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.