Food and Leisure

Chefs Margarita Forés, Hiroyuki Tamura collaborate for Iloilo Batchoy, Japanese ramen fusion

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
Chefs Margarita Forés, Hiroyuki Tamura collaborate for Iloilo Batchoy, Japanese ramen fusion
From left: Chefs Margarita Forés and Hiroyuki Tamura, Amado Forés
Ramen Ron / Released

MANILA, Philippines — “Everything but cook but I also taste.”

Such was how Amado Forés, son of celebrity chef Margarita “Gaita” Forés, described his work as founder of AF Hospitality, his own restaurant group that manages Ramen Ron, claimed to be “Manila’s first ramen house” originally by Chef Hiroyuki Tamura.

When asked if he cooks even just at home, Amado quipped: “Not yet. Just instant noodles!”

It might come as a surprise that the son of Chef Gaita does not cook, but he stressed: “I think it’s not a strength of mine, because I’m more into data. I don’t get too personal when someone gives me comments to improve it, etc.”

“Whereas, my mom, for example, she puts her heart and soul into it. If you give her a comment, she would still improve it, but she gets more affected than me, unlike me, I’m more into data, to get as many people to enjoy our food,” he espoused.

If not in the kitchen, he and his mom bond over eating food, particularly his favorite dish, ramen. 

When Ramen Ron was still in Pasay Road in Makati City, Amado and Gaita would frequent this joint. 

For Amado, Ramen Ron is the best ramen house in Manila because not only is Chef Tamura the so-called “pioneer of ramen” in the country.

“He’s so strict and rigid with his ramen that he takes it so seriously,” Amado said of the Japanese chef.

But in 2019, Amado learned that Chef Tamura had plans to pack up and return to Japan. 

“I love his food. I didn’t want him to go back to Japan,” shared Amado, prompting him to found AF Hospitality and start a partnership with Chef Tamura to save Ramen Ron. Besides Ramen Ron, award-winning a mano and the recently launched Steak & Frice are also under the AF Hospitality group of restaurants.

After convincing Tamura-san to reopen Ramen Ron in Rockwell also in Makati, the rebranded restaurant turned out to be successful, prompting the opening of another branch in Central Square mall, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

“Kahit na it’s so hot, puno pa rin,” Amado beamed at how jam-packed the Central Square branch is, with customers sipping piping-hot ramen despite the intense summer heat outside. 

Apart from giving the brand “a modern flair” via a new logo and tagline, “Your neighborhood ramen-ya,” Amado initiated the first ever collaboration between his mom and Chef Tamura.

“This is their first collaboration and we’re very excited to share these two creations with everyone,” shared Amado. “We’re only serving 20 sets per day to ensure the quality of the product, since we all know Batchoy is a lengthy labor of love.” 

The two limited-edition dishes crafted by the two acclaimed chefs are:

  • Batchoy Ramen: Ukokkei Batchoy-based broth and thin ramen noodles topped with house-made Chashu, torched Bone Marrow, pork liver, Shio Tamago, and crushed Chicharon.
  • RR Soft Shell Crab Bun: Crispy fried soft shell crab with talangka fat mayo – one of Chef Gaita’s favorite ingredients – and tangy Atchara-inspired Japanese pickles made of carrots, papaya, daikon radish, and onions.
From left: RR Soft Shell Crab Bun, Batchoy Ramen
Photo release

These two dishes come as a set now available for dine-in only until June 9 at both Rockwell and BGC branches. With just 20 sets available per day, diners are encouraged to arrive early, as service will be on a first-come, first-served basis, with no reservations accepted.

The collaboration came about after Chef Gaita and Chef Tamura, who is now the executive chef of Ramen Ron, shared a meal in a Filipino restaurant where they ate Batchoy. They had an epiphany and realized combining the flavors of Ilonggo classic Batchoy and the goodness of ramen would be a hit. 

“They realized both dishes had similarities and they worked together to combine my mom’s love for Batchoy and Talangka Crab Fat and Tamura-san’s expertise in Japanese cuisine,” explained the younger Forés, who also shared how his family’s Ilonggo roots helped inspire this collaboration.

“It’s a marriage of Ilonggo Batchoy and ramen. We tried to make a ramen with the flavor of Batchoy,” he told Philstar.com in an exclusive interview at the dishes’ launch in BGC.

According to him, it took “a few months back and forth of their ideas” to create the dishes using local and international ingredients.

“The noodles, the Chashu and the eggs are Japanese. Pero the broth is what makes the Batchoy come from Visayas,” Amado declared.

“I’d like to say that I’m from there, too, because I love their food, I love their culture. I love anything Ilonggo, I love Inasal.”

Talangka added another Filipino touch in the RR Soft Shell Crab Bun, he noted.

Although not part of the set, Amado recommended capping it off with an ice cream mochi, which comes in Philippine mango flavor.

“The fusion of my mom and Chef Tamura created something that is so unique and delicious,” Amado prodded, admitting that he is “quite proud and happy” for his mom’s creations and achievements, including the upcoming opening of her namesake restaurant, Margarita, in Ayala Triangle Garden, Makati.

"She's loving, very kind, very helpful. Almost too helpful sometimes that I want to make mistakes, but learning from her while growing up is what made me open six restaurants in five years with the pandemic," Amado said of his mom.

"From her, (I learned) to always remember where you came from."

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