TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A Japanese restaurateur has turned the nation's everyday comfort food, ramen or noodle soup, into a pricey, gourmet affair that costs more than $100 and takes three days to fully prepare.
The "Five-taste Blend Imperial Noodles" offered at Tokyo's Fujimaki Gekijyo restaurant is ultimately just a bowl of soup and noodles, albeit an expensive one especially as Japan's economy slowly recovers from its worst recession since World War Two.
But owner Shoichi Fujimaki said it's the soup, and the more than 20 ingredients used to make it, that elevated the dish from street food into five-star cuisine, with the price tag to match.
"It's not really ramen. This is my cuisine, it's my 25 years of experience distilled into one bowl," Fujimaki told Reuters as he poured ingredients into a bubbling pot. "This is the only place in the world that people have this kind of soup."
A bowl of ramen from any of the tens of thousands of little shops and stalls that are everywhere in Japan will usually set you back $10, at the most.
Fujimaki's ramen costs $110 a bowl and uses top-grade Chinese stock blended with another stock inspired by the spicy, Thai tom yum soup as well as spices, meats and vegetables.
Initially, the restaurant sold a ramen dish with more than the average toppings for an above-average $33.
Then Fujimaki decided to create the even more complex dish, with an even higher price tag, to serve at his reservations-only eatery that has no menu and which customers can only dine in after they sample cheaper fare at another restaurant he owns.
Some of the patrons who eventually get to tuck into the pricey ramen say its worth every yen.
"It's certainly expensive, however, I think that it is sometimes better to come here and spend ten thousand yen than to go to another place and spend a thousand, ten times," said Hideko Furusawa, a 49-year-old diner.
Fujimaki plans to open a restaurant offering the same noodles in Los Angeles by August, although he has yet to decide on whether he'll charge the same.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)