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Eating out / Yamagata ramen spot thrives on repeat customers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

By Eri Ishitsuka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterYAMAGATA — The city of Yamagata ranks high in Japan in terms of the annual eating-out-expenses of ramen. Among ramen connoisseurs there, Yahataya is known as one of the “four heavenly kings” of ramen restaurants.

Yahataya, which opened in 1955, is a small restaurant with only three tables with three to four chairs each.

“I often ask my customers to share a table [at lunch time],” said third-generation owner Koichi Endo.

The most popular item is simple chuka-soba (¥550) — the soup is made of beef bone broth from domestically produced cattle and soy sauce, with its rich aroma wafting throughout the restaurant, even though it has a light and mild taste. The crinkled medium-thick noodles are springy and go well with the soup.

Bamboo shoots, minced negi long onion and nori are placed on top of the ramen, along with slices of beef, the dish’s main topping. The meat used is eye of round — a lean part of beef from the cow’s rear leg known as shikinbo in Japanese — which “becomes tastier as you chew it,” according to the 62-year-old Endo, who said he uses only domestic beef for his topping and soup stock.

Pinches of pepper are placed on a slice of nori, allowing customers to dissolve it into the soup when they want to spice things up.

More than 80 percent of his business comes from repeat customers.

The other popular menu items include nurume (slightly warm) chuka-soba (¥550), with its noodles washed in cold water after being boiled, and the summer dish tsumetai (cold) chuka (¥600), featuring cold noodles dipped in soup with ice cubes.

Endo said he preserved the original taste while varying the soup’s consistency and the texture of the noodles according to customer preference.

“The basic taste is the same, but I’ve been making slight changes through the years to match the times,” Endo said as he shared his tip for the restaurant’s popularity.

Yahataya

Open: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closes when sold out for the day)

Closed: Tuesday

Address: 64-6 Hirashimizu, Yamagata

Phone: (023) 623-8363 (Japanese only)

Credit cards not accepted

To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&d

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