Welcome to the world of ramen noodle master Masamoto Ueda owner and self-taught ramen master operating out of a tiny restaurant in Tokyo named Bizentei. No big flashy décor but instead a rather homey restaurant that seats 30 at most. And Ueda is referred to by most of his customers as “Master”. He is self taught and entirely likeable unlike the prick chefs with their nonsensical television shows one encounters of late. Yes he was a bit of a bad boy in his youth coming close to being a petty criminal but marriage and a child cleaned his act up.
We are witness to his loyal and adoring customers to the extent the viewer almost feels part of the family as they sing their praises to Ueda. He connects with each of them and after work he takes some of them hunting for wild yams in the mountains or pear picking. He is a father figure to some and a good friend to others. Yes Ueda is the star of this documentary but it is his customers that raise his stardom as they are strong supporting cast. While we get up close with the patrons Ueda reveals much about himself and his attitude towards food and people. While I have eaten in many top restaurants in Europe and the United States with their Michelin stars and crack sommeliers I am just as happy in eating in countless small restaurants (a good many of them in Portugal) that will never be graced with stars and food that looks more like art than food.
Ueda has a limited menu with ramen and a few appetizers but he focuses on these dishes with spectacular results in a tiny behind the counter kitchen.
The documentary leaves you in a happy state with a regular guy chef and regular people patrons. A perfect soundtrack of jazz and quasi classical music is seamlessly interwoven.
Unlike the classic “Jiro Loves Sushi” this is no food porn production! Get me to Bizentei quick! I would happily go to Naples just to eat pizza. In Tokyo I would go to eat Ueda’s ramen. Would his ramen with Chashu pork send me over the moon? One customer is a ramen addict and has eaten at hundreds of ramen restaurants throughout Japan and his favourite is Bizentei.
Directed by John Daschbach.
The film opened in Toronto on July 22 at Hot Docs Ted Roger’s Cinema but get ready it will be making its rounds globally!
RKS Film Rating 92/100.