This Japanese chef is bringing Michelin-starred ramen to Manila!
MANILA, Philippines – The most important rule for making good ramen, says Chef Onishi Yuki, is using only fresh, top-tier ingredients, the perfect temperature while cooking the broth, and just sliced, freshly cooked char siu (barbecued pork) on top.
The secret to making his award-winning ramen, however, is in the intent of the person who makes it.
“I don’t know if it’s a secret, but I just want the customer to be happy with what I serve,” said Chef Onishi Yuki through an interpreter in an exclusive interview with Rappler.
Chef Onishi Yuki is the founder and executive chef of Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodle, an award-winning ramen house that originated in Japan in 2012. Word of mouth travels far and in 2015, Tsuta was awarded with a Michelin star for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of the Michelin Guide.
The chef feels deeply honored to be granted the recognition, but in all honesty, first-hand customer satisfaction is the most rewarding form of appreciation he has ever received.
It follows because as a chef, he lives by this principle: that he is able to serve good food to the people and that the people keep coming back for his food.
What then, do people in Sugamo, Tokyo, Japan, and those who visit Tsuta’s branches in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, keep coming back for?
Three vital main ingredients go into an umami-filled, delicious warm bowl of Tsuta ramen. The first –and most important – is sumptuously flavored soup made from three different kinds of broth: one is the stock of whole chickens, another is stock of asari clams, and an unusual broth made from Japanese fish, katakuchi, mackerel, and anchovy.
The second most important component of course, are the noodles. Tsuta noodles are freshly made on site from carefully selected wheat and whole wheat flour. Then there’s the freshly made char siu, which is sliced only upon serving.
Chef Yuki sternly warns kitchen staff against slicing char siu in advance. He is very adamant with this rule, because slicing the pork and having it exposed to the elements alters its texture and softness.
“If someone orders, char siu must be sliced especially for that customer – and that customer alone,” he said.
There is one unusual ingredient Chef Yuki uses in his ramen soup that other chefs use in the most sophisticated dishes, but never in ramen: truffle oil. Chef Yuki refuses to use MSG or other forms of chemical flavors in his cooking, and uses only organic ingredients whenever possible.
Tsuta very recently opened its maiden branch in the Philippines, a 48-seater cozy-moderne den with bar and couch seating options conveniently located at Bonifacio High Street Central.
There are three types of ramen that you can order from Tsuta: Shoyu or soy-based, Shio or salt-based, and Miso.
Shoyu soba is Tsuta’s signature dish. The soy sauce is especially made for the restaurant, from two years’ fully-matured soybeans in the shoyu brewery in Wakayama. It is savory and the flavor is well-pronounced: you can feel the marriage of soy sauce and the broths – topped with leek, bamboo shoots, and truffle oil – dancing on your taste buds. It is recommended for first timers and could easily be your ideal bowl of ramen.
Shiyo on the other hand, has a lighter taste that declares fresh on the palate. Its clear broth is still flavorful but less intimidating, and with an almost herbal twist.
If you’re one for strong flavors, however, try the miso soba. The Haccho miso is especially imported from Tokushima Prefecture in Japan. Tsuta’s miso soba is topped with porcini mushroom and watercress and drizzled with hot sauce. There is a subtle hint of spicy is its potent, rich flavor.
Lest we forget to mention – the char siu is soft and fresh, and so is the flavored organic egg – if you order the Ajitama variants. After the first sip of soup hugs you and warms you on the inside, and the noodles slide their way into your mouth, the char siu and egg should be the next to take part in your perfect love affair with ramen.
There are a few variations of the Shoyu, Shio and Miso soba to choose from, depending on your preference and appetite. Pricing starts at P390 for a bowl, P440 for Ajitama variants.
Chef Yuki is an artist, and making ramen is his passion. He is very meticulous with his craft, which he first learned in his father’s ramen shop way back in 1997.
His artistic flair may have been developed when he worked for the fashion industry before opting to create his own ramen empire. This flair is seen not only in how he makes a gorgeous bowl of ramen, but also in his wardrobe and grooming choices. His chef’s jacket is an overcoat and he sports well-maintained stubble and moustache, which all add up to his sexy, rugged appeal.
If he is particular about the way he looks, then you can expect Chef Yuki to border on obsessive with his ramen. He is extremely hands-on, and personally selects the ingredients that go into every bowl of Tsuta Soba Noodles.
For Tsuta’s international branches, fresh produce are sourced locally upon Chef Yuki’s approval, but ingredients that are particular to Tsuta’s award-winning flavor such as the shoyu and truffle oil, are imported all the way from Japan.
The chef can teach the ways and transfer his perfectionist attitude to making ramen, but can also only do so much. To ensure that international staff will deliver the same quality as that of the distinct great-tasting ramen Chef Yuki himself prepares for his customers in his 9-seater restaurant in Japan, Chef Yuki himself travels to the international branches days before opening the restaurant to ensure that everything is at par with his personal standards and the kitchen staff are performing as desired – but not before they have undergone scrupulous training.
Manila’s kitchen team was trained for on site for two weeks at Tsuta’s branch in Singapore and were required to learn how to make the perfect bowl of Tsuta Soba Noodles that could be served to actual customers.
Tsuta Global also has an opening team personally trained by Chef Yuki, which stays at the new branches for at least two to three weeks or up until the food and operations live up to the Chef’s standards.
Tsuta is brought to the Philippines by FOODEE Global Concepts, the same group that brought other Michelin-starred brands such as Tim Ho Wan and FOO’D by Davide Oldani to the country, as well as homegrown dining options such as Mesa and Sunnies Cafe.
FOODEE Managing Director and COO Eric Dee says Tsuta is part of FOODEE’s promise to bringing affordable luxury in the form of world-class dining options to Filipinos. He, along with Chef Onishi Yuki, invites discerning Filipino foodies to try the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen.
“I know that there are already many restaurants that serve ramen in the Philippines, but I hope that you will visit Tsuta to discover the why our ramen – made with our special soup, freshly made noodles and char siu – is different from all the rest,” Chef Yuki said.
Tsuta is at UG/F C3, Bonifacio High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The restaurant is open daily from 11:30 am onwards. – Rappler.com