Kushikatsu Daruma ("kushi" meaning skewers and "katsu" meaning deep-fried cutlet of meat) draws its origin from Osaka, Japan. It has been successfully brought into Manila by the Tasteless Food Group, one of the fastest-rising food experts in the country, with Hey Handsome, Le Petit Souffle, Hanamaruken Ramen, Freezer Burn, and Ping Pong Diplomacy under its helm.
Located at the second floor, al fresco area of Uptown Place Mall BGC, Kushikatsu Daruma can easily stimulate one's curiosity with its seemingly naughty character holding skewers, and its multitude of interior signages that shout "no double dipping!"
Kushikatsu Daruma's menu isn't complicated at all. Around 80% of its food items are varieties of meat, vegetables, and seafoods -- deep-fried, battered, and in skewers, of course -- and the rest are side dishes and beverages. Prices are very affordable with each stick going as low as Php39 each.
The ambiance of this restaurant is cool and relaxing, and not intimidating at all. Its interiors are simple, yet classier and more comfortable feel than that of its originating country. I like that it has dividers that give a bit of privacy when dining.
Whether eating in groups or alone, you can find your perfect spot inside. One can either choose to sit on regular wooden chairs or watch the cooks dish off your orders at the bar counter. Another thing that I like about this restaurant is the availability of power sockets lying around different parts of the restaurant, giving you a hint that this is a good meeting place. Its acoustics are not the best, but you can discuss and talk clearly without having to shout.
I dined in with a friend for a quick catch up and mentoring session on a Friday night. Lucky were we that we got in ahead of others and found a well-lit and cold spot to chitchat about career and life updates. We were given this complimentary bowl of radish and carrots -- you may choose to make this as an appetizer or a palette cleanser later on as in-betweens while eating katsu.
On the table is a container of light tonkatsu sauce, which is basically the universal sauce for both the appetizer and kushikatsu. This is what's being pertained to by the "no double dipping" reminders posted around the restaurant, since one would easily be tempted to re-dip an already-bitten katsu. Of course, this is prohibited due to hygienic measures, and other Japanese traditions that the restaurant wants to preserve.
For a meal for two, we ordered the Beginner Level (Php480), which is composed of a total of nine sticks of the following:
- Classic Kushikatsu (beef) - the best for me
- Prawn - good, too!
- Chicken with Garlic
- Chikuwa (Fish Cake) - I could taste the fish cake, but not much
- Tsukene (Chicken Meat Balls) - good, but can be more tender
- Tonkatsu (Pork Loin)
- Camembert Cheese
An Advanced Level (Php480) is also available with a total of eleven sticks, a combination of beef, chicken heart, chicken and pork intestines, chicken gizzard, garlic, gyoza, lady finger, white onion, leeks, and pork loin.
Since the set only had one stick of each, we got an extra stick of Classic Kushikatsu (Php39) and Prawn (Php39), so each of us can have our own share of those. We also got one stick each of Japanese Oyster (Php129), which is from the Specials list that also includes Foie Gras (Php199). What makes the meat, vegetables, and seafood tasty with or without the sauce is the fact that they're deep-fried in beef oil.
As Pinoys, there's no complete meal without rice. We got one bowl each of Chahan Rice (Php150), which is a Japanese fried rice with myriads of other ingredients like scrambled eggs, garlic, onion, etc. It tastes so good, I can eat it even without anything else.
On the side, we ordered an ala carte of Yakiniku Beef (Php190), which is a perfect complementary dish to the dry katsu that we had. This one was stir-fried and seasoned well, leaving the beef perfectly cooked without appearing to be rubbery.
And since my friend had a challenging week, he also ordered an ice cold Beer No. 1 (Php120). There are lots of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks available, with price points as low as Php55 for sodas and as high as Php340 for cocktails.
When all the sticks have been consumed, there's a cylinder container where you can put those in. In the end, our total bill for two summed up to around Php1,500, which is not bad for the quantity and quality of food that we ate.
When dining at Kushikatsu Daruma, one must remember that this is a 'kushikatsu' restaurant; hence, the food items are mostly battered and deep-fried, cooked the same way. Please don't demand for too much food variety, as it may lose focus on its main concept. I must admit that existing food selection will eventually become passe. The challenge is for them to continuously think of new items to add to the menu, as is with any restaurant.
Kushikatsu Daruma is open from lunch time to wee hours (2AM) to cater to office workers, shoppers, and partyholics who needs drown out the alcohol in their bodies with fried food.