Keenan And Ryan Tham Talks Evolution Of Asian Food, Tapas Trends, And What Sets Them Apart
Man's World|January 2022
From nightclubs to nigiri, Keenan and Ryan Tham have done it all, and have an unstoppable 2022 ahead. The duo talks evolution of Asian food, tapas trends, and what sets them apart
Samreen Tungekar

When I walk into the new Foo in Bandra to sit down for a lunch and conversation with the Tham brothers, Keenan and Ryan Tham, the vibe reminds me of my first meal from Foo just a year ago, and the most sinfully indulgent dim sums I have had in Mumbai so far. Having moved out of the city, I wasn't here when they launched KOKO - Mumbai's favourite fine dining space for Asian food but everyone I knew was there, raving about it. And when I finally got introduced to it, I understood why.

Ryan and Keenan Tham come from a legacy of top-notch restaurateurs that have given the city some of its finest Asian cuisine establishments. The iconic Henry Tham was set up by their father Henry Tham, and their grandfather owned two of the hottest restaurants - Kamling and Mandarin - among others, thus paving a natural curiosity for the duo to find out if hospitality is their calling too.

And find out they did. The then young (their words, not mine) brothers decided to take off with the extravagant nightclub, Trilogy, in 2010. Trilogy was where the who's who of the city hobnobbed, mingled, and hosted parties. As their tastes and interests changed, so did their ambitions, which led to the duo to start their hospitality group, Pebble Hospitality, in 2014, starting their journey to building some of the most prominent resto bars in the city – The Good Wife in 2014, KOKO in 2016, Foo in 2018, Foo Town in 2019. Foo is a gift that has kept on giving even during the pandemic (and thank God for that) with Foo Powai in 2020, and Foo Andheri and Bandra in 2021.

KOKO was already an Asian food restaurant, so why did you need Foo, 1 ask. KOKO was built to fill a void that we found in the Asian space, especially in mid to south Bombay. While putting together KOKO, we realised that we have so much to offer in terms of food that it was impossible to deliver it from one kitchen. We have a huge menu bank, and we realised that Asian food is consistently desired. KOKO is quite premium, so we decided to also start another brand that's more pocket friendly, with smaller dishes, and that's how Foo was conceptualised, says Ryan.

When Foo first came to Phoenix Mills, he continues, we did, for a second, question if we're eating into our own market with KOKO being next door, but we realised that it's two different markets. We experimented with Foo, and then the others just happened. The idea of Foo, Keenan adds, was to make Asian tapas more popular. We wanted to change the way people dine out, from focusing on the main course-driven activity for Asian food to more tapas-driven table, and it's worked so well that we at one point thought let's avoid main course altogether, but you can't do that in India, he laughs.

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