Let's go to Sentro - the new Filipino restaurant in Helsinki
Sentro is a modern Filipino restaurant that blends the best dishes all over Asia.
It successfully combines different cuisines from Japan, Korean, and Indonesian.
Although it exudes a fine-dining vibe, it's actually a casual place. The new restaurant can be found at Pieni Roobertinkatu 13 ”Pikku Roba”, opposite of Iso Roobertinkatu.
Sentro makes awesome vegan dishes. They even have vegan patis and vegan bagoong without the awful smell but tastes just the same. Patis is a fish sauce and bagoong is a shrimp paste, common in Asian countries, but not quite particular with Finnish people. The vegan version is a sweet compromise of both tastes.
The restaurant is very intimate and can accommodate 35 seats, which makes it a great place to meet, socialize with friends, and organize gatherings with peers for company-related celebrations.
Sentro is founded by a group of Filipino cooks with over 20 years of international experience working in fine dining restaurants, 5 star hotels, and cruises all over the world.
I spoke with one of the owners of Sentro, Raymond Rivera, who participated in the Pinoy Food Court event five years ago. He and his African friends made a best seller of Manila wraps and African delicacies.
Pinoy Food Court was a Restaurant Day event organized in order to showcase Filipino cuisine in Finland. Just imagine five years ago, there isn't any Filipino restaurant in Finland but now they are five: Pobre, Platito, Kainan, Kamalig. Amazing, isn't it?
How Sentro's story began:
1. How did you end up in Finland?
We were cooks hired from Philippines by Opteam. Allan came here first from the 1st batch of of cooks recruited from Philippines to Finland. Benhur came in 2011, and Jericho and I came March 2012.
2. How did you meet with the other co-founders?
Jericho and I knew each other in Philippines because we were in the same batch that was recruited at the same time. We met Allan and Benhur here in Finland.
3. What drove you to become entrepreneurs and made you decide to open up a restaurant business?
We want to showcase our knowledge in the kitchen and bring new dishes in the culinary scene in Helsinki. Every chef ‘s dream is to have their own restaurant and this gives us more motivation to pursue it.
4. What are the challenges you faced in opening a restaurant in Finland?
There are a lot of challenges when we started opening our own company. The first one is the language barrier because Finnish and Swedish are the official languages, and I can say we're not really fluent, although now we've learned to understand it.
The other challenge is the location of the restaurants, because most agents and landlords want an existing company. It was quite hard for us to look for a suitable restaurant because we are a new business so looking for an ideal place took awhile. Then, we finally found a nice place in Pieni Roobertinkatu 13.
5. What is the story behind the name Sentro?
One time, Jericho and Benhur were working together on a shift speaking Taglish ( Tagalog English). Here's how the conversation went:
Jericho to Benhur: Let’s go to Sentro! (Sentro is a Filipino word that means center, usually implying citycenter)
A Finnish coworker asked: Missä on Sentro?
We realized that the Finns could pronounce the word really well. So this is how we came up with the name Sentro, a restaurant located in Keskusta, which means in English a restaurant located in the center.
6. What kind of experience do you want your customers to have?
It's important for us that our customers will experience the real scene of food and flavors of Southeast asian cuisine most especially our roots, Philippines. The goal is for them to experience the quality of a fine-dining cuisine for a price of casual dining. We also want to emphasize our Filipino hospitality through our customer service.