Beneath the familiar images of Sakura blossoms, cutesy anime drawings, and conveyor-belt sushi, is a complex yet fascinating Japanese sub-culture waiting to be explored. Think of cyber punk horror films, obscure post-apocalyptic Nippon story lines, and fried chicken. Yup, you read that right—fried chicken. When you bring them all together, then you’ve got yourself Tetsuo, Esteban Abada’s hidden fried-chicken joint and Katipunan’s mini mecca of all thing cool and Japanese.
Tetsuo’s Creative Director Sean Bautista and Head Tastemaker Wesley Chan are certified Japanophiles. They would spend hours discussing Japanese sub-cultures like anime, retail, music, visuals, and skateboarding. Of course, like any other culture, there’s also the food. Eventually, the boys decided to bring their concept to fruition by doing pop-ups and joining food markets around the metro selling their best-selling fried chicken, t-shirts, as well as spreading their Devil May Cry attitude executed with David Chang flair. Soon, Timothy Jacob joined the team as Brand Manager and late last April, Tetsuo finally opened its current flagship space.
The concept’s name alludes to two 1980s Japanese cult classics the team salutes to. First, is the Japanese cyber punk horror film Tetsuo: The Iron Man and second, the deuteragonist from Katsuhiro Otomo science fiction masterpiece, Akira. The broody and masculine tones of each reference even translate to the restaurant slash retail shop carrying their assorted wares. The atmosphere in Tetsuo though is far from somber as customers are encouraged to interact and enjoy the space while waiting for their food to be served.
Without a doubt, the Signature Fried Chicken is the hero dish at Tetsuo. Gorge on crispy, golden chicken pieces that have been long-marinated in buttermilk brine and seasoned with a mix of secret spices. The entrée is available in two or three-piece platters that come with a side of nori-seasoned rice and thick homemade gravy. But before picking up that chicken leg, customers are requested to choose their preferred spice levels: the peppery-citrusy Sansho, the spicy-savory Ichimi, and the strongest one, Kaneda, which is another nod to Akira.
Another chicken option is the Karaage + Soba combination. Bite into juicy, boneless soy-flavored chicken pieces then scarf it down with the side soba noodles that have been soaking in a mild yet addicting tsuyu sauce.
Tetsuo’s creative donburi bowls shouldn’t be missed either. The Beef + Egg Bowl can easily fill you up with its generous portions of steaming Japanese rice and soy-marinated beef belly slices that’s been seasoned with spring onions and sesame seeds. Don’t forget to mix in the poached egg cooked sous vide-style to fully savor this modern gyudon meal.
If the beef bowl is a hearty medley of sweet-soy flavors, Tetsuo’s Torched Salmon Bowl is an umami bomb in every bite. Imagine chunks of fresh salmon enveloped in a creamy miso dressing then torched to achieve its charred flavors. It is then plated with tempura bits and nori strips for added texture and dimension. Eat each spoonful with the pickled cucumber garnish if you want to balance out the richness.
The Ice Cream Bun is actually an ode to Sean’s childhood comfort treat made with a bao twist. Instead of the typical pan de sal, Tetsuo uses fried mantou buns to make their ice cream sandwiches. Each piece is then finished off with Chocnut dust and a drizzling of condensed milk.
What’s also admirable about the team is how brand doesn’t doesn’t limit itself to its regular roster of offerings. Check their social media accounts and you’ll see a promotion of activations and collaborations you’d definitely want to join in.
Tetsuo or Death? You be the judge. But if it were up to us, we’d visit this little chicken joint again and again just to be a part of their infectious culture, starting with their signature eats.
Unit 103, 88 Loyola Serviced Residences, Esteban Abada Street, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. For inquiries and collaborations, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographed by Miguel Abesamis of Studio 100