Anybody who has done their research on foods to eat at Osaka have probably read about Kushikatsu Daruma. This Osaka favorite is pretty much always in all the lists! Since I’ve never really properly explored Osaka in my trips to Japan before, it’s really nice to know that now any time I’m hankering for a taste of Osaka, I have an option to stop by Kushikatsu Daruma.
This restaurant was brought into the country by none other than Charles Paw of the Tasteless Food Group, the group behind Hole In The Wall, Le Petit Souffle, and Hanamaruken, just to name a few. And as always, the moment you enter the restaurant you get blown away by the interior design and ambiance already.
[READ ALSO: Workshop Bespoke Bakery by Le Petit Souffle Review]
The feel of the place reminds me a little bit of their other new concept, Ping Pong Diplomacy, in that they fuse Asian details with a rough urban touch. I’m not sure what it’s called in official interior design jargon, but the important thing is that I like it haha!
[READ ALSO: Ping Pong Diplomacy Review]
This restaurant in BGC has a more modernistic feel to it than the Kushikatsu Daruma in Japan from the pictures I’ve seen, and it seems to be more spacious as well. I like how they have set up these dividers between tables that can provide some privacy for people who want to stay and chill after their meal.
If you’re unfamiliar with kushikatsu, by now you’re already wondering what it is and why there are a ton of signs all around the restaurant promoting the “No Double Dipping!” policy. Kushikatsu is basically breaded and deep fried food on a skewer, the crisp kind you dip in tonkatsu sauce and bite into joyfully.
There are no limitations as to what you can make into kushikatsu really, but what is discouraged is the Pinoy propensity to double dip their foods-on-a-stick. You can see the face of Mr. Ueyama, Kushikatsu Daruma’s mascot, standing guard alongside all the “No Double Dipping” reminders.
Alongside their kushikatsu offerings, the restaurant also offers several donburi dishes to complement their golden deep fried goodness. Eventually, they decided to add some ramen into their repertoire as well.
I think more than anything, adding things into your menu to make it a bit “more for everyone” can be quite a risk. Especially for a specialty restaurant like this, sometimes one menu item can suffer in favor of the other, so for some reason I was feeling a little bit nervous. All I wanted was to have a Kushikatsu Daruma experience that will serve as a wonderful introduction to this Osaka favorite, and since it was my first time here, I just hoped for the best.
Advanced Level (Php 480)
Starting with the kushikatsu, we decided to order the more adventurous set. This one had 11 sticks of beautifully fried things, consisting of crispy and breaded garlic, leeks, white onion, pork intestine, gyoza, lady finger (okra), chickan gizzard, chicken intestine, chicken heart, tonkatsu (pork loin), and finally the Classic Kushikatsu.
On the table, you get these cute and quirky instructions on proper kushikatsu-eating etiquette. When you dip your skewers for the first time, just go all the way so you can cover as much real estate as possible. The sauce gets soaked well into the breading actually, and you won’t really have any issues tasting that sauce with every bite.
To be honest, I really loved these things. I’m not big on fried foods, but these were neither oily nor soggy. They were perfectly crisp, with just a thin layer of golden coating that really makes whatever it is you are eating shine. Even something as simple as the sweet-savory white onion! Everything that needed to be tender and juicy was exactly that, and everything that needed to be a little crisp was that also. They have mastered the art of the kushikatsu for sure!
Karaage Nanban Rice (Php 330)
The most disappointing dish of the bunch is this fried chicken over rice. The small serving of chicken over that much rice is certainly not worth the 33o pesos.
Tan Tanmien Ramen (Php 365)
Here is where Kushikatsu Daruma redeems itself in terms of its non-fried food portion of the menu. Their Tan Tanmien Ramen, while not the best I’ve eaten, was still delightfully flavorful. With a spicy broth thickened with sesame oil, peanut paste, and chili paste, this ramen has that lip-smacking quality that will have you craving for more after each bite. I could only wish for a bit more toppings.
Ninniku Ramen (Php 365)
The Ninniku Ramen features a full-on garlic experience, with broth made using black garlic oil. You can also see bits of roasted garlic used as toppings alongside sweetened garlic flakes sprinkled on top. Quite enjoyable for any garlic lover without going over the top oily. You get one piece of grilled pork belly and a minimum amount of veggies as toppings.
Tipsy Bacon (Php 280)
I really enjoyed this cocktail! Some people may find it weird to have a piece of bacon floating on top there, but I really really enjoyed the mix of flavors in this cocktail. I’m not very good at describing drinks I think, so I’ll just say if you want to get yourself an interesting drink for whatever reason while here, give this a go.
Match Lava Cake (Php 195)
This dessert is served with a side of vanilla ice cream that sits atop the same delicious sesame crumble I’ve eaten at another Tasteless Food Group restaurant, Ping Pong Diplomacy. The lava cake doesn’t seem to be quite as lava as it should be though. I was expecting it to have an interior that flowed out the moment I sliced into the cake, but I sort of had to coax it out for the photo haha!
Inside is a thick sweet sauce which I assume is white chocolate-matcha. The cake is rightly sweet and packed with matcha taste, but it isn’t as moist as I was expecting for a cake of this kind. Over-baked perhaps? But this dessert isn’t bad by any means. Still a pleasant way to end the meal.
Kushikatsu Daruma provides a really great introduction to the kushikatsu of Osaka, but it’s not exactly something that I would personally frequent since I think it’s on the more expensive side.
That said, I really think their kushikatsu is masterfully fried to perfection. The meat or vegetable underneath the golden breading is also of top quality, and I could tell the moment I bit into them. Kushikatsu Daruma has probably one of the best versions of this type of food I have eaten locally. And they should. It’s their specialty after all!
As for the other menu items at Kushikatsu Daruma, I do think they are on the more expensive side as well. Considering you can get better ramen and donburi at other places for the same price, I don’t think they’re that competitive. However I still believe their ramen dishes are worth a try because they’ve done well with the taste despite not being a restaurant that actually focuses on serving up ramen. Their rice dishes are another story though. I suggest sticking with the ramen and the kushikatsu.
If we look at the restaurant as a whole, I think the concept is actually pretty cool. You get a casual and beautifully designed restaurant serving food that’s easy to understand, and I think people would still enjoy hanging out here.
Overall Rating: 3.50 out of 5
Full disclosure: This post is partially sponsored thanks to the GC I received from the Tasteless Group’s Marketing Team. However, all opinions stated above are my own. Truly.