DUBAI: Konjiki Hototogisu is a Japanese ramen restaurant from Tokyo founded by Chef Yamamoto Atsushi and only the third ramen restaurant in the world to get a Michelin star, awarded between 2019 and 2023.
The restaurant opened its first branch in the UAE on July 25 at Mall of the Emirates. The opening ceremony was attended by Noboru Sekiguchi, Consul General of Japan in Dubai and other guests.
Chef Yamamoto said the opening of Konjiki Hototogisu in Dubai was an “opportunity to provide authentic Japanese ramen to people living in the UAE.”
“It was my dream to open a store in the UAE,” he said. “Our restaurant uses local ingredients from the country where the store is open and creates the taste from scratch. In addition, the menu we offer at our store is all handmade including sauces. (No ready-made sauces, soup stocks or noodles are used.) We omit chemical elements and are based on creating a taste that is gentle on the body.”
Regarding the restaurant’s history, Chef Yamamoto said it opened as a small shop (249.06 sq/ft) with 8 seats in a low traffic alleyway in Shibuya ward, Tokyo in 2006.
The chef said when it first opened, there were almost no customers and could only sell 5 bowls a day.
“It was really hard to live and I had to live by selling household goods,” he explained. “I was constantly thinking about how to get customers to come, and the days were mentally tough. In the end, I came up with the idea of ‘Improving the taste, making it unique in Japan, no one can imitate it.’”
The chef learned and practiced with many recipes until he found one that made him popular.
“Finally, in the 5th year after opening, I could create flavors that customers would accept, and I could sell an average of 60 bowls per day. In the 7th year, I got first place in a magazine evaluating Japanese ramen shops for the first time, after that, there was a line (about 20 people) at the shop from beginning to end, furthermore, it became possible for customers to evaluate. In 2015, in the ‘Michelin Guide Tokyo,’ a ramen shop in Tokyo was evaluated for the first time and won the Bib Gourmand.”
“In 2018, the shop moved to Shinjuku ward. In the same year, the improvement of the taste was evaluated and it was awarded one Michelin star, which is one of only 3 shops in the world. Even though it’s evaluated by the world’s gourmet guide, or it could get first place 5 times among Japanese ramen shops, I stayed at the shop 2 times a week to keep developing the taste for 12 years. Currently, I’m continuing to improve the taste with the aim of becoming ‘the world’s No.1 ramen shop and creator’ with the goal of ‘creating a unique taste that no one can imitate,’” he added.
Philip Chan, Managing Director of Konjiki Hototogisu in UAE told Arab News Japan that some challenges were faced when the ramen shop first opened in Dubai.
“The type of challenge that we faced was finding the right staff to be able to follow the strict recipe from the Japanese chef who was here for a month training and teaching, finding the right ingredients to the standards expected by the Japanese chef and finding the right suppliers to be able to help with the diverse menu offering we have,” he said.
He said the feedback so far has “generally been great.”
“A lot of people are impressed by the quality and taste of the soup and the noodles. Many people like the general ambience of the place,” he added.