Katipunan karaage joint Tetsuo’s second branch brings the crunch with new dishes

Photos by Mersi Carballo

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Poblacion is the place du jour of Metro Manila. Everyone from north and south of Makati flocks to the red-light-discrict-adjacent bars and restaurants any given day of the week, and the competition for the attention of bar-hoppers is fierce. That famous Heidi Klum quote (“One day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out,” for all you non-watchers of Project Runway) pretty much applies here, and while that might be risky for a lot of establishment owners, for the boys of the beloved Katipunan restaurant Tetsuo, it just made sense.

Recently opened at the ground floor of Boogie along Kalayaan Avenue, Tetsuo’s Poblacion outpost has been a long time coming. It echoes the design of the Katipunan branch, with industrial elements serving as a backdrop to the resto’s famous chicken and cold soba combo. But more than a reason to celebrate the coming of a QC staple to Makati is their new menu for Poblacion, which adds quite the number of dishes. Highlights include an über-spicy fried chicken (best eaten with a friend — trust me, it’s spicy), curry spiced pork (their take on the Coco Ichibanya craze), crispy chicken skin with a green chili sauce instead of gravy, and the once limited offering of egg noodles and chili sauce known as birthday noodles. 

As we chowed down on a selection of the new menu, we talked to Tetsuo’s creative director Sean Bautista, head chef Wesley Chan, and brand manager Timmy Jacob about how they came up with these new dishes.

 

YOUNG STAR: Hey, guys, congrats on the new space! First off, was opening in Poblacion something you’ve always wanted to do? 

SEAN BAUTISTA: Yeah, ever since we conceptualized the brand the idea was to set up a concept, or a proper restaurant. It just so happened that in the beginning years we had to resort to bootstrapping the concept through JSEC (in Ateneo) and doing Mercato. 

WESLEY CHAN: Back when we were doing those, we would always hang out here (in Poblacion), and we would tell ourselves, “Yeah, we want a spot here somewhere down the line.” Poblacion is medyo home for us.

Tetsuo’s new menu is headlined by some spicy new dishes: the hot chicken (P220) and the birthday noodles with karaage (P250).

How did you find this space? 

SEAN: We were contacted by Erick and Anna Ong of Boogie (and XX XX in Pasong Tamo), so rather than refurbishing or rebranding their kitchen — because it was being underutilized — they opted to work with a food brand that makes sense with their concept upstairs.

 

Tell me about the new menu. How did you go about expanding it? 

TIMMY JACOB: One thing that we always had in mind was we wanted the menu to fit the context of the location we were in. So with the Katipunan one, for example, we knew it was a very studentheavy area, people want things fast so we focused on more solo meals there. Whereas here, people will really sit down with a group of friends, maybe have drinks and stuff, so we wanted a menu that was more for a group setting, a more sit-down setting. 

WESLEY: To add to that, given our experience eating and drinking out here in Poblacion, there’s also that sawa effect, personally. So I wanted to add a lot of things to the menu that are new and only available here. If you notice, the menu in Katipunan is 10 items — maybe less — but here, it’s a lot more. And given how this place is a drinking spot, I decided to add a lot more pulutan-style stuff.

With a new location comes new flavor profiles, like the curry spiced pork (P200) inspired by the group’s obsession with Coco Ichibanya. Here it is flanked by the garlic beef (P270) and beef fried rice (P80).

What’s the development process like for new dishes? 

SEAN: We don’t really think about it too deeply. We usually just (ask ourselves) what we crave when we’re out drinking, out in Poblacion. I guess the menu is stuff that the three of us mutually like anywhere else — we just put our own twist to it. 

TIMMY: For example the curry pork, we all love Coco Ichibanya, and we talk about it a lot. (Laughs)

WESLEY: Yeah, but we didn’t want to do a curry sauce, ‘cause to be honest, I don’t think I can match Coco Ichibanya and their flavor profile, so we wanted to do something different. For this one, we just wanted to introduce a new flavor to our customers just by adding curry powder.

 

What are your favorite dishes from the new menu? 

I would say the chicken skin. It’s a staple in drinking culture in the Philippines, but what we wanted different was the dipping sauce. There’s a mutual love between the three of us for green chili — we love the green chili sauce in La Chinesca, the salsa verde. So we made something that was our version of that. 

SEAN: The birthday noodles are something you should definitely try. Partially because it made its debut during my own birthday (at the Katipunan store) so it’s a nice tie back to random events we do; because of the popularity of the dish we decided to make it a mainstay of the restaurant. 

 

Do you have any other exciting things planned for the Poblacion branch?

I think for the future we’ll also be working in conjunction with Boogie a lot, so another thing to look forward to is concept nights where we take over the whole structure. Like we’ll do music programming upstairs, and something special with our menu also. That’s something to look out for.

 

 

The new Tetsuo branch is at 8483 Kalayaan Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City. They are open from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays through Saturdays. Follow them on Instagram at @tetsuo.official.

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#events #feature #food

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