Singapore's Hawker Chan to open in Manila

FooDee Global Concepts managing director Eric Dee.
PHOTO: Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

Manila is fast becoming a city of "stars," thanks to entrepreneurs who are shaking the local food scene with the entry of Michelin-starred restaurants.

Celebrated Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung was awarded a star in 2010, and was brought to Manila by The Moment Group in 2015.

Last year, two-Michelin-star chef Akrame Benallal opened a steakhouse/wine bar called Atelier Vivanda at Burgos Circle.

Meanwhile, FooDee Global Concepts, which operates Mesa, Sunnies Cafe and Todd English Food Hall, among other restaurants, has two under its belt-Hong Kong's Tim Ho Wan and FOO'D by Davide Oldani at Shangri-La at The Fort, both boasting a star.

Mark of quality

The Michelin is the most recognised and respected of all restaurant ratings, bestowing as many as three stars to food establishments that have shown commendable excellence in food and service.

It's basically a mark of quality, and while the star is given to restaurants, the credit extends to the chefs, many of whom deem it the highest honour they can receive in their careers.

The recognition might be coupled with prestige and, at times, controversy (both generating good and profitable publicity), but this isn't the main reason why FooDee brings in awarded food brands into the country.

It's more about what it can do to the food industry, says managing director Eric Dee.

"I want to get involved in having the Michelin Guide look at the Philippines as a viable country to have it," he explains.

"Why not? It's all over Asia already. It opened in Singapore two months ago and look what it has done for them. I believe we have the talent and calibre. I want our industry to grow."

By introducing Michelin-starred restaurants into the local scene, Eric hopes that present and future players can learn and, hopefully, be forced to step up their game, not just in the quality of food and service, but also in terms of consistency.

Two new stars

Michelin-starred soya sauce chicken at Hawker Chan

  • Local foodies, you are in for more yummy treats since more and more Michelin-starred eateries are opening in Singapore.
  • One of them is Mr Chan Hon Meng's Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, which earned an one-star rating from the culinary bible in July this year.
  • The hawker stall is also touted as the cheapest Michelin-starred food establishment in the world, with its award-winning soya sauce chicken noodles selling at only $2.50.
  • His new quick service restaurant Hawker Chan opens at Smith Street - just a three-minute walk away from his hawker stall at Chinatown Food Complex on Nov 18.
  • The air-conditioned eatery comfortably seats 80 diners and features an interactive kiosk where they can customise their orders.
  • Hawker Chan serves four types of roasts - soya sauce chicken, char siew, roasted pork and pork ribs - that can be paired with rice, noodles or hor fun.
  • The signature soya sauce chicken is tender and juicy, and the skin is fragrant, yet not too greasy.
  • You'll find soybeans served together with the dish which is quite uncommon, we thought. x
  • You'll find soybeans served together with the dish which is quite uncommon, we thought. We found out later that these beans were the secret to its amazing flavour - as they were used to marinate the chicken.
  • We also love the savoury roasted pork that has just the right amount of belly fat and very crispy skin. This dish will definitely go well with some ice-cold beer.
  • While the dishes at Hawker Chan are pricier than similar offerings at the hawker stall, we think that they are still rather pocket-friendly with main dishes ranging from $3.80 for soya sauce chicken rice to $23 for a whole soya sauce chicken.

His restaurant group has decided to lure in two more stars this year: Tsuta from Tokyo, the first Michelin-starred ramen shop in the world; and Hawker Chan from Singapore, which offers the world's cheapest Michelin-starred meal.

Both are expected to open this July.

"More than just branding, we make sure that we're up to their level as far executing their menus," says Eric.

"The standards are different. But we also make sure that the food is still affordable and accessible. That's important to us-that it's not a niche market, not something that caters only to one per cent of the city but to majority of the people."

Hawker Chan now has the best cheapest meal in the world-a Cantonese-style soya sauce chicken rice. For an estimated P99 (S$2.80), we can soon enjoy this famous hawker favourite.

Unique offering

7 best places for ramen in Singapore

  • Founded in 1985 in the ramen capital of Hakata, Ippudo consistently delivers a reliably authentic bowl of ramen that hits the spot.
  • Go for the Shiromaru Motoaji, which consists of traditional Hakata thin noodles luxuriating in the restaurant's original creamy tonkotsu broth. Don't miss their melt-in-your-mouth signature pork buns as well.
  • Nestled in the bustling stretch amongst the bars and diners along Cuppage Terrace, Santouka stands out for more reasons than one. The aroma, the crowd and the helter-skelter service all point to something good simmering (pun-intended) behind their kitchen doors.
  • Tuck into their specialty Tokusen Toroniku ramen, which replaces typical chashu slices with delightfully tender and juicy slices of roasted pork cheek.
  • At Ramen Keisuke, their delectable bowls of ramen are matched only by the irresistible dose of Japanese hospitality and thoughtfulness. Toppings of hardboiled eggs, beansprouts, bonito flakes and even a mortar and pestle of sesame seeds are provided to ensure you have the perfect bowl before you.
  • Sitting in their small, well-decorated store, you are instantly transported to the cosy roadside ramen joints along Shinjuku. Check out their Kani King and Lobster King concepts for other delicious variations.
  • If you are looking for a place to satiate your craving for Sapporo-styled ramen, Sapporo Ramen Miharu does a more than decent job.
  • The yellow Nishiyama noodles they use come directly from Hokkaido, and are cooked to al dente perfection. The miso-based soup is also rich with the goodness of well-simmered pork bones.
  • Tonkotsu Kazan has been a mainstay of Liang Court, serving its eye-catching volcano ramen to night owls and hungry clubbers (they close at 3am on Fridays and Saturdays).
  • The kazan cooking style harks back to the traditional Osaka method, in which the broth is poured over a hotstone bowl of ingredients and covered with a conical lid. You are also encouraged to finish off your volcanic experience by eating the remaining soup with rice. Proceed to erupt with joy.
  • Opened by Michelin-starred chef Yasuji Morizumi, Chabuton is amongst the trailblazers to bring a ramen tsunami upon our shores, and they have not withered in the face of competition.
  • Add their succulent and thick slabs of buta kakuni (braised pork belly) to your tonkotsu ramen, which uses ingredients imported from Japan.
  • Mouth-watering aburi chashu, crisp menma (bamboo shoots) and springy noodles immersed in a bowl of comforting shoyu broth containing two different kinds of dried sardines-just another serving of quality Niigata ramen at Sanpoutei Ramen.
  • The restaurant even uses a special in-house ramen bowl that helps to keep the ramen and its piping hot contents warm for a longer time.

As for Tsuta, Eric believes its unique offering will still have many people queuing, even if Manila has already become quite congested with Japanese noodle soup shops.

"Ramen is everywhere, but no one has gotten a Michelin star until Tsuta came into the picture," he says.

"It has a truffle broth. When you walk in, you instantly get a waft of truffle."

Apart from learning from Tsuta Ramen's ways and means, the FooDee group also gets to adopt its technology.

"The store in Japan implemented a new system where you pay for your meal and it will tell you, in colour-coordinated codes, what time you can come back so you don't need to wait and fall in line. That same thing has also been implemented in Singapore, and we are planning to do it, too, in the Philippines."

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