As a kid, you knew you did well when you come home with a star stamped on the back of your hand. You parade it proudly, refusing to wash for fear the badge of honor disappears. Little did you know that for adults a star award is just as glorious.
Chef Onishi Yki was awarded One Michelin Star in 2015 for his ramen joint Tsuta. He admits to being overjoyed at the recognition – the world’s first for a ramen restaurant and the only ramen shop in the world to have a star for 2015 and 2016. A Japanese noodle dish served in savory broth, ramen is a global culinary icon well loved the world over as comfort food any time of day. One can tell that foodie Filipinos aren’t immune to its charm, just looking at the ramen places mushrooming in the last few years. If you think you’ve tasted every kind of ramen in Manila, wait till you meet the signature ramen dishes that earned Tsuta the coveted star.
Chef Yuki creates his own recipes to offer unique versions of the ubiquitous Japanese fare, while remaining as authentic as ramen can get. His award-winning Shoyu Soba (soy-based sauce flavored ramen) boasts of the highest quality freshly made noodles and a deliciously rich broth from a blend of stock of asari clams and chicken, which makes it light, refreshing, and different from what’s currently available. It is then flavored by soy sauce made out of soybeans fully matured for two years in the shoyu brewery in Wakayama, especially for the restaurant. The resulting broth is clear, allowing other ingredients like the char siu, bamboo shoots, leeks, and truffles pureed in truffle oil to take center stage in the mouth in a well-orchestrated explosion of flavors.
The first Tsuta shop opened in Sugamo, Tokyo in January 2012 out of Chef Yuki’s vision of showcasing to the world a dish that is authentically Japanese. Following years of training under and working for his father’s ramen shop, Chef Yuki has mastered what ramen is supposed to be like, while still incorporating his own art into it. By carefully selecting the ingredients that go into the broth and masterfully controlling the elements that affect the taste and quality of the noodles, define ramen he actually did.
The Michelin star award came as a surprise to the chef, given the fickle selection process and the anonymity of the Michelin Guide reviewers. In fact, he was sound asleep on that fateful Tuesday night when he got the call. Yet, even before the star, Tsuta was pretty popular, with people lining up as early as 6AM to get their hands on the delicious bowl for when the shop in Tokyo opens at 11AM. You can imagine how insanely long the line grew after the awarding!
As certified foodies would know, the Michelin Guide traces its history way back to the 1900s when the tire company put out a guidebook to encourage road tripping in France. It eventually sent anonymous reviewers to try restaurants, a strategy it has continued to this day. The reviewers then decide who deserve stars, based solely on criteria relating to the food ─ quality, mastery of technique, personality, and consistency. Tsuta’s One Star meant that it is a good place to stop along one’s journey, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
Demand for the Michelin-starred ramen skyrocketed, prompting Tsuta to open branches in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manila, and Singapore, where some 200 people lined up on opening day.
Manila is this close to tasting the award-winning ramen, thanks to FOODEE Global Concepts, the same group that brought here other Michelin-starred restaurants Tim Ho Wan, FOO’D by Davide Oldani, and Hawker Chan (also opening soon!), as well as Todd English Food Hall, MESA Filipino Moderne, Llaollao, and Sunnies Café.
Filipinos are expected to match, or even surpass, past opening day fervor. After all, it’s a quintessential millennial experience to get to taste something that has been externally validated, what with our penchant for things out of the ordinary. To reward this, Tsuta Philippines will be giving special prizes to the first 100 people who will line up when Tsuta opens in Bonifacio High Street on December 16. The first 10 guests in line get a one-year supply of Tsuta ramen (that’s one hot, delicious bowl of ramen a week), the next 20 get six months’ worth, another 20 get 3 months’ worth, while the succeeding 50 each gets a voucher for one free ramen bowl of signature Tsuta ramen. Stay tuned to the official Tsuta Philippines Facebook and Instagram accounts for details and mechanics.
Chef Yuki believes that the Michelin star is his tribute to the ramen industry he grew up with. Can you imagine what his father and mentor could have thought when he went home with this particular star?
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