By Ryu Takeda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer FUEFUKI, Yamanashi — Walk under the grape trellises of a certain vineyard in the Ichinomiya district of Fuefuki, Yamanashi Prefecture, and you’ll come to a building with a lantern out front that says “restaurant.” This is Takeharu, a restaurant with the feel of a local eatery, with reasonably priced food and menus adorning the windows.
The menu centers around ramen and set meals, with many local customers ordering alcohol and snacks at night. The most popular dish is the waraji (straw sandal) cutlet curry, a huge curry dish with a pork cutlet weighing four kilograms total (¥3,600 including tax). The high-quality pork loin cutlet alone weighs one kilogram.
If a customer finishes the meal within 15 minutes, they win ¥10,000 in prize money. Fail to beat the time limit and there’s a ¥5,000 fine.
This event has run since the restaurant opened in 1996, and an average of about one customer a month tries it. So far, only three have finished within the time limit — the quickest was eight minutes by a middle-aged man in 2004. A person who was there said, “He ate the dish like he was pouring it straight down his throat.”
The restaurant also offers other timed events featuring super-hot ramen (¥770) and red curry (¥670). Customers win ¥3,000 in prize money if these dishes are finished within 15 minutes, and those who fail pay a ¥2,000 fine.
Restaurant owner Takeharu Komiya, 51, learned his craft at a professional cooking school in Kofu and worked at a Japanese-style restaurant in Tokyo. Afterward, he served as chief chef of a ryokan inn in the Isawa district of Fuefuki for seven years.
His next step was refurbishing the rest facility of a vineyard run by the family of his wife Yurika, 51, and opening the restaurant. “I wanted to make local residents love the restaurant, rather than just offer formal Japanese meals,” Komiya said.
Besides the waraji cutlet curry, the restaurant previously offered unique menu items such as a ramen with venison, ostrich sashimi and watermelon parfait. However, it has never served dishes using grapes, despite its location in a vineyard.
“We put more focus on local customers than on tourists, and locals often eat a lot of grapes already,” Komiya said.
The restaurant’s popular dishes include ginger pork (¥870) and old-style ramen in a dried sardine broth (¥580). It also offers a soft-shelled turtle hot pot using a whole soft-shelled turtle (reservation needed, ¥13,500).
Open: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (last order at 9:30 p.m.)
Address: 613-1, Ichinokura, Ichinomiyacho, Fuefuki, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Tel: (0553) 47-3552 (Japanese only)
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