Japanese izakaya at Nali Patio with a good list of highball cocktails
Tucked away on the ground level of Nali Patio
. Daruma is a charming izakaya that delivers a fuss-free menu. Its glass entrance is welcoming, unlike most other ‘speakeasy’ izakayas in the city. It opens to a wooden island counter taking centerstage which is perfect for solo drinks, while bigger tables take up space across the bar.
An evening in an izakaya almost always equates to copious glasses of highballs and Daruma is no different, with nine types of delicious highballs. Its classic, the smoky (68RMB) concocted with Talisker and the first class (150RMB), mixed with Hibiki, Yamakazi or Hakushu did not disappoint. The bar also offers highballs using sweeter bases (Ume, Yuzu or Calpis), each reasonably priced at 58RMB. Whisky detractors can pick from wine and sake lists or the barbecue default, ice-cold Asahi beer.
Its food menu consists of some of the Japanese owners’ favourites from home. Start with flavourful appetisers that are small in size but big on taste such as the scotch egg (38RMB) that packs a punch with halved eggs (and perfect runny yolks) encased in a thick crunchy meat case. Its yakitori are typical, with chicken cuts, mushrooms and okra (from 10RMB). The chicken meatball (20RMB) stands out for its juicy chunk of meat served with egg dipping sauce and cheese for a blend of sweet and savoury.
The real gems however, are listed at the bottom of the menu. Fill up with oyakadon chicken rice (68RMB), tender chicken thigh pieces on steamed rice topped with a secret recipe of sweet gooey egg sauce or slurp up its Tokyo abura soba (68RMB), a dry-noodle dish that originated in the Japanese capital half a century ago.
Daruma brings a much needed Asian flavour to the mostly continental offerings of Nali Patio, and is a great place to kick off a night at Sanlitun.