Three years before the so-called ramen craze hit the country, there is a ramen house that served Filipinos with the authentic Japanese noodle dish. But the twist, this restaurant is definitely “from the Philippines” unlike the ones opening now, all franchised from Japan.
Called Kenji Tei, the ramen house is the original concept by brothers and business partners Kenneth and Richard Kho. It was in 2008 that the brand was born, followed by the opening of the first restaurant located at the quaint neighborhood of BF Homes in Parañaque City in 2009.
In 2011 a second branch was opened at Greenbelt 5 in Makati City. Then, further proving the restaurant’s popularity even before the rage for ramen began, Kenji Tei’s original branch in BF Homes moved to Alabang Town Center in 2012.
This year, to further mark Kenji Tei’s position in the local market, the Kho brothers relaunched their brand of ramen to members of the press on October 14.
Present at the food tasting held at the Greenbelt 5 branch was Kenneth who shared how Kenji Tei began.
According to Kenneth, his and his brother’s love for Japanese food came from their very own household for as early as he could remember.
“Since our parents formed good relationships with the Japanese friends they’ve worked with, they would always invite them to our house and we’d all be eating their food. My favorite is their rice cookies or sembe,” Kenneth recalled.
He continued that his brother Richard was the one who actually worked in Japan therefore familiarizing with the country’s cuisine even more. His favorite, the simple onigiri, or rice balls.
Just like the sembe and onigiri, ramen is also a Japanese staple that Kenneth and Richard both love. And from then, they decided to share their love for it by opening up their own place.
Asked how the name Kenji Tei came about, Kenneth answered that Kenji was his childhood nickname. Thus they named their restaurant Kenji Tei, which translates to “Kenji’s house.”
“It was in our home, after all, where it all started. And by sharing our passion with customers through Kenji Tei, it’s like inviting them to our house where Japanese fare has become a staple,” Kenneth shared.
While new ramen brands originally from Japan boasts of “authenticity,” Kenji Tei remains proud of its own ramen. According to Kenneth, what their restaurant serves can be compared or even be better than others.
Asked by The Manila Times what makes them different from others, Kenneth answered, “We took into consideration what would appeal to Filipino diners. Ramen in Japan is enjoyed particularly during cold weather so it tends to be thicker. Here in the country, the weather is hotter so Kenji Tei ramen is milder in flavor and lighter in soup.”
To achieve this, the Kho brothers hired a team of Japanese and Filipino chefs who collaborated to balance out both tastes and preferences.
“Our idea goes back to the very essence of food which is meant to ‘feed’ the needs and tastes of diners. If you strip it down to the basics—the best ones—food becomes simple, enjoyable, and then naturally becomes part of our lifestyle and culture,” Kenneth added.
So far, customers have been coming back Kenji Tei to sample its bestsellers, including the Spicy Negi Ramen in miso broth combined with bold and tasty flavors; and the Chasu Miso Ramen that’s made with savory meat broth.
Besides ramen, the restaurant also serves a range of Japanese cuisine like sushi, sashimi, donburi, teriyaki, gyoza and more.
Indeed, with Kenji Tei, Kenneth has brought the simple, true Japanese taste to a local setting.
Visit Kenji Tei Ramen House at Greenbelt 5, Makati, or Alabang Town Center, or log on to its official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/kenjitei.