AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Ramen is trendier than ever in the U.S. - steaming bowls of the slurp-able Japanese noodle soup can be found in tiny shops and top restaurants. In Cambridge, Massachusetts there is a place where eating a bowl of ramen and could make your dreams come true - or at least be with a really full belly. Andrea Shea, of member station WBUR in Boston, explains.
ANDREA SHEA, BYLINE: There aren't many restaurants where everyone yells praise at you for finishing your food. But that is what happens at Yume Wo Katare.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everyone, she did a good job.
SHEA: But you earn those cheers by taking part in a highly regimented ramen experience. It begins with standing in a long line outside that starts snaking down the sidewalk well before the doors open at five p.m.
CHRIS SHIPLEY: Yeah, I have waited in lines over an hour.
SHEA: Customer Chris Shipley says it's worth it. He's been coming here once a month for about a year.
SHIPLEY: It's an interactive kind of experience, even if you're going alone.
SHEA: Once inside, 34-year-old owner and ramen master Tsuyoshi Nishioka shouts his welcome from behind a long counter that separates the open kitchen from the shop's 18-seat dining room. There are only two choices - ramen that's topped with pork, or ramen topped with more pork. Nishioka's homemade noodles swim in fatty pork broth. Next, diners are told where to sit - three rows of tables face the chef. It feels kind of like a classroom. And there's a question on the wall - what's your purpose in life?
MAKOTO YAMAMOTO: Thank you for coming to Yume Wo Katare. Which means, talk about your dreams, in Japanese.
SHEA: That's server, Makoto Yamamoto explaining the shop's concept.
YAMAMOTO: We want the customers to accomplish all their dreams in life, you know, whatever dreams you do have. And how we can help you with - is that ramen he's preparing right now. So you can finish this hard bowl of ramen, you can do anything in your life.
SHEA: Since opening Yume Wo Katare a couple of years ago, the chef Nishioka has been encouraging people to reclaim claim abandoned dreams and nurture new ones - like a ramen guru, he says attaining one's goals requires deep concentration. So does eating a heaping pile of his noodles.
TSUYOSHI NISHIOKA: When ramen is coming - grab chop chopsticks don't stop until you finish eating the bowl.
SHEA: If you slurp down everything in the bowl, which no small task, the room erupts.
If you eat your noodles but can't drink all of the broth, you get a good job.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
MAN: Everyone - good job.
SHEA: The goal, the chef Nishioka says, is to push people beyond what they think they're capable. Server Makoto Yamamoto started working at the Cambridge restaurant a month ago and says it's inspirational.
YAMAMOTO: The atmosphere for this restaurant creates is unique, I feel like. We can just dissolve the wall between employer, employees and customers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey everyone, this guy gets almost.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Almost.
SHEA: For NPR News, I'm Andrea Shea, in Boston.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.