Ramen Shop and Other Delicious Destinations 

Just another gastro-porn entertainment? Well, maybe not.

click to enlarge Seiko Matsuda in the kitchen in Ramen Shop

Seiko Matsuda in the kitchen in Ramen Shop

Director Eric Khoo’s modestly titled Ramen Shop aims for the sweet spot midway between sentimental romantic drama and foodie travelogue, with satisfying results more on the second half of that proposition. Japanese and Singaporean eateries should prepare for hungry audiences leaving theaters after seeing Khoo’s loving tribute to two of Asia’s most delectable culinary destinations.

After his ramen-tei entrepreneur father dies on the job in his noodle shop, a young Japanese chef named Masato (Takumi Saitô) takes a nostalgic journey from his hometown of Takasaki to Singapore, ostensibly in search of a “new flavor” for his ramen broth but also to placate the spirits of his tangled origins: Chinese mother, Japanese father, WWII occupation, bitter surviving grandmother, etc.

The family reunion and Masato’s budding love affair with food blogger Miss Miki (Seiko Matsuda) are all good and well, and love triumphs over all as it should. But the real selling point of Khoo’s lighthearted pic is its curated guide to eating well in the Lion City, à la chili crab with steamed buns, Hainan chicken rice, bak kut teh (ginger pork loin cooked in pork bone tea), the best durian in the world (Malaysia grown), Sarawak pepper, and the ultimate epicurean showstopper, fish head curry.

Filmmaker Khoo (Wanton Mee) has been dabbling in this particular elevated form of gastro-porn ever since 1995’s Mee Pok Man. He certainly knows the best “food centres” [cq] in town. Ramen Shop’s long-lost-relative plot is ancient yet harmless. It could probably use some irreverent humor – just another reminder that Anthony Bourdain has indeed gone off to that noodle shop in the sky. Meanwhile, smack your lips and put a little Sambal Asli on the popcorn.

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