Who would choose to become a teuchi soba specialist? Kneading and rolling the dough, cutting it by hand, then carefully cooking and serving the delicate buckwheat noodles — it's a long, laborious job to prepare a meal that can take mere minutes to consume.

Ask Eisuke Muto, who packed in his life as a salaryman to follow his dream of becoming a sobaya-san. From eager enthusiast to committed artisan, he climbed a steep learning curve, guided only by his dream of not only owning his own restaurant but also preparing from scratch all the food he serves.

That mission was accomplished a dozen years ago, when he opened Muto for business in the backstreets of Nihonbashi. But his compact, self-named restaurant is no mere labor of love: It is the best in the neighborhood — no mean feat in one of Tokyo's most traditional districts — and draws custom from well beyond its immediate catchment area.