Virtuoso Life - March/April 2018 - 112
need to finish the soup," my
Japanese friend seated beside
me says between slurps of noodles. "It shows respect for the
chef." It's barely 11 am in Tokyo,
my brain is mired in jet lag, and
we've just paid about ten bucks
for lunch. I look around the small
room, which comprises both the
kitchen and a scant eight stools
for diners, trying to spy a "chef."
There are more than 7,100
ramen shops in this city of 35
million. Many only have counters - no chairs or stools and little
ambience. But in Japan, even the
humblest meal is labored over,
and, as I first learned when living there after college, even casual dining is revered. This bowl
before me contains handmade
noodles assembled with care to
exacting standards with a proprietary recipe. The transaction
between diner and restaurant
is also taken seriously. You eat
quickly - not just because the
shops only turn a profit through
traffic, but because the noodles
will become oversaturated with
broth if you don't eat them fast.
Eating quickly shows respect.
Also, my friend is right: There
is a chef. And the one who prepared our current lunch at Kagari
in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district was awarded Michelin's Bib
Gourmand, the gourmet guide's
distinction for value and quality.
While ramen joints are becoming more popular in the U.S.,
with some revered Japanese
Lost in translation: A ticket-vending-machine menu at Ramen Jiro and (below) Nakamise-dori Street,
a popular strip for souvenirs and street food that's believed to be one of the country's oldest shopping streets.
V I RT U O S O L I F E