Daruma joins the ubiquitous theme of restaurants in Osaka with its visual and 3D signage. Easily recognizable, Daruma locations have a large statue of the founder looking either ominous or comical with his arched eyebrows. In each his hand is a stick of kushikatsu, deep fried skewered meat. Kushikatsu is another Osakan specialty, which Daruma does very, very well.
We walk into the location in Shinsaibashi and are ushered to the dining room on the second floor. The fluorescent lighting in the restaurant makes the place feel like a cafeteria except that it is a restaurant with a geeky Japanese twist. We are seated at one of the tables next to what looked like a cross between a mini train track and a conveyor belt. Each table is named after a subway station along the Mido-suji Line. The server shows us the touchscreen menu and demonstrates how we place our order ourselves via the screen. On each table is a metal container of tonkatsu sauce for dipping the kushikatsu. "No double dipping, please, the touchscreen show and server say. Each food item is sent out as when ready. Very soon, our sticks of skewered meat make their way from the kitchen, travel along the "train track" on a train, and stop automatically stops directly at our table. We take the food items, transfer them onto our table, and push a button to send the empty train back to the kitchen.
The menu offers sets of kushikatsu but we decide to go ala carte style with these deep fried skewered meats: classic kushikatsu (in Osaka, kushikatsu is made with beef), tonkatsu (pork), gyutan meatball (beef tongue), shishito (Japanese peppers), and chicken gizzard. The gizzard is deep fried without batter. The deep fried items are perfectly crisp at every bite without a hint of being soggy or soft. Despite it's cooking method in oil, they don't make us feel heavy. We dip each stick into the tonkatsu sauce. A bowl of unlimited raw cabbage is served and also meant to be dipped into the tonkatsu sauce.
Another specialty item is doteyaki which is beef, tripe, and konnyaku stewed in miso and mirin. We add a small of bowl doteyaki, chicken ramen, and beer to lunch. Our plates and bowls are polished clean. We don't know where else would we not be plagued by guilt from deep fried meats over lunch. We'd even do it again and again.
Daruma has several locations in Osaka. The older locations don't have the touchscreen ordering system.