“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
Food is a fundamental pleasure, isn’t it? More than mere sustenance, food has the power to nourish the soul, inspire wonder, and unite different people. I’m sure everyone has at least one dish, which has left a lasting impression: a childhood favourite, a memory of a special meal, a coveted recipe passed down. Cooking and eating is the magic ingredient underpinning civilisation so it’s no wonder that you’ll find it everywhere, including our favourite geeky properties. In Foodie Fanservice, I’ll be looking at mouthwatering menus and cuisines in various anime, games and more – and maybe I’ll even recreate some iconic dishes (disclaimer: I’m not a very good cook)!
Dishing up instagrammable eats from FFXV, Food Wars’ gastro-porn, and the comfort foods of Midnight Diner, join me as we traverse the tables on this culinary adventure!
Menu 1: Restaurant to Another World
Restaurant to Another World is a tasty tidbit of a light-novel written by Junpei Inuzuka and illustrated by Katsumi Enami (fun fact: Enami also created the wonderful designs for Baccano, which probably drew me to the cover in the first place!) Restaurant to Another World is a light-hearted read about a Tokyo restaurant called “Western Cuisine Nekoya” that opens its doors to a fantasy world every Saturday.
The structure is a bit like a tasting menu with several appetising dishes. Rather than follow one cohesive plot-line, each chapter focuses on a guest from the ‘other side’ and a specific dish with special significance for them. Nekoya is described as a Western restaurant and the ever affable owner, referred simply as ‘Master’, usually cooks popular Japanese yoshoku (Western-influenced cuisine) food. Most anime fans will recognise the sumptuous descriptions and images of okonomiyaki, omelet rice and pudding. Much of the fun is seeing how the otherworldly customers uniquely interpret and experience foodstuffs familiar to readers with fresh (hungry) eyes. However, where Restaurant to Another World truly shines is how wholesomely it presents food’s power to bring joy. Nekoya’s customers come from all sorts of backgrounds but the restaurant is a welcoming neutral ground, where everyone can take a breather each week to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating and connecting with someone they wouldn’t usually.
The introduction promises: ‘The more you read, the more your mouth is going to water. If you happen to be on a diet, you better watch out!’
Will it pass npg’s taste test? Grab your forks and let’s dig in!
Chapter 1: Minced Meat Cutlet
The first chapter follows Sarah, a daring adventurer who stumbles upon Nekoya whilst following the steps of the legendary treasure hunter, William Gold. What she finds is more valuable than gold, however – that is, the sizzling deliciousness of fried cutlet.
Sarah starts with an onion (referred to as ‘oranie’) and vegetable soup with fluffy bread and butter. The main course and star of the show is the minced meat cutlet, which – when combined with ‘a thick brown sauce’ and lemon juice – leaves her utterly speechless.
‘What the flavorful meat juice and sweet oranie lacked was sourness. By adding this sauce and lemon, a fruit with practically no sweetness at all, the minced meat cutlet had evolved into its perfect form’ – Restaurant to Another World, p. 37
High praise indeed. Now, onto the recreation!
I always thought cutlets were flat breadcrumbed slabs of meat but it turns out I was mistaken and cutlets are disk-shaped patties, a shape I originally associated with croquettes (evidently, I’m wrong about that too since croquettes appear to be smaller and oval/round in shape). Anyway, googling ‘Japanese minced meat cutlet’ comes up with menchi katsu (メンチカツ) recipes. Menchi Katsu apparently emerged from a western-style restaurant during the Meiji period and is similar to tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) but softer since the meat is minced rather than left as a steak. Funnily enough, the Wiki page for menchi katsu references this chapter of Restaurant to Another World under its Popular Culture section.
Menchi katsu is characterised by a juicy mix of mince (usually beef, pork, or a mix of both) and chopped onion covered in crispy deep fried panko coating. The ‘thick brown sauce’ refers to tonkatsu sauce, which is a fruity Worcestershire-style sauce. I didn’t deep fry my cutlets, since I have an air fryer and they came out pretty crispy anyway. I imagine you could also bake the cutlets for another less oily alternative. Of course, deep frying is the way to go if you want restaurant-quality meat-juices-bursting-in-your-mouth cutlets, like Sarah experienced.
This isn’t a dedicated recipe post but my process went a bit like this:
- Chop and cook onion in a frying pan until softened.
- Mix cooked onion with mince of your choice and one egg. Season with salt and pepper.
- Knead the mince mixture until soft and all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Divide the mixture into gob-desired portions and shape them into patties.
- CHILL the patties in the fridge for about HALF AN HOUR [this is important so they don’t fall apart in the next steps – I learned to follow recipes the hard way]
- Coat the patties! This is the fun/messy part. I prepared plain flour, beaten egg, and panko breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. Cover the patties in flour -> egg ->panko.
Tip: have extra flour and panko on hand, you’ll end up using more than expected.
- Cook patties. Deep frying, air frying or baking should work. If you air fry or bake, squirt a bit of oil over the patties so they crisp up and get that nice golden colour.
- Enjoy with tonkatsu sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Alternatively, sweet chilli, tartare sauce or Japanese mayonnaise go nicely as well.
There’s nothing particularly technical or difficult to source here, although deep frying can be somewhat of a faff.
Deliciousness: LAWFUL DELICIOUSNESS
On the deliciousness matrix, fried meat and bread crumbs are a classic pairing. If you wanted to make it a bit wilder, you could add something else into the mix, like shredded apple or cabbage, or try an atypical sauce.
Top tip: Make a decent batch and freeze for easy snacks/meals!
Thanks for reading – until next dine!