Hot Docs Review: Ramen Documentary 'Come Back Anytime' Is Worth Savouring Directed by John Daschbach

Starring Masamoto Ueda, Kazuko Ueda
Hot Docs Review: Ramen Documentary 'Come Back Anytime' Is Worth Savouring Directed by John Daschbach
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Anyone watching Come Back Anytime will surely be reminded of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the acclaimed 2011 documentary about the master sushi chef. Both food docs examine a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Tokyo, each run by a devoted master who has perfected recipes through hands-on experimentation and intense devotion.

Much like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the most interesting thing about Come Back Anytime isn't the food porn, but the man behind the meals. Ramen restaurant Bizentei is run by Masamoto Ueda, a self-taught senior who, along with wife Kazuko, does just about everything at the eatery: they cook and serve the food, Masamoto creates the recipes himself without any formal training, and he even harvests some of the ingredients himself.

Director John Daschbach speaks with the couple and many of their most devoted customers. The early section of the film, which focuses mostly on the food, will whet the audience's appetite, but the story gets a lot more engrossing when we leave the kitchen. Masamoto discusses his youthful gambling problems and how Bizentei gave his life direction, he grows plants in his organic garden outside of the city, and he camps with his buddies in the mountains while digging for wild yams (which are subsequently served at Bizentei). After decades spent focused on the restaurant, the couple have developed rewarding personal lives, and Kazuko has even taken up painting.

Most touching is the way Bizentei has become a hub for a tight-knit community of regulars, who the Uedas spend time with on their days off. One customer, Fumie Kamiya, describes how she began coming to Bizentei during a time of grief and loss, and Masamoto welcomed her with open arms. A couple, Takashi and Zaika Nakamura, tell the story of how they met at the restaurant. The only downside is the slightly obtrusive piano jazz that plays a little too loud and doesn't quite capture the sweetness that runs through every bite of Come Back Anytime.

Masamoto and Kazuko are around retirement age and have no plans to pass on Bizentei to new ownership; once they're done, so is the restaurant. This film acts as a heartfelt tribute to this fascinating spot, and it's well worth savouring.

Hot Docs runs online from April 29 to May 9, 2021. Get more information at the festival's website. (JD Media)