Momo Toko: Japanese ramen served with a side of excellent customer service
By Ester Laiho | Photos: Momo Toko
It’s no stretch to accredit the arrival of ramen in Finland to the people behind Momo Toko. The first restaurant opened in 2015 and now, with eight restaurants in Southern Finland, and two about to open in Tallinn, Momo Toko is showing no signs of slowing down.
Momo Toko is renowned for their customer service and hand-made noodles. When the owners learned the craft of making ramen noodles, they set the Finnish restaurant apart from ramen restaurants across Europe which rely heavily on European importers. Today, hand-made noodles are a cornerstone of their success. All Momo Toko restaurants make them from scratch, as with everything on the menu, as a nod of respect to Japanese food culture and tradition. Even the sauce and broth recipes are their own and made in-house.
Unfortunately, along with every other business in the hospitality sector, Momo Toko had to alter their business model to survive COVID-19. “We launched take-away products in Lidl and R-kioski. We also only sold takeaway for a while, and kept changing our model, depending on what the Finnish government guidelines dictated. We wouldn’t have done as well as we did, if it wasn’t for our amazing staff,” COO and training officer Jouni Quisbert explains.
Momo Toko may have started with ramen, but today, their menu includes rice-based dishes – such as donburi, gyozas and edamame. Momo Toko’s most popular dish is an excellent representative of the company’s ethos and dedication to traditionally crafted Japanese flavours: Original Tonkotsu. It is made from Tonkotsu pork broth that has been boiled for ten hours, ramen, oven-roasted pork belly, house-made soy-marinated egg, wakame seaweed, sugar snaps and corn. This dish is garnished with rocket, fried garlic and black garlic and sesame oil. Even though making a ramen broth takes ten hours, the base concept of the restaurant is fast food of a high quality. This is all made possible by a highly skilled workforce who enjoy their work, and therefore serve a quality dish every time.
“Even if customers only drop in for a quick bite, we want them to feel welcome – from being greeted at the door until they finish their last scoop of matcha ice cream,” Quisbert explains. It’s a collaborative effort between front of house and the kitchen: guests are treated to a warm and attentive service, while they taste the love in the chefs’ skilfully cooked Curry Katsu Chicken Donburi or Chicken Karaage.
Quisbert himself joined Momo Toko as a restaurant manager in Espoo, after a friend who worked there recommended it. After being promoted to training officer, he worked his way up to COO six months ago. “I appreciate the open workplace culture we have. It’s very encouraging and everyone’s opinion is heard. We are also very hands on in our management team. This way, we ensure our employees and customers both enjoy their time,” he explains.
Quisbert and the Momo Toko team are excited about launching a new menu – but he is coy about what precisely it will entail, revealing only that it reflects the ideas of their employees and wishes of the guests. “The new menu will represent what we’ve done thus far: Japanese flavours made possible by fresh Finnish produce – but now with more vegetarian and vegan options, which I’m very excited about.” The new menu will be rolled out in all restaurants, while the two new venues will open their doors for the first time in the Telliskivi Creative Hub and in the Noblessner harbour area in Tallinn, later in the summer.
While ten Momo Tokos for Southern Finland and Tallinn might sound like a lot, Quisbert reframes the number: “There are over 30,000 ramen restaurants in Japan, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to match that!”
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