Tokyo has a well-deserved reputation for high-end dining but one restaurant is making headlines for a menu that's less hoity-toity and more down and dirty.
A French establishment named Ne Quittez Pas (“Please don’t leave”) is serving a ‘dirt course’, according to Japanese Rocket News, a website that sampled the menu. For $110 you can eat the stuff you scrub off your sneakers and pry from your kid's mouth on the playground. Ne Quittez Pas' menu includes a potato starch and dirt soup, salad with dirt dressing, aspic made with oriental clams and a top layer of sediment, a dirt risotto with sauteed sea bass, dirt gratin, and dirt ice cream. According to the Rocket News investigation, despite appearing, well, dirty, none of the dishes actually tasted like dirt and were described as "delicious" and "divine." They also reported that the dirt contains coffee grinds and palm fiber.
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"The dirt is called Kuro Tsuchi and it's volcanic ashes mixed with soil and plants from the Kanto District in Japan," Saeko Torii, a rep from the dirt manufacture Protoleaf told SHINE. "It has good bacteria, healthy minerals, and is natural and pure."
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So will we start seeing dirt on U.S. menus? And is it even safe? "Dirt isn't regulated for human consumption so it's hard to know the effects it would have on a person," says Rebecca Scritchfield, a Washington, D.C. based registered dietitian. "Food gets its nutrients from soil, but one does not eat the actual soil. What's more, countries have different safety regulations—some people in Scotland eat Haggis which is sheep organs, but that's illegal to import to the US. Protoleaf says their soil is safe to consume but is it safe to eat by American standards? We don't know because we don't really know what's in it."
For example, does the soil contain toxins, glass, or rocks? And is it even soil at all or just a snazzy marketing tool?
"My guess is that it's a gimmick," says Scritchfield. "You can consume good bacteria that promotes healthy digestion and immunity by eating foods like yogurt, tempeh, olives, pickles, or sauerkraut. Likewise, you can consume minerals by eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, and dairy."
So, if you have an adventurous palate and a plane ticket to Tokyo, would you be insane to sample the dirt menu at Ne Quittez Pas? "If it's real dirt, I'm not going to recommend it any time soon," says Scritchfield.