With Manila’s thriving food scene, the opening of Michelin-starred restaurants such as Tsuta hardly comes as a surprise to the Filipino gourmand.
But what makes Tsuta’s arrival in the Philippines groundbreaking is that it was allowed by the restaurant’s global management in the first place.
Tsuta Global President Brian Chua tells us that for a Tsuta franchise to be remotely possible, it starts with the availability of ingredients.
“The chef respects local ingredients a lot, so when we make plans to launch in a new country, the first thing we always look at is the ingredients,” Chua says.
The initial consideration for the company is the question of importing ingredients.
“If we can’t import most of the ingredients, then we won’t start [the franchise]. We also look at how good the local produce is. If we can’t get that together, it doesn’t matter how good the partnership or the market is because we don’t want to compromise the quality of the food.”
While the restaurant's core ingredients will come straight from the source, a number of the fresh ingredients will be sourced locally. Fortunately, our local produce has made the cut.
A close look at the shoyu ramen
Tsuta will formally open its doors to customers on December 16. The first branch in Manila is located at Bonifacio High Street. The space comfortably seats 48 diners at a time, with both a bar and table-seating setups.
Even before the original restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star, Tsuta was already a hit among the Tokyo crowd, where it started five years ago. Its founder and head chef Onishi Yuki had worked at his father’s ramen shop before breaking away to start his own restaurant.
Tsuta immediately drew in long queues to its small space in Sugamo, Tokyo, even if its location is half an hour away from the business districts and popular tourist spots such as Ginza.
According to Chua, the nine-seater ramen joint racked up many complaints from its neighbors after it was recognized by the Michelin Guide. Yuki then came up with a clever queuing system that begins with a ticket distribution as early as 6 a.m., and limiting its customers to 150 a day. Currently, color-coded tickets correspond to a dining schedule for its Tokyo customers to follow.
Fortunately, the Manila branch is the group's largest and won’t need to follow such a ticketing system.
Yuki takes pride in the ingredients that he uses in all his branches across Asia, since it’s the unusual ingredients that set his ramen dishes apart from others. Across his selections of shoyu and shio ramen, soba noodles and truffle oil are the distinguishable stars of the dish. The noodles are firm, and the truffle essence, toned down in flavor to mingle well with the rich soup. The organic eggs are cooked in the Japanese onsen method, leaving it firm on the outside but silky on the inside.
But the real hero of the dish would have to be the broth. Chua has done his research and reports that most of the ramen restaurants in the Philippines use pork broth. Meticulously, the Tsuta kitchen blends together three types of broth—the stock of asari clams, the stock of whole chickens, and finally, a broth made from imported Japanese fish katakuchi, mackerel, and anchovy—each slowly cooked for at least seven hours. The finished product is left to sit overnight, while the soba noodles are freshly-made onsite.
Behind the bar at the Manila branch
Tsuta Manila is located at C3 Bonifacio High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. It is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until supplies last.