The way to a man’s heart is truly through his belly. And so what happens when a man falls passionately in love with a restaurant located all the way in Osaka, Japan? He brings this restaurant to Manila.
“Each time I visit Osaka, Kushikatsu Daruma is one of my first stops,” confides tech and food entrepreneur Charles Paw. During one of his many visits, he noticed that a number of restaurant’s guests were Japanese businessmen who would come hungry after a long day’s work. They would take off their ties and hang up their coats in order to unwind and enjoy a hearty meal at the end of the day. As a businessman himself, the entire concept of this restaurant resonated with him. Sometimes, all a weary and tired soul wants is a simple and delicious meal. No frills, just some honest to goodness gastronomic goodness. “What I like about it is that it serves simple food that also happens to be highly addictive. One or two sticks is never enough,” he enthuses.
A kushikatsu is a Japanese delicacy that comprises of deep-fried skewered meat and vegetables. Kushikatsu Daruma is an iconic restaurant in the famous Dotonburi area of Osaka that serves the best kushikatsu in Japan. Tourists from all over the world roam the busy streets of Osaka looking out for a larger than life statue of an intense looking Japanese man wearing a black hat, a yellow tie, and a white jacket, and red pants. His eyes are crossed and his arms folded over his chest, while he carries a skewer stick on each hand. The intensity of the expression his face is promising, because one may surmise that if the restaurant’s chefs put this much intensity into their cooking, then the food must really be exceptional.
While the concept of a kushikatsu sounds straight forward, to learn how cook a proper Japanese skewer requires at least one month of intensive training in Japan. In fact, 5 Filipino chefs were sent there to train and learn the exact techniques of mixing batter, breading, frying. Japanese standards demand that the bread must be perfectly crisp, while guaranteeing that the meat or vegetable inside the breading is cooked as well.
“The different meats and vegetables require specific temperatures and frying styles…and each one needs to be learned and mastered,” Paw explained. “Moreover, the manner by which the batter is mixed, along with its thickness, determines the quality of the kushikatsu as well. It is definitely more complicated than it looks because every kind of kushikatsu requires a specific amount of time for frying. For the chefs, the real challenge is getting the consistency just right.
But the desire for perfection does not end there. These skewer sticks are served with a sweet yet tart mystery umami sauce, even the franchisers don’t know the ingredients of. This special sauce is regularly flown in from Osaka to Manila in order to guarantee a truly authentic Kushikatsu experience.
On its launch date, Kushikatsu Daruma will be serving 36 different skewers, ranging from pork, to beef, to chicken…and will include slightly more exotic menu items such as the chicken intestines, and the chicken heart. The skewers can enjoyed on their own or with rice,. Kushikatsu Daruma will also be serving Chahan (Japanese fried rice), and plain Japanese rice.
Those who are unsure of where to start have the option to try their sets, for kushikatsu beginners and experienced eaters alike. Their Beginner Level set includes 9 sticks: the classic kushikatsu, prawns, chicken with garlic, chikuwa, tsukane (chicken meatballs), tonkatsu (porkloin), leeks, potato, and camambert cheese. The Advanced Level includes 11 sticks: the classic kushikatsu, chicken heart, chicken intestine, pork intestine, chicken gizzard, garlic, lady finger, gyoza, white onion, leeks, and tonkatsu.
Already thinking about when you intend to visit this restaurant? A word of warning. “No double dipping!” In Japan where meals are shared among strangers, hygiene is of prime importance. So bear in mind that each time you dip your skewer into the sauce, you only get one shot at coating the entire piece. Again, perfection is the goal….but we promise that the experience is well worth it.