We recently caught up with one of Quezon City's more popular ramen house partners, actor and host Ogie Alcasid who was accompanied by his lovely daughter, Leila.
Some people we know who already like RYU actually thought that it was a Japanese franchise, but RYU Ramen and Curry is a proudly homegrown ramen house put up together by a band of De La Salle alumni.
These dishes are filling, delicious, and not overpowering to taste, and what we love is how affordable they all are.
How did RYU Ramen and Curry begin as a business? Ogie: “RYU Ramen opened 2012, must have been July. We were five partners, mga La Sallista. I’m the oldest. Four of my partners are in their thirties, they’re like 10 years younger than me. Now the reason why it’s called RYU is because RYU is 'dragon' in Japanese. And all of these guys were born in the year of the dragon. I’m the only one who wasn’t. So they needed a partner who was older, who is supposedly wiser. I’m their Kuya. Ako… di ko alam kung anong year ako donkey ba ako…(laughs).
One of my partners, Neil, his father, has always been in the Japanese restaurant business. My other partner, BJ, is into restaurants but they’re into Chinese food, but all of us, we’ve always loved ramen. And during that time 2011, 2012 there weren’t many ramen houses here in the Philippines especially here in Quezon City. I believe there was only one here, so we take pride in being one of the early ones that brought in the ramen houses. Then, for some reason they just sprouted like mushrooms everywhere. So we take pride in our Tantanmen Ramen, our bestseller, it's spicy but you can have it mild."
What are your favorite dishes? “I like the curry. The reason why we thought of ramen and curry is because we knew that ramen would fly, but curry was not very popular at the time. We wanted to brand our place as a ramen and curry house.”
Leila: “The curry, yea so it’s my favorite and when I was younger and coz Japanese is like my favorite food so we would go to Japanese restaurants in Australia and every time we went I would always order the Katsu Curry, so I would order this one coz it’s my favorite and then Mom (Michelle Van Eimeren) started making it at home.”
When are RYU's busy days? Ogie: “Here in Tomas Morato people come here at night, on the weekends families come here. There was a time when people were queuing up all the way outside. On special days like say Valentine’s, Father’s Day or Mother’s day, it gets crazy. We really wanted it small because if you’ve been to the ramen houses in Japan or in New York or even in Hong Kong, they’re really small… hole in the wall…”
On being asked about whether he and Leila cook or not...
Ogie: “We both are... hopeless (both laugh). We just eat. here was a time when I was living on my own that I would cook Filipino food but there are people who are just better than me… you know what I mean (laughs). And I think when I just started eating healthier-ish naging matabang panlasa ko. I cannot stand too much salt.”
How do you guys spend time together?
Ogie: “We had a date the other night, I took her to Samba."
Leila: “Samba in ShangriLa.”
Ogie: “We had dinner, just the two of us.”
Leila: “And we got crepes then we just walked around and it was nice.”
How do both of you spend time together?
Ogie: “We work out together.”
Leila: “That’s how we spend time together, we work out, otherwise we have to like set a specific schedule, or organize to do something together. If we’re just both around the house we’ll just watch a movie.”
Are there any plans to revamp or expand RYU’s menu?
Ogie: “Once in a while we'll do that (add a new dish or two). Our customers kasi don’t want it magulo. Like, personally when I go to a Japanese restaurant if there’s just so many things, there’s sushi, there’s ramen, there’s BBQ, there’s grilled stuff, there’s yakiniku… it’s like wow [overwhelming], the whole Japan is in the menu. We just wanted to do what we’re good at and stick to what our customers want.”
RYU Ramen and Curry Tomas Morato: Upper Ground Floor, MJB Building, 220 Tomas Morato Avenue Corner Dr. Lazcano Street, Sacred Heart, Tomas Morato, Quezon City, Contact +632-4048442; Opening hours: 11AM to 11:45 PM. RYU Ramen and Curry, SM Jazz Mall, Nicanor Garcia Corner Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati City, Contact +632-8471022, Opening hours: 10AM to 10PM
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Photography by the author and from Instagram.com/RYUramenAndcurry and RYU's Facebook page.