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Brief Published: 31 Jan 2013

Tokyo Restaurant Launches Dirt Menu


Adding to its French-inspired menu, high-end Tokyo restaurant Ne Quittez Pas has introduced a range of dishes that feature dirt as the key ingredient.

Japanese chef Toshio Tanabe – who previously appeared on a Japanese TV cookery competition with a dish of foie gras and rocket on a bed of soil – produces the full-course tasting menu, which costs around $110 per person. Dishes include a potato and dirt soup, salad with dirt dressing, a dirt risotto with sautéed sea bass, and dirt ice cream. 

The dirt, called kuro tsuchi, is a special black soil from the Kanto District of Japan. Tested for safety, it is manufactured by Japanese soil production company Protoleaf. According to British newspaper The Guardian, it is “baked, boiled, triple-filtered and mixed with gelatine to produce mud” before being used in the range of dishes. 

While UK chef Heston Blumenthal and Danish restaurant Noma’s Rene Redzepi have both used imitation dirt in dishes, and experimental British gastronomic duo Bompas and Parr hosted a ‘dirt banquet’ in 2011, the trend has yet to go mainstream.

However, according to Japanese chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, who has developed a soil soup for his Tokyo restaurant, soil appeals to the palate because it’s rich in umami (see The Pursuit of Umami). Speaking at 2011’s MAD Food Camp in Denmark, he said of the ingredient: “It was a revelation. If soil is sourced and cooked properly, it can actually taste good.”

The use of experimental ingredients, such as dirt, is reflective of an increasingly adventurous consumer palate. Seaweed is another sustainable and nutritious food source that is becoming more mainstream. Read more about this ingredient in Super Seaweed

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