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Fish Friers

Tokyo’s first ‘British fish & chip shop’ planning global brand

Article Date: 2015-02-10

Sushi may have been all the rage in the UK for many years now, but only last year did Japan get its first British fish and chip shop.
Malin^s, the product of three fish and chip lovers – two of them Japanese – opened in July 2014, and has enjoyed enough success to have its founders looking at expansion.

Launched by Ryuhei Takizawa, Shingo Kanaoya, and Brit Dan Chuter, the Tokyo chippy is as close to the authentic British article as it is possible to get. To ensure they get the traditional fish and chips spot on they imported all the necessary equipment, and even their Scottish chef.

"To do this properly, traditionally, is expensive,” managing director and president Takizawa told Undercurrent News during a recent visit to London. "But it^s how we will be successful, and survive.”
Already the Malin^s team is looking to expand. The trio have private funding for as many as five shops, and the current plan is to have a total of three or four operating by the end of the year, said Chuter.

While specific plans will depend on the locations they choose to open at, the hope is that Malin^s can become a brand known globally. Takizawa has received interest in bringing the shops to South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, though for now he put these on the back-burner, wishing to fully establish the Tokyo business first, he said. "But we want to be a global brand; maybe one day, bring Malin^s back to London again.”

Hokkaido cod and chips

The initial shop is designed to look as British as possible, while still matching the slick, clean presentation Japanese consumers want. There^s been a balance in adapting the restaurant for the market while retaining the traditional feel, but when it comes to the food, there^s no compromise.
The company acquired a visa for their Scottish chef – with 12 years experience as a fryer – and brought him over to train Japanese chefs on-site. Mushy peas, curry sauce and British malt vinegar are all present and correct, and the fish is even cod.

Rather than bring in Norwegian or Icelandic cod though, Malin^s is working with a fisher and processor in the north of Japan, which catches Hokkaido cod. Processed on shore and frozen, the fish – which so far has not experienced great demand in Japan – is not defrosted until it infried in Tokyo.

In the future the shop could bring in plaice, haddock and pollock, said Takizawa, but only if the company is satisfied by the quality; they have already turned away from pollock once, in favor of a cod supply chain they can guarantee.

Shop number one is located in Roppongi, Tokyo – a high-end, downtown area – though the fish and chips sells at the equivalent price to a UK takeaway, said Chuter.
One challenge of opening the shop here has been to adapt to Japanese styles of eating. Less able to carry their takeaways home and eat them, Tokyo consumers prefer to either eat in the shop or as they walk, prompting Malin^s to build space for 12 seats at a ^bar^ in the compact space. Future shops may do the same, or could work as a restaurant, depending on location and clientele, said Chuter.

In need of the real thing

Takizawa estimates 30% of customers are foreign/ex-pats, with 70% local Japanese. Of this 70%, he reckons 20% are familiar with the dish through British family, partners, and so on.
"There^s a strong interest in fish and chips in Japan,” he said. "For tourists who go to London, it^s one of the things you have to do, eat fish and chips.”
"That interest spreads back home. There are some places, like English-themed pubs, that claim to do fish and chips – but it^s not right, not the real thing.”

Takizawa ought to know the real thing. Over a career with Japan Airlines he visited London some 50 or 60 times and, in his words, fell in love with England and the food.
After taking early retirement at 49, he quickly built up a hotel and spa in New York, before a chance meeting with Chuter and his other co-director, Shingo Kanaoya, and the three decided Malin^s was a venture they could get behind.

The company boasts a number of ^firsts^ – it is the first Japanese company in the National Federation of Fish Fryers, the UK industry body; Takizawa is the first Japanese citizen to train with them at their headquarters; and, it is believed, they are the first to acquire a Japanese visa for a specialist fryer.
Kanaoya, meanwhile, has lived in the UK for 25 years, working as director of UK Japanese food importer Tazaki Foods. Chuter is a marketing executive with several Japanese business, and whose wife is a Japanese solo violinist, hence his ties to the country.

Fish Friers