A local food of Kushiro is known as the “spa-katsu”
A local food of Kushiro is known as the “spa-katsu”
“”Spa-katsu”” is the combination of spaghetti and a deep-fried cutlet of pork or chicken, called a “”katsu””. It is usually spaghetti and meat sauce with a katsu on the top, served on a sizzling hot iron plate.
Winters in Kushiro are cold, so to prevent the food from losing its heat too quickly it is believed that for this reason the dish is served on a hot iron plate. The practice was started by a restaurant called “”Izumiya Honten””.
Along with Izumiya Honten, today I will talk about three restaurants that serve spa-katsu.
Each restaurant serves its own style of spa-katsu, with variations in looks and taste. The dish is considered a local “”soul food”” well loved by both people living in Kushiro and from around Japan.
Each of these restaurants’ portions are larger than what you’d call regular size, and service is no slouch either.
The menus are different among the restaurants, but you can just order “”spa-katsu”” and they’ll understand.
So without further ado, let’s go!
This article originally appeared on Hokkaido Rabo. The original Japanese article is available for viewing here.
1. The Original Spa-katsu of Izumiya Honten
For three consecutive years, voted by locals as the dish of the city is Izumiya Honten’s “”spa-katsu”” (As reported in the HTB Broadcast: “”Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Aji”” 2004-2006 Kushiro version)
Located close to Nusamai Bridge, Izumiya Honten is where spa-katsu started. Its owner, who developed his culinary trade working in Sapporo hotels, offered spa-katsu for the first time around 1960.
At that time, pork was very expensive.
Kushiro did not have much in terms of western food, and as such this dish was thought of as a major pioneering effort to introduce it. The owner thought of a dish with an extravagant taste, and came up with the idea of combining spaghetti with a deep fried pork cutlet, all placed on a hot iron plate so that the food stays hot down to the last bite even during the cold Kushiro winter.
It was originally called “”spaghetti topped with katsu””, but among the staff it was just “”spa-katsu”” in working lingo. It is said that customers overheard the staff using this term and ended up using it themselves, and naturally became today’s name for it.
Spa-katsu is served on an iron plate. A deep fried meat cutlet is placed on top of the spaghetti.
It is quite a spectacle. You can hear the sizzling go on for minutes.
Even before you eat it feels like some kind of show is about to start. This is what spa-katsu feels like.
Alright, time to dig in!
Ahh, before that. First, the apron. (The sauce tends to splatter everywhere, so putting on the apron is recommended.)
And with that, let’s eat!
It’s hot! (Don’t get burned.) The steam caused by the heat of the iron plate is incredible.
For a regular size, it’s quite the volume. (One order is ￥961 including tax, and take out is available.)
The rich, meaty sauce just boosts your hunger.
The spaghetti noodles are thick at 1.9mm. You can feel the chewiness when you bite on it.
The spaghetti is made from 100% durum semolina by Nisshin Seifun. Apparently only Izumiya offers portions of this size.
Thick spaghetti noodles and meat sauce go so well together!
This restaurant’s meat sauce recipe dates back to 1960. The onion simply brings out the richness of the flavour.
The “”tonkatsu””, or deep fried pork cutlet, is so tender. You could even eat it on its own.
The iron plate is hot, so your food stays warm until the end. It’s already hot enough when they bring it out, but some of their more frequent customers ask that the plate be brought out even hotter.
Since the plate is so hot, it’s natural that some charred noodles stick at the bottom. I absolutely love that crunch when you eat them. Today, there was a male customer in a suit nearby who totally ate up his plate, charred noodles and all.
Izumiya’s popular dish, the spa-katsu.
There are also lots of other menu items available.
The restaurant’s first floor is all smoking, while the second floor has a non-smoking section (Saturday, Sunday, and holidays the entire restaurant is non-smoking).
During the weekdays, it’s usually the locals who come, but during the weekends there are a lot of out-of-town visitors it seems.
Izumiya is the first of its kind when it comes to western food here.
It preserves the basics of western-style food while also adding its local flair that caters to Kushiro tastes.
In a cool climate, the body prefers eating something rich.
So for enjoying western food in a cooler environment like Kushiro, a slightly stronger flavour is appropriate.
The way it looks and the way it tastes, it makes you just want to eat it again.
The portions, the taste, the feeling when you bite on it, and that sizzling sound. Treat all five senses at once with Izumiya’s old-fashioned style spa-katsu.
Location: Hokkaido, Kushiro, Suehiro-cho 2-28
Hours: 11:00〜21:30 (orders accepted until 21:00)
Closed: One Tuesday each month (check with restaurant for specific date)
Paid Parking available (located nearby)
Approximately 20 minutes on foot from JR Kushiro station
Approximately 5 minutes on foot from Fisherman’s Wharf MOO.
2. Katsu with Bite! “”Meat Katsu”” at Yamabiko
The next restaurant I’m going to talk about will go into its 51st year in 2016. Located just 10 minutes on foot from JR Kushiro station is a restaurant called Yamabiko. The owner once worked at restaurant Izumiya before branching out to start his own. The most popular item here is the “”meat katsu
You can hear that sizzle as they bring out the “”meat katsu””.
They also lend out dining aprons to use.
I quickly put on the apron.
This meat sauce is a tad spicy, and very delicious! The tanginess is really good to have here, and just happened to be something I really like, so I enjoyed it down to the last bite. (Meat Katsu ￥980 including tax)
It seems that a lot of customers also say that the sauce is delicious. The balance of onion, ground meat, and the other ingredients work out really well.
The meat is easy to swallow, and it looks like there are even frequent senior customers well into their 80s and 90s who are able to enjoy this dish. The spaghetti noodles are not too thin, not too thick, but just right. The sauce may be spicy, but that hasn’t stopped a few customers from adding Tabasco afterwards anyway.
When I gathered info to make the news article, there was a woman customer who mentioned that it had been forty years since she last came to eat here. It seems that among locals this taste is something they crave very much. The restaurant hasn’t changed it looks ever since, so there’s a bit of nostalgia among some folk when they look at it.
The cutlet used in “”meat katsu”” is a chicken cutlet.
And this katsu is pretty spectacular. Those ordering for the first time are often surprised, spouting comments like “”There’s a katsu on the spaghetti on an iron plate!””
It has a nice, crispy, crunchy feeling on the outside.
Because the sauce is applied before placing the katsu on top, it retains its light flavour without being overpowered. The chicken used here is really tender, and you could get by eating it on its own.
Kids, parents, and even grandparents come to enjoy “”meat katsu”” together as a family.
The restaurant is quite a frequent stop during the Obon holidays and also for families after coming back from an outing. There are even regular visitors from other cities such as Obihiro and Kitami.
There are customers who even fly over to eat. There’s a customer from Niigata prefecture who stops by every time during his annual tours, and customers from Asahikawa who always come once a year too.
According to the customers, the restaurant is completely non-smoking.
Bar counter seating, as well as low-table tatami seating are available.
Autograph boards signed by sumo wrestlers and comedians adorn the place.
High school students even stop by on their way back home. For a long time running, Yamabiko is certainly well liked by the locals.
Location: Hokkaido, Kushiro, Shin’ei-cho 1-17
Hours: Lunch 11:30〜15:00
Dinner 17:00〜20:00 (orders accepted until 19:40)
10 minutes on foot from JR Kushiro station
Kushiro bus (36), Shiranuka line, 2 minutes on foot from Sankyo bus stop.
Kushiro bus (36), Shiranuka line, 5 minutes on foot from Dogin-mae bus stop.
3. Tons of Thick, Rich Sauce! Spaghetti House Pirene’s “”Meat Sauce Katsu””
The final restaurant that I will talk about today opened in 1994. Called “”Spaghetti House Pirene””, this restaurant is just a 6-minute walk away from JR Kushiro station.
The owner also learned his craft from restaurant Izumiya. The name “”Pirene”” is a reference to the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain and France. The restaurant’s signboard resembles a flag bearing the colours of green, white, and red.
[“”Meat Sauce Katsu”” (Spa-Katsu): ￥880 including tax]
Pirene’s spa-katsu is served sizzling hot on a circular iron plate.
The sauce is piping hot, very rich, and tastes great.
The flavour is a bit on the strong side.
Ketchup is used to bring out the sweetness, but apart from that it seems this sauce is made from an original recipe.
Balancing both sweet and tanginess, the sauce goes well with the spaghetti.
When I asked the owner about his variation of spa-katsu, he notes that he piles on a lot of sauce. On that I definitely agree!
There is a lot of sauce all over the spaghetti that it looks overflowing. Apparently it’s so that even the last customer can enjoy it down to the last noodle. You could mix the pasta thoroughly with the sauce for every bite and there would still be some left over. The moment when you let your inner kid eat only sauce is rather amusing.
The cutlet used here is a pork one. At this restaurant, the main star of this dish is the meat sauce spaghetti, with a smaller serving of (70-80g) of deep fried pork on top.
Bar counter seating.
Smoking is permitted anywhere in the restaurant.
Apart from Tabasco, they also have habanero sauce. By adding habanero sauce to your spaghetti, you can really bring out the flavour.
It’s quite popular with the younger customers. Feel free to use as much as you like.
They also have combination menus where you can pick something from list A, and pick something from list B. If pork katsu isn’t your thing, you can choose a chicken katsu instead. (For example, A: meat sauce spaghetti + B: chicken katsu = ￥1180). By the way, if you order in this manner, the chicken katsu is a much larger, 200g one. This is something for big eaters to consider.
Come by yourself, or come as a group. According to the foodie articles, visitors touring Sapporo, Kitami, and Asahikawa have stopped by in the past, and many pictures of customers with their meals can also be found online.
Take out is available.
If the place is full and there are no seats, this is something to take advantage of.
You can upsize your order of spa-katsu for ￥100 (You get about one and a half times more spaghetti).
Spaghetti House Pirene is known by the locals for its Salisbury steaks and other meat dishes.
I recommend the spa-katsu for anyone who wants to have a large helping of rich meat sauce spaghetti.
Eat just one order and you’ll be so full that dinner will be tiny, or perhaps skipped altogether.
<Spaghetti House Pirene>
Location: Hokkaido, Kushiro, Kyoei Odori 2-chome, 2-24
Hours: Lunch 11:00〜14:00 Dinner 17:00〜19:30
Closed: New Years Day, and Sundays after 14:00
(Sundays are open for lunch from 11:00〜14:00)
Access: Approximately 6 minutes on foot from JR Kushiro station.
Take-out orders: Please call at least 30 minutes before closing.
And that’s it for our three places for spa-katsu. To the locals here it’s a well-known soul food.
As mentioned at the beginning, the portions here are so big that you could eat and eat and it just doesn’t seem to get smaller.
When you visit Kushiro next time, come on an empty stomach (<– this is important!) and enjoy some spa-katsu.
※ This article originally appeared on Hokkaido Labo. The original Japanese article is available for viewing here.