JAPANESE cuisine displays wonderful restraint and subtlety, and its taste is something that the world craves. Of course, when it’s brought to other countries, in the spirit of postmodernism and multiculturalism, it’s sometimes adapted to suit the taste of the local diner: consider Philly Cheesesteak sushi. Here in the Philippines Tokyo Tokyo has infused Japanese cuisine with a festive Filipino flavor (which might explain the unlimited rice, as if you’re at a fiesta).
Tokyo Tokyo has been around since 1985, bringing fast Japanese favorites like tempura and tonkatsu to the masses. It’s now owned by Hansbury Inc., under the One Food Group, which also owns the franchise for KFC and Mister Donut in the Philippines.
On Aug. 23, the restaurant debuted its flagship branch in TriNoma, which was extensively remodeled with more Japanese-inspired interiors by James JJ Acuna of JJ Acuna/Bespoke Studio.
“This new concept can be seen as a next generation version of Tokyo Tokyo. It perfectly represents the modernization of the brand, while still honoring its Japanese inspirations in a big way,” Mr. Acuna was quoted as saying in a press release. “The store look and feel is romanticized through intricate design details and elements which hark back to the iconic street food culture of Japan.”
According to the press release, the façade was “inspired by Japanese fusama screens and the pop-neo-anime culture of Japan streets, complete with a street-style dining stalls reminiscent of Japan’s distinct food stalls.” The main dining area has a bar counter which views into the Master’s Open Kitchen.
The restaurant has two large dining rooms: Garden Room which evokes Japanese teahouse architecture, and the enclosed Tatami Room for private dining.
In line with the flagship restaurant’s reopening and the chain’s new brand campaign “Take Me to Tokyo Tokyo,” the company is launching a social media promo called “A Shot To Tokyo.” This is a Facebook and Instagram photo contest running from Aug. 29 to Oct. 30, where one customer and a companion, get a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Tokyo, Japan. (For promo details, follow Tokyo Tokyo today on Facebook and Instagram.)
As the flagship of over 60 Tokyo Tokyo stores nationwide, it will be the first to serve some dishes which are not yet available, such as the Wagyu bento box, soft-serve ice cream, and the tempura dragon maki.
BusinessWorld also got a taste of Tokyo Tokyo’s black garlic ramen, which had a rich cloudy broth, firm noodles, and a piece of pork chashu floating in it. It’s comparably good to the ramen bowls offered at other ramen joints around the city, but well below the price, as Tokyo Tokyo’s offerings only play around the P100-P300 mark.
“Since we’re quite happy with the work that JJ Acuna did, we plan to roll this out with the rest of the system,” said Natalie Perez, Vice-President for Marketing of Tokyo Tokyo.
The chain is aging, and its customer has matured. Since the 1980s, Japanese food joints that can claim to be authentic as those in Tokyo itself have sprang up like mushrooms all over the city, and any diner can now claim a favorite. How is Tokyo Tokyo able to survive?
“We don’t claim to be authentic,” said Ms. Perez. “What we’re very proud of, [is] we’re a Filipino-based company, and we offer Japanese-inspired fastfood that is really customized for the Filipino taste. Despite the new entrants and competitors coming in, we’re still No. 1 and we’re the biggest Japanese (inspired) fastfood restaurant in the Philippines.” — Joseph L. Garcia