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Getting to know Howard Lo, the mastermind behind Tanuki Raw

The founder of this rising Singapore eatery tells us how he stays above cookie-cutter food trends

By Verinia Khoo | Published: 7 Dec 2017

About Tanuki Raw
ELLE recommends the truffle yakiniku don (Photo: Tanuki Raw)

Tanuki Raw is undoubtedly one of Singapore's most popular eateries. It's not a huge franchise – there are only two outlets in existence so far, one at Orchard Road and another at Kapok – but Tanuki Raw is already a crowd favourite.

The word 'tanuki' itself refers to a mischievous shape-shifting raccoon-like dog in Japanese mythology with the playful side of the word reflected in the restaurant's menu. Tanuki Raw's founder Howard Lo described the selection as "fun, tasty food free of constraints and expectations."

How so? "We had been running the traditional Japanese restaurant, Standing Sushi Bar, for a few years and were itching to break out of the confines of traditional food," Howard told ELLE. "The main factor is that it has to be interesting and tastes good. I feel it's okay to have dishes on a menu that many people may not like. Why go out to eat if you're just going to stay in your comfort zone?"

Certainly, a glance at Tanuki's menu can be quite intimidating; you can count on being spoiled for choice though. Howard suggests a couple of things to try if you're stuck. "My favourite dish is Instagram This Maki – sliced beef, avocado, bacon, tamago, melted cheese, and smoked ketchup – and this other one called Wham! Fries which has gruyere cheese, marshmallow, mozzarella, spice and sour cream smothered over sweet potato fries."

Say hello to your new reason to go to Singapore.

 

A post shared by Tanuki Raw (@tanukiraw) on

The California-born restaurateur credited his American roots and frequent trips overseas for Tanuki's unique concept. "Folks in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are open to cuisines from around the world, and with people's affinity for travel and experiencing different concepts, the market here seems to expect a lot of the features and concepts that are on the forward-edge of the industry," he said.

QUICK-FIRE WITH HOWARD

Favourite dish outside of Tanuki Raw?
The smoked chicken at Artichoke in Singapore is something I get cravings for. It's a sometime-special so you have to keep an eye out for it as it's not always on the menu.

Favourite dish to make?
Spaghetti with ground beef that I've marinated with amaretto and then mixed with tomato sauce, onion, and corn.

Favourite place to eat in KL?
I enjoy the convivial atmosphere at Bait, the fresh modern Australian cuisine at Drift and Sitka restaurant for its approach to regional ingredients.

A different cuisine to explore?
Something involving lots of smoked and cured meats, both fish and beef. Maybe one day I'll open a restaurant dedicated to salmon cured in hundreds of ways.

Advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
Have a clear concept and unique selling point in mind when you're introducing your brand. There are too many cafes, bars, and restaurants that seem like cookie-cutter copies of a trend. If your unique selling point is something like, 'I'm going to make a third-wave coffee shop just like they do in Melbourne,' I would suggest you keep on thinking about your concept.

The good news is you don't need an airplane ticket to try the famous donburi as Tanuki Raw will have its own stall at the upcoming Tiffin Food Court pop-up event, which opens this Friday, 8th December. Click here to RSVP.

Related: 3 minutes with CK Kho of Coley and Pahit
Related: Bar of the Week: Shuang Xi


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