If you’ve been to Japan, chances are you’d have come across a Kushikatsu Tanaka outlet — the decade-old biz boasts 171 branches in its motherland and an outpost in Hawaii. Hailing from Osaka, the casual chain specialises in kushikatsu, a popular Osaka street snack consisting of fried skewered meat and veggies coated with panko (Japanese bread crumbs). It’s owned by two Japanese entrepreneurs, one of whom adapted her late father’s kushikatsu recipe to great F&B success. The local franchised 60-seat shop is brought in by Suntory Food & Beverage International (also the folks behind the Pepper Lunch chain and Japanese restaurant Sun with Moon). The head chef here is an Osaka native, while the kitchen team flew to the city’s Kushikatsu Tanaka flagship for training. Ordering your kushikatsu here is very simple: pick your skewers from a neatly categorised menu and the food will be freshly deep-fried in a corn oil and beef fat blend before being served to you on a platter.
A large dry chunk of tuna is unfortunately made even drier from all the frying. If you want better fried fish, we say order another round of salmon instead.
Good news, this morsel is not overcooked even after being deep-fried. It’s crowd-pleasing fatty salmon with extra oomph from the crusty batter. Chase this down with a cold beer.
Think of this as an expertly fried fat mozzarella stick. The skewers here all sport a wonderfully crispy layer of panko crumbs that’s not too greasy and doesn’t reek of stale oil. The subtly milky cheese does not melt within its hot crumb coat, so there’s still some bite. Good to gnaw on, but not terribly exciting.
This bland nugget of Japanese octopus is so rubbery, we got slight jaw ache from chewing on
Braised Pork, $1.50
US pork is first simmered in soy sauce and dashi before being breaded and fried. The pleasingly crackly layer of crumbs cloaks several savoury chunks of tender, slightly fatty pork. Worth the extra calories.
Oysters by themselves can sometimes feel rather slimy on the palate; if you don’t like slippery molluscs, try this skewer similar to the popular Japanese dish kaki furai (deep-fried panko oysters). It crunches delicately to the bite to reveal two fresh, briny oysters.
Hello, Japanese goreng pisang. The mushy texture of bananas go better with a light flour batter instead of this rough panko crumbed version. Skip this ‘dessert’ skewer.
A trio of rather parched Hokkaido scallops hung out far too long in the deep fryer. Not the freshest scallops we’ve tasted, either.
Bacon Cheese, $2
This iconic golden duo features deep-fried, fat-streaked, salty bacon topped with a chunky cube of mozzarella cheese. It’s the perfect izakaya grub for soaking up alcohol.
Cookies & Cream, $1.50
Deep-fried Mars Bars are a thang; deep-fried Oreos should be shown the door like day-old frying oil. Unless you like soggy, slightly greasy cookies.
Bottom line: We foresee this becoming one of our go-to late night supper joints. While not all perfect, the kushikatsu here is mostly fresh, not too oily (at least during our visit) and well-priced. The tipples are equally affordable. We will try more of their side dishes, like sashimi, oden and DIY takoyaki next.
#01-01B Merchant Court Clarke Quay Blk A, 3A River Valley Rd, S179020. Tel: 6258-3789.
Open daily except Mon & Tues. Wed, Thurs & Sun 5pm-midnight. Fri & Sat 5pm-2am. Last orders 30 mins before closing. www.facebook.com/pg/Kushikatsu-Tanaka-SG-143093659656016