Tokyo noodle shop is world's first ramen eatery to get Michelin star

The new Michelin Guide Tokyo 2016 guidebook (left) displayed during the publication's announcement ceremony in Tokyo on Dec 01, 2015.
The new Michelin Guide Tokyo 2016 guidebook (left) displayed during the publication's announcement ceremony in Tokyo on Dec 01, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A tiny Tokyo noodle shop joined the ranks of the world's top restaurants on Tuesday (Dec 1) as it scooped up a star from the respected Michelin Guide.

The food bible gave a nod to the nine-seat Tsuta - a first for a ramen eatery - as Tokyo also kept its title as the world's culinary capital with the most Michelin-starred restaurants.

Ramen is one of the most common fast foods in Japan and small shops serving the soup-and-noodle concoction can be found on almost every corner.

In recent years, the dish's popularity has exploded with restaurants popping up in major cities around the world, from Hong Kong to New York.

Tsuta - which sells bowls from US$7 (S$9.80) to US$9.75 at its shop in the north Tokyo neighbourhood of Sugamo - features gourmet offerings such as rosemary-flavoured barbecued pork and soy sauce ramen with a hint of porcini mushroom.

"The most important thing is that customers like our ramen," Mr Takatoshi Itami, one of the restaurant's cooks, said on Tuesday. "We have good reviews thanks to them - getting a star was not our priority."

The guide, released on Tuesday, listed 27 other Tokyo ramen shops in Bib Gourmand, a category of no-star restaurants offering good value.

While sophisticated, high-end Japanese restaurants including sushi and tempura venues are no strangers to Michelin stars, it is rare for casual eateries to receive the award.

The latest Tokyo guide gave its coveted three-star rating to 13 restaurants, with two stars awarded to 51 restaurants and another 153 restaurants receiving one star.