Chef Willy Trullas Moreno was in town last week, overseeing the development of his latest culinary venture, and his first in Vietnam.
We caught up with him at Maison Marou on Calmette, before heading upstairs to what was once home to Café Restaurant for a sneaky peak at Tomatito Saigon, scheduled to open next month.
Chef Willy cut his culinary teeth in Barcelona before honing his skills in France, New York and then once again back to Spain. In 2007 he was offered a job in China as an ambassador for Spanish wine distributor, Torres China, where he spent a year travelling the country, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, hosting events at prestigious venues and promoting Spain’s finest wines as part of a cultural business exchange.
Entrepreneurial and on the lookout for opportunity, Chef Willy formed a collaborative partnership with the owner of a Japanese restaurant he had hosted an event at, and in 2008 opened El Willy in Shanghai. The restaurant flourished under his guidance, offering its own interpretation of Spanish cuisine in a relaxed yet flamboyant atmosphere, and now listed in the Diner’s Club top 50 restaurants.
Recognising China and South-East Asia offered opportunity he wouldn’t have in Europe, Chef Willy opened restaurants in Shanghai and Hong Kong before turning his attention to other countries in the region. First venturing to Manila, he opened his sexy tapas bar Tomatito, a quirky concept that takes the success he has had with Spanish cuisine in Shanghai a step further.
Tomatito’s menu offers colourfully classic Spanish tapas dishes – traditional but with an experimental, contemporary twist – combined with some Latin American influences, mixing it up and keeping it sexy. Critics praised his attention to textures and flavours, with each ingredient complementing the others to create a menu that matches the fun, casual atmosphere of the restaurants.
Success in Manila lead to a second Tomatito opening in Bali, and Chef Willy has now turned his attention to Ho Chi Minh, a city he first visited four years ago. Seeing similarities to Shanghai of a decade past, he recognises HCMC as one of the fastest growing cities for the food and beverage industry in the region.
A new collaborative partnership with Martijn Vermaire and Mike Beumkes, the team behind Café Restaurant, will see the launch of the Tomatito Saigon at 171 Calmette in December, giving the city a funky new venue and some super sexy tapas. Prepare yourself, it’s going to be fun.