We've just discovered a new Japanese street food place along President's Avenue. It's called Kushiten, which in my fractured understanding of Japanese boils down to 'heaven for everything on a stick.' If you've a hankering for yakitori, this is the place to find it -- about a dozen varieties of it, and all of them made with an authentic, light Japanese touch.
Kushiten's secret weapon is owner/chef Kath Kaneko and her culinary blue blood - her father is a Japanese chef and their family used to own the Keiyu Japanese restaurant in Phase 3. Kushiten's menu is a reflection of what Kath herself loves most in Japan, its variety of skewered street foods. The menu was inspired by a street stall that she always visits when she goes to Tokyo. Banking on the Filipino's love for grilled and fried dishes, Kath designed Kushiten to showcase the streets of Tokyo's best in a casual, relaxing atmosphere that welcomes Japanese expats and Filipino barkadas and families alike.
Left Photo (l-r): Tebasaki, Tsukune, Buta Aspara. Right Photo: Momo and Negima
When I order yakitori, I usually know what to expect: tender bits of sweet-salty chicken on sticks. That's it. In Kushiten, though, there's a lot more to it than that. Cathy and I sampled Momo (chicken dark meat), Tebasaki (chicken wings), Tsukune (balls of ground chicken), Negima (chicken with leeks), and Buta Aspara (thin strips of pork rolled around fresh asparagus tips). I have to say Kath has a very light hand with her marinades, so you can savor every nuance of the ingredients' flavor without them being overwhelmed in sweetness or the saltiness of soy sauce. I can see why the Japanese expats eat here.
The yakitoris went very well with a bowl of Chahan, Japanese fried rice.
(From bottom) Kushiages - Ebi, Gyu, Uzura Tamago, Sakana, Ika
After the yakitoris we tried a variety of kushiages, namely the Gyu (beef), Ika (squid), Sakana (fish), Ebi (shrimp,) and a surprise, the Uzura Tamago (quail eggs). By default these are served with a sweet kushiage sauce, but Kath also urged us to try them with tartare sauce and her own Kushiten sauce. One of the draws here, she explained, is that you can order kushiage with the sauce of your choice, including chili mayo and wasabi mayo if you want a hot kick. Cat and I found that each kushiage tends to go best with a different sauce -- the tartar was great with the fish and squid; I found the Kushiten sauce was fantastic with the quail eggsl and the sweet kushiage sauce went very well with the beef. If you're going to bring kids here, the kushiages are guaranteed to be a hit with them! Trust me - I'm very in
touch with my inner kid.
We also had a plate of fried Gyoza, an all-meat dumpling, again with Kath's own gyoza sauce. Cathy's a gyoza connoisseur, almost never failing to order it when we eat Japanese; so when she says she likes a gyoza, I know we're going there again. As for me, I liked that the gyoza sauce here has more ginger and is less sweet than usual; I find that it brings out the taste of the gyoza filling better. We then had our vegetables in the form of an Okonomiyaki, a sort of savory pancake made with shredded cabbage and topped with a light, sweet sauce, Japanese mayo, seaweed flakes and dried bonito flakes. This dish is surprisingly hefty, and can make a filling snack on its own or be a good side dish to go with the light yakitoris and kushiages.
Gyoza and Katsudon
As there's inevitably one big eater in every group, Kushiten is coming out with a line of donburis, or rice topping bowls, by next week. We got a sneak preview of the Katsudon, a breaded pork cutlet on rice. Kushiten's katsudon comes in a rather large serving, and is drenched in a special sauce that adds juiciness to the fried pork and makes the rice really savory. I guess this is the Japanese version of comfort food, so comforting I didn't want to get up from my chair anymore after I finished it! This friendly place with its delicious, authentic and surprisingly budget-friendly Japanese food is going to be among my top recommendations from now on.