where you will see the building in the picture. Continue until the building next to this one.
This is the building entrance.
There is a Don Quijote on the first floor, so how about doing some shopping on your way back?
Go up the elevator and proceed up the left-hand side; the restaurant will come into view.
What did you think? Some of you must have gotten hungry from looking at the pictures, right? If you drop by Niigata, you should really sample its regional specialty, tare katsudon.
Katsudon Matsuriya, Niigata Station South Branch
Address: Niigata, Niigata,, Chuo, Minamisasaguchi 1-1-1, Himorogi Building 2F (second floor of Don Quijote)
Operating hours: 11:00-25:00
Closed: Open seven days a week
Credit cards: JCB, VISA, Mastercard, Nicos, DC, UFJ, AMEX, MUFG, Ginren
Other Languages: No
Menus in Other Languages: No
Nearest Station: JR Niigata Station
Access: 8 minute walk from JR Niigata’s south exit, roughly two hours from Tokyo to JR Niigata Station via Joetsu Shinkansen
Price range: Around 800-1500 yen
Phone number: 025-243-6125
Website: Katsudon Matsuriya, Niigata Station South Branch (Japanese)