ON THE ROAD ONCE AGAIN

Miche­lin Guide goes back to its roots in rec­og­niz­ing used car deal­er­ship’s ra­men

National Post (National Edition) - - THE FEAST - Laura Bre­haut

It’s kis­met. The Miche­lin Guide, started more than a cen­tury ago by a French tire com­pany, has re­turned to its ve­hic­u­lar roots in rec­og­niz­ing a used car deal­er­ship in Ja­pan for its ex­cep­tion­ally tasty noo­dles.

At Hot Air in Tot­tori Pre­fec­ture, pro­pri­etor Kat­sumi Yoshida spe­cial­izes in Suzuki mod­els and ad­di­tive-free ra­men. His hard work in the kitchen has earned the shop a men­tion as a Bib Gour­mand restau­rant in Miche­lin’s lat­est edi­tion on the top eater­ies in Ky­oto, Osaka and Tot­tori, the Asahi Shim­bun re­ports.

Bib Gour­mand sta­tus in­di­cates “qual­ity food at a max­i­mum of 5,000 JPY” (about $58): a bowl of shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce) ra­men at Hot Air costs 800 JPY in­clud­ing tax (roughly $9). “Now the name will also re­mind cus­tomers of hot steam from ra­men,” Yoshida re­port­edly said.

Yoshida es­tab­lished Hot Air in 2002 and started serv­ing ra­men roughly a decade later in an ef­fort to pro­vide “qual­ity food” to chil­dren. He built a kitchen at the deal­er­ship and con­verted a meet­ing room into a small din­ing area with counter seat­ing and ta­bles.

Ac­cord­ing to Spoon & To­mago, Yoshida “ap­proached ra­men with the pre­ci­sion of an engi­neer,” al­ter­ing the tem­per­a­ture by sin­gle de­grees or ad­just­ing in­gre­di­ent weights by as lit­tle as 0.1 gram to achieve the per­fect bal­ance.

Given that the link be­tween sec­ond-hand cars and noo­dles is ten­u­ous at best, Yoshida’s ra­men of­fer­ing wasn’t an overnight suc­cess. Ini­tially, ac­cord­ing to Asahi Shim­bun, Hot Air ex­pe­ri­enced a com­plete lack of in­ter­est from cus­tomers. “He has ground­less con­fi­dence that ‘all things must go well,’ and I had no choice but to go along with him,” Yoshida’s wife and Hot Air co­man­ager Kaori said.

Word-of-mouth even­tu­ally led a Miche­lin of­fi­cial to the outré eatery, and the sec­ond-hand car shop sits among eight other area ra­men restau­rants in the new guide. Now, Yoshida has a new goal: con­tin­u­ing to work on his ex­tra­or­di­nary ra­men so that one day, Hot Air will be awarded a Miche­lin star.

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