Review: Ramen Shop is a delicate foodie drama

Director Eric Khoo's film about a Japanese chef visiting Singapore is full of exquisitely detailed food preparation

Eric Khoo’s Ramen Shop is a slim but affecting drama about Matsuo (Takumi Saitoh), a Japanese ramen chef who travels to Singapore in search of his late mother’s family and the recipe for pork rib soup.

With the help of a blogger (Seiko Matsuda) who guides him through Singapore’s dizzying range of restaurants and food markets – which made a brief appearance last year in Crazy Rich Asians – Matsuo will accomplish both and learn more about his origins than he may have expected.

Screenwriters Tan Fong Cheng and Wong Kim Hoh don’t do anything innovative with their very simple premise, but Ramen Shop always remains engaging thanks to its delicate atmosphere, lived-in performances and exquisitely detailed food preparation.

Khoo (My Magic, In The Room) has a fondness for long, slow scenes of people not quite knowing what to say to one another, which doesn’t always serve his material well, but it works very nicely here, amplifying Matsuo’s struggles with language and dislocation while also building emotional stakes that pay off when he’s able to make a connection.

That said, I’m still not sure why Kevin Mathews and Christine Sham’s score relies so heavily on a slowed-down version of Joe Meek’s Telstar. It’s just distracting.