This is kind of the aesthetic to Koki Shigeno's documentary about Osamu Tomita, considered by many to be the best ramen maker in Japan and nabbing the best ramen of the year four times from Japan's most prestigious ramen guidebook. The fact that Japan has such a guidebook is indicative of the nation's obsession with the food. Tomita talks about how easy it is to have an expensive dish be delicious, but his outlook is to provide tasty quality in an $8 meal.
Shigeno's film is earnest, but unpolished, like its sometimes synthesized strings music that reels behind a dramatic narrative that teeters between serious and comical. It is, however, better suited to the food it portrays. Ramen Heads generally follows Tomita, although at one point it does take us on a foray of the best ramen restaurants in the area, like a scene from Tampopo where they pinpoint the chefs who do certain elements of the ramen the best.
Tomita's tsukumen (dripping) ramen itself is a lugubrious concoction that looks closer to curry than broth. He's the one that has to man the cauldron with its specific alchemy of broth mixtures and the shop doesn't open if he's unable to be there. There's little reason for him to be absent though -- even on his days off, he visits a couple ramen shops a day (including a favorite that he asks the docucrew not to name since it's his favorite), and when he eats out with his family, they go out to another ramen shop, much to the narrator's disbelief. At the restaurant, Tomita chastises his son for making a mess at the table, but we find that it has less to do with dirtying his shirt, but more to the fact that the reason for the mess is that he is not slurping his noodles in the correct fashion.
There's certainly a discipline and strictness to how Tomita lives his life and rules his kitchen. And yet, there is a familiarity here between him and the customers. When it comes to ramen, he is right there at the counter serving his work to customers, whereas in most European high cuisine kitchens, there is a divide between the kitchen and the front of house. It allows Tomita (and other ramen makers) to see reactions firsthand, but it also means that they control how people are served or talked to by his workers.
The documentary is bare bones and most of its shots aren't beautiful, by any means. It also includes a weirdly animated sidebar on the history of ramen. However, it is a fun look at the different types of ramen and the various heavy hitters of Tokyo ramen in a succinct documentary of one hour and 32 minutes.