Japan Foods diversifies offer

Singapore-listed restaurant operator Japan Foods has opened the first of its new Malaysian concept eateries New ManLee Bak Kut Teh at Clementi Mall.

The opening marks the first non-Japanese concept restaurant for the group, which it has franchised from the Malaysian brand of the same name, established more than 40 years ago in Kuala Lumpur.

Established in Singapore in 1997, Japan Foods is one of the leading Japanese restaurant chains in Singapore operating 45 restaurants in Singapore under various brands, including Ajisen Ramen, Osaka Ohsho, Menya Musashi, Fruit Paradise and Japanese Gourmet Town. It also has six restaurants in Malaysia and three in Vietnam operated by the group’s sub-franchisees under the Ajisen Ramen brand and a stake in 10 restaurants in Hong Kong and five in China trading as Menya Musashi.

Japan Foods executive chairman and CEO Takahashi Kenichi says the choice of bak kut teh was a natural one as the group was able to leverage its existing central kitchen, which already prepares pork-bone broth for its restaurants across Singapore. Bak kut teh is an aromatic soup with a choice of pork spare ribs, lean meat, pork stomach or pork belly meat slow-cooked and flavoured with garlic and other spices.

New ManLee Bak Kut Teh serves two versions of this dish – Singapore-style white peppery soup and Malaysia-style black herbal soup.

Other items on the menu include a dry bak kut teh dish and braised pork trotters. Side dishes include the dough fritters and salted vegetables. Because Japan Foods has its roots in Japanese cuisine, New ManLee Bak Kut Teh serves its soups with Japanese rice, or dry or soup udon noodles and hoji cha instead of the white rice, mee sua and Chinese tea that usually comes with bak kut teh.

The udon noodles are self-manufactured at the group’s central kitchen daily.

Said Takahashi: “I believe the group can leverage its existing restaurant network, market know-how and operational capability to grow the New ManLee Bak Kut Teh brand in Singapore. While there are already many local restaurants serving the peppery version of the dish, there are not many serving our herbal version.

“Looking strategically into the future, we do not want to limit ourselves only to Japanese cuisine but to look for other cuisines that can also tap into the resources that we already have,” he said.

“The new restaurant at Clementi Mall is our testbed and if successful, it will allow us to move confidently in this direction.”

The Clementi Mall location was previously occupied by an Ajisen ramen restaurant. It was converted to the New ManLee Bak Kut Teh restaurant following a short period of refurbishment to suit the new concept.

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