That’s when she found it. It was in a box of memos and mementos from her dad. He’d left her the secret of his kushikatsu after all.
Neither Tanaka nor Nuki had any expectations for the scrawled instructions, which had been corrected over and over. “The discovery wasn’t dramatic at all,” Nuki recalls. “It’s not like the memo had ‘success guaranteed’ written on it.”
But they tried it and it worked. “It was, indeed, the taste of the kushikatsu my father used to cook,” Tanaka says.
Nuki, a newfound kushikatsu fan, decided to make one last attempt to conquer the Tokyo restaurant scene. He found a small property in a quiet residential area outside central Tokyo, where rent was cheaper. He filled the kitchen with equipment from his old places, and whatever was missing he bought using an auction website. “A lot of people told me not to do it, that the place wouldn’t attract people because there weren’t any other shops nearby,” he says.
But the Tanaka kushikatsu went viral.
So many people were lined up to get in even at 1 a.m. that Nuki had to set up extra tables outside. The number of bicycles parked outside the shop drew complaints from neighbors. Passengers on buses stared with curiosity at the long lines.
Nuki and Tanaka added a second and third store. They all bustled with customers. When a rival kushikatsu joint opened in the trendy Shibuya area of Tokyo, the two decided it was time to turn their business into a franchise.