Earlier this year, we opened our first ever restaurant. It’s called Wrong Ramen.
I’ve been hesitant to plug Wrong Ramen on Pepper because I was afraid that people would patronize the place just because the folks from Pepper are part of it. That wouldn’t have been fulfilling. I wanted to see how people would honestly react.
In the past two weeks, a lot of amazing things have happened: Wrong Ramen hit the number one spot on Looloo’s trending list, sales are peaking at an all-time high, and we’ve been turning away waiting customers at an alarming rate. I can’t be any happier with how everything has turned out so far. I guess now, it’s safe for me to talk about our restaurant.
Why Wrong Ramen?
We really wanted to open a ramen house because we love ramen. The problem was that we had absolutely no way to compete against everyone else’s Japanese cred. Seriously, take a look at our competition:
Ukkokei Ramen Ron: led by a Japanese chef, from Japan.
Ramen Yushoken: co-created with the son of “Ramen God” Yamagishi, from Japan.
Mitsuyado Sei-men: from Japan.
Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen: from Japan.
Kitchitora of Tokyo: co-created with a Japanese chef, from Japan.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka: from Japan.
The most convenient route for us to join the fray was to get ourselves a Japanese name, draw some calligraphy, buy some bamboo, hire a Japanese chef, and instruct our staff to chant “Irrashaimase” in unison whenever a customer passed through our doors. However, we felt that us doing that would be too superficial, too insincere.
I remembered the story of Avis back in the 60’s. Avis, now the second largest car rental service in the world, used to trail its competitor Hertz by a mile. Determined to successfully compete and win customers over, they rallied back through a brutally honest ad campaign that centered around being number two. Taglines like, “Avis needs you. You don’t need Avis. Avis never forgets this.” and “Avis is only number 2. But we don’t want your sympathy?” won the hearts of people.
Could the same approach possibly work with our ramen?
We asked ourselves, what if instead of trying to fake being Japanese, we played up our lack of Japanese connections and use that as our strength?
Was it difficult making that decision to push through with the concept of Wrong Ramen?
Oh, yes. It was scary, uncomfortable, and most people we told about our plan thought it was a bad idea. But we felt that’s precisely why it had so much potential. Nobody else would dare do it.
Are there any ramen houses around the world that inspired Wrong Ramen?
There are three specific ramen houses that we found really interesting: Ichiran, Butao, and Ramen Jiro.
Ichiran Ramen is a ramen chain in Japan that serves only one type of ramen (with several variations). What we loved about it is that they set up the space like a library where you’ll be led to a private booth that prevented you from talking with your friends. They also minimized interaction by delivering your ramen bowl through a sliding door on your table, not by a server with a tray. If that’s not enough, your table has a faucet that spits hot tea so you don’t need to ask for it.
Butao Ramen is Hong Kong’s most talked about ramen house. What’s admirable about Butao is that it beat Santouka (in Hong Kong) and it’s been going head-to-head with Ippudo, the world’s largest and best ramen chain, despite not being a Japanese brand. They’re also playful with their menu, with a ramen bowl with parmesan and another one with squid ink. (On a slightly different note: Butao will be coming to Manila soon.)
Ramen Jiro has been dubbed as the world’s most “digestion-resistant” ramen. Having ungodly amounts of fat in its broth, Ramen Jiro’s customers are mostly male college students who can still afford to punish their organs without dying.
Wrong Ramen took inspiration from Ichiran’s introverted dining system, Butao’s playful recipes, and Ramen Jiro’s fat content.
What is Wrong Ramen’s food philosophy?
More calories, more pleasure.
What makes your ramen special?
Every ramen house approaches ramen differently, and there isn’t a “best” way to do it. Some like it delicate with light broths and thick noodles. Some like it balanced with a little bit of everything. Some like it commanding and assertive with high sodium and sludgy broths. We’re the latter.
If you order our tonkotsu ramen, you’re not just getting a bowl of soup—it’s actually boiled with five different pig parts along with chicken, dried fish, and over ten different seasonings and vegetables.
I’m also fond of calling our ramen “liquid lechon” because of the frightening amount of pork in it. I think that we have the highest pork concentration per bowl of ramen in Manila with about ⅓ kg of dissolved pork in a single bowl of ramen.
So you named one of your ramen bowls the “Sea Men Ramen?”
It’s hilarious. But more than that, it’s a subtle way for us to find our true customers.
People who really get the joke post it online and have fun with it. And when people have fun with small details like this, we can really see who actually “gets” Wrong Ramen. These are the people we want to reach out to.
For a second, I did regret that name when a friend’s 12 year-old nephew asked me what “a semen” is, but I quickly diverted the topic to Adventure Time.
And you’re also promoting your competitors in social media?
I’m a big fan of Ikkoryu and Santouka’s Tonkotsu ramen, Mitsuyado’s Tsukemen, Yushoken’s Shio Ramen and Ukkokei’s Tantanmen. If I liked them, I figured others would, too.
The thing about ramen is that every shop will be different from another and I have to accept the fact that not everyone will like Wrong Ramen. If they don’t, let’s point them to other ramen houses that might be a better match for them.
What do you have on the menu?
Here you go. (Photos by Photokitchen.)
If you’d like to see the full menu, you can check it out here.
What’s next for Wrong Ramen?
We’re not sure. As diverse as the current ramen scene here is, we’ve been hearing that there are going to be another five to ten more ramen shops from Japan coming to Manila so we’re playing it safe. If you’ve been paying attention, ramen is obviously the next milk tea. There’s a big chance the market will self-combust if it grows too fast, too soon.
Anyway, if you haven’t been to Wrong Ramen yet, I’d appreciate it if you drop by and try our stuff. If you already have, how was the experience?