Celebrities that have tried dining at the Japanese restaurant chain included Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, James Reid and Xian Lim.
Facebook/Botejyu Philippines
Sarah Geronimo, JaDine, Xian Lim: Viva reveals artists' favorite Japanese dishes
Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo (Philstar.com) - April 23, 2019 - 8:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — In the Philippines, the name “Viva” has long been associated with top film production outfit Viva Films. 

Little do people know that besides having its own talent management agency (Viva Artists), about four years ago, Viva has also ventured into the food business via Viva International Food & Restaurants Inc.

Some of the Japanese restaurant chain's specialties include ramen, takoyaki and most especially, okonomiyaki. Philstar.com/EC Toledo IV

“It’s still entertainment,” Vicente Raphael “VR” del Rosario IV, Senior Vice President for Viva International Food & Restaurants Inc., said when Philstar.com inquired about the connection between film producing and restaurant management.

“Part of entertainment is seeing people satisfied. We always saw food as another way to entertain people,” explained VR, son of Viva Entertainment founder Vicente “Vic” del Rosario Jr.

“Restaurants are a good business. We’ve been interested in it for quite some time. We’ve always been dabbling with food, but we started about four years ago.”

While the company operates Wing Zone, Pepi Cubano, Paper Moon Cake & Boutique Café and Yogorino in the Philippines, among its latest pride and joy is the 13th branch and first Philippine flagship restaurant of its Japanese franchise, Botejyu, which recently opened in One Bonifacio High Street.

Based in Tokyo, Botejyu was established in 1946 in Tamade, Osaka by Eikichi Nishino, who claims to be the first one to use mayonnaise as topping on okonomiyaki or savory pancake that was developed in post-war Japan, when the Japanese began using black market pancake from America as an answer to food shortage.

From an okonomiyaki restaurant, the dining joint now encompasses most of Japan’s specialties.

“Most Japanese restaurants kasi are specialized restaurants. Some specialize in just tempura, some in just ramen. Botejyu specializes in all… We carry the best of each part of Japan. If you look at the menu, it shows the map of Japan. It shows the best of Tokyo, Sapporo…” VR explained, proudly sharing that the Philippines has the most branches of the Japanese brand in Asia outside Japan. 

The restaurant chain also has branches in Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand.

“Filipinos really love Japanese. Nasa panlasa siguro talaga ng mga Pinoy ‘yung Japanese food,” VR espoused.

Up to 90 percent of the restaurant’s ingredients and dishes are from Japan, most especially its sauces, meats and broths. The restaurant chain’s Filipino chefs trained in Japan, but the company’s Japanese partners also send principals to the Philippines to train and regularly check for consistency. Even the casual dining joint’s background music selection comes from the headquarters in Japan.

“Our Japanese partners are very strict, disciplined and methodical, even with the people that you have – because for them, service is as important as the food,” VR shared.

For first-timers, his recommendations are ramen and takoyaki. But his personal favorite is katsudon. The restaurant also offers tempura, oko, gyoza, katsu, don buri, teppan, karaage, Pork Paitan Ramen, Shrimp Tempura Platter, the Hokkaido specialty Amiyaki Grilled Pork Rice Bowl, Okosoba (okonomiyaki and yakisoba in one) and All-Star Takoyaki that presents six takoyaki variants. Soon, more items will be included on the menu, including sashimi.

While the casual dining franchise usually lures Japanese expats and families missing the taste of home, VR revealed the restaurant is also a go-to place for their artists.

Lovers James Reid and Nadine Lustre, as well as crooners Xian Lim and Sam Concepcion, always order the restaurant’s wagyu steak, made of wagyu flown fresh from Japan.

Although Sarah Geronimo does not enjoy wagyu since she is partly vegan, the pop star and blockbuster actress goes for Seafood Cheese Mochi Okonomiyaki, a dish not on the menu and is only made especially for her.

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