The story is a bit convoluted and what I learned, I promised not to say in public. Suffice it to say that Hamasaki-san, the chef and owner, had some personal tragedies and failed restaurants. He came to Shanghai for love more than 15 years ago, after quitting a job as a nuclear engineer (seriously) to follow his real interest: deep-fried pork and shredded cabbage. (That’s not entirely fair; he had a curry shop and a sukiyaki shop too at one point.) For many years, he did that in a homely storefront just north of Jing’an temple.
That location closed in 2013 and Hamasaki-san went off into the Japanese neighborhoods of Hongqiao for a while, but not before making the acquaintance of Takuya Yoshimura. Yoshimura (you may know him as DJ Taxi) started off as a customer and then became friends with Hamasaki-san and is now an investor in the new place. As he told me, “When Hamachan opened 16 years ago, there were no shopping malls in Jing’an, no Sogo (久光). Jiaozhou Lu was famous for bone-repair hospitals.”
These days it’s famous for... well, it’s not, really, but if there’s anything I associate with the street, it’s deep-fried pork cutlets and fillets, and so it’s a satisfying turn of events that Hamasaki-san has returned, not just to Jing’an, but to Jiaozhou, a few feet away from the original. One of the things that set him apart was, I’m told, that he double-fried his pork, once to cook the meat gently and the second time to make the crust extra crisp, and the result is nice tender pork and a good golden crunch.
I went for lunch today. His eyes are watery and he looks every part of his 60+ years. He has saved a couple of the statues of pigs wearing overalls from his first shop. He says he’s happy. And the food? In a city where life can move at such an inhuman pace, it’s nice to say, nothing has changed.
Tonkatsu Hamachan - No. 60, Lane 273 Jiaozhou Lu, near Xinzha Lu