It’s a Friday in early July at 3:45 p.m. and a line is forming in front of notable Meguro restaurant Tonkatsu Tonki. Within minutes, every seat in the open-format eatery will be taken by customers hungry for Tonki’s signature egg, flour and panko-coated tonkatsu (pork cutlet). It feels like a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, but Izuhi Yoshihara, the shop’s proprietor, admits that the past months have been the most difficult in the 91-year-old establishment’s history.
Across town, LalaChai, a fast-casual Thai restaurant in Hatagaya, prepares its kitchen for a night of takeout orders of its accessible curries and craft beers. After opening its doors in February, LalaChai endured a difficult stretch of luck before retooling its business model in response to diminishing numbers of in-store diners. For Hitoshi Nakayama, a former bartender and first-time restaurant owner, delivery has been a revelation.