Matt San Pedro and Sean Bautista, two longtime pals and Ateneans, had spent time in Chicago and Japan, respectively, and were captivated by the sights, sounds, and presence of numerous food concepts in the said regions. Along with schoolmate Wesley Chan (who now also serves as their head chef), the two sought to start a concept of their own that would combine their many passions and interests (Japanese culture, music, and skateboarding, just to name a few) and translate that in the form of food and design—and thus, Tetsuo was born. Bringing in friends Sean Yu and Janus Aquino, Tetsuo marked their humble beginnings through a stall at the Ateneo de Manila University student entreprise hub JSEC, where they won over the hearts of hungry students and built their initial following. More recently, and now joined by Timothy Jacob (another longtime pal from the University of the Philippines) as their brand manager, the Tetsuo team attained the dream with their very own restaurant right along Katipunan Avenue.
As a group we share this passion for soul food, [particularly] fried chicken . . . Everybody loves fried chicken, so that’s what our . . . brand’s been about. We decided we wanted to build this fried chicken stall inside [JSEC].”
The Tetsuo brand is diverse, merging different forms of media—graphics, video, and apparel (“we just try to make stuff we’re genuinely interested in,” explains Bautista) with their distinctive neon-lit, hip-hop and cyberpunk-inflected aesthetic. But they’ve got the goods to back it up, prioritizing making great food above all else, and keeping to a more focused menu with East Asian influences: baos, karaage, and a signature fried chicken of the buttermilk-brined Southern sort and taken out for an umami spin. The new Katipunan branch extends the more bare-bones repertoire of the original stall just enough to diversify the selection, while keeping the attention on the chicken they do best.
Here are some items you can’t miss:
Signature Fried Chicken
Tetsuo’s flagship offering is the Signature Fried Chicken: chicken, marinated in buttermilk for tenderness, then tossed in their special breading (with seven different spices in the mix) before getting a good dunk in the deep-fryer. For an extra wham of flavor, each fried piece is topped with your choice among one of their spice blends; take your pick from the citrusy sansho, the chili-fronted ichimi, or the smoky kaneda. Crisp on the outside and juicy within, it’s a proper fried bird that stands well on its own (and which begs to be eaten with your hands), but if you must, a solo order comes with gravy and nori-flecked rice for tucking into between bites.
Torched Salmon Bowl
Among Tetsuo’s “bowl” options is the Torched Salmon Bowl, the inclusion of which stems from the desire to provide a pescetarian option on the menu. Combining salmon (marinated in miso, then given a smoky hint from the heat of the blowtorch), teriyaki sauce-doused rice, pickled cucumber, crunchy salmon skin bits, and spicy mayo on rice, it delivers full-force on the umami for sure, but makes for a combo whose creamy-crunchy-flavorful sum transcends its individual parts.
Umami fried chicken and other East Asian-inflected bites.