Surviving and thriving in the restaurant industry today is no mean feat. Add the seemingly endless lockdowns, rising commodity prices, and natural calamities, and it might be too much for an ordinary entrepreneur’s plate.

But for Jeffrey Varilla and his family, keeping their beloved San J Restaurant alive is non-negotiable. Now, thanks to their love for authentic Japanese cuisine and culture, and forward-thinking, their family business will celebrate its second year as a business.

“Nagsimula ito noong bumisita kami ng wife ko sa Japan, at doon kami na-inspire na magpatayo ng Japanese restaurant. Mayroon pa kaming na-meet na Pilipinong chef na-aral ng Japanese cuisine, at tinuruan kami kung paano gumawa ng mga Japanese dishes,” Varilla said in an interview.

“Dahil mahilig din kasi ako sa anime, naisip talaga namin na gusto talaga namin ng Japanese restaurant. So ang name, ‘yong ‘San’ means three. J, para sa tatlong anak ko na puro J ang first letter na pangalan. At katunog din kasi niya ang Sanji, ‘yong chef na character sa One Piece,” he recalled.

Varilla and his family set up the business in 2020, before COVID-19 changed everyone’s lives. When asked what their secret was to surviving the tumultuous two years, Varilla said it was because they offered delivery services even before delivery apps took over Puerto Princesa.

“Hindi pa uso noon ang HappyApp, ‘yong Foodpanda, nagdedeliver na kami. Ang chef namin, kahit pa hindi tagarito, naging delivery boy na rin. Maliit lang naman kasi ang Puerto Princesa, kaya kahit maligaw siya, tatawag lang siya sa customer at mahahanap din niya,” said Varilla.

Aside from the delivery services, Varilla and his family are also grateful to their loyal customers who keep coming back for their ramen. He stated that though the past years had not been easy, there are always customers who appreciate their offers and demand for more menu items.

On February 9, the restaurant’s founding anniversary, there will be new items on the menu such as Beef Ramen, Vegetarian Ramen, and yet-unnamed maki roll varieties. There will also be free takoyaki tasting, open to all regulars and new customers.

San J Restaurant is located in Magdalena Tan Subdivision, Nadayao Road, Barangay San Pedro. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day except Tuesdays. Deliveries are available through all delivery apps and services, or by calling 09171774577.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.