MANILA - A small takeout counter grew to become one of the most popular Japanese restaurants in Metro Manila, known for its affordable sushi rolls.
The owners, brothers-in-law Ed Encisa and Rico Rosales, came up with the plan to start a business during one of their conversations.
Encisa lived comfortably as a chef in a Japanese restaurant abroad, but being away from his family eventually took a toll on him. After the September 11 attacks, Encisa seriously considered going back home.
A little push from his brother-in-law was all it took for him to start a new life in the Philippines.
"Usapang inuman lang kumbaga, nag-kwentuhan lang kami. Medyo naho-homesick na [si Ed] sa abroad, sabi ko bakit hindi natin subukan mag-bukas ng takeout counter dito sa Pilipinas?" Rosales told "My Puhunan."
In 2002, they opened a takeout counter in Quezon City, which they named Omakase, which translates to "leave it up to the chef." Encisa and Rosales split the costs with a capital of P80,000.
Omakase started small, serving three kinds of maki at affordable prices to cater to students and office workers.
Business didn't take off immediately, and there were days when sales were only P500.
"Noong nag-uumpisa kami, minsan mainit ang ulo ng isa, pero dapat pagpasensiyahan mo lang. Tiyaga lang talaga. Kung may passion ka at mahilig ka talaga, matututo ka,” Rosales said.
Instead of closing shop, Omakase continued its operations until the brand caught on with customers through word of mouth. After six months of making a small profit, Omakase expanded its space for dining tables.
Prices were also slightly increased until daily earnings spiked to P10,000.
After a year, relatives of Encisa and Rosales chipped in to open the first restaurant in Libis.
Encisa continues to concoct unique sushi rolls for Omakase, such as ebi tempura with salmon skin; salmon with cream cheese; and deep-fried soft shell maki.
Omakase now has branches in Alabang, Quezon City, San Juan, and Makati.