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Tokyo restaurant dishes up the dirt

By Alex Zolbert, CNN
February 11, 2013 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ne Quittez Pas' special menu features dishes made with dirt
  • Soil is heated to kill bacteria
  • Menu is anything but dirt cheap

Tokyo (CNN) -- It reads like a palate-pleasing menu.

You start out with a truffle soup, followed by oysters and then a main course of flounder with risotto and vegetables. There's a side of potatoes and you finish it off with a scoop of ice cream.

Here's the twist -- this all comes with a generous helping of dirt. Not normal, backyard variety dirt, special nutrient-rich soil.

The unique tasting menu is the creation of Toshio Tanabe, a former gymnast and boxer turned culinary inventor. Tanabe says the dirt menu was a logical addition for his quaint restaurant, Ne Quittez Pas, which is located in Tokyo's Gotanda neighborhood.

"This is a seafood restaurant, so we have the flavors from the ocean," he says. "I was also looking for flavors from the earth."

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Chef Tanabe says the idea to use soil came naturally.
Chef Tanabe says the idea to use soil came naturally.

But this is not the typical dirt you'd find it your backyard. It comes from a garden wholesaler, which provides the high quality soil, taken deep beneath the earth's surface -- 10 meters down, in fact.

Germaphobes can take some comfort, perhaps. Tanabe tells us the soil is first lab tested, and then heated to extreme temperatures, to kill off any bacteria. After that process is complete Tanabe will work it into his menu.

This special fare is certainly not dirt cheap. The set course is about US$110 per person.

And how does it taste? According to one adventurous eater, who wished to remain anonymous the night of our visit, "I didn't think it would be real dirt. I was a bit nervous. But it was a subtle taste."

When we ask Tanabe, about his next key ingredient, he shrugs and says he's not sure.

"This idea came about naturally."

Whether diners dig into the dirt or not, it does take the idea of organic to a whole new level.

Ne Quittez Pas: 3-15-19 Higashigotanda. Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo; Nequittezpas.com

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