When it comes to Kyoto, most people tend to think about traditional Japanese food, but the city is actually a highly competitive marketplace for ramen restaurants. Here is a selection of some of the most popular restaurants - make sure you give them a try!
1. Menya Gokkei
Menya Gokkei is one of the most popular ramen restaurants in Ichijoji, the most competitive marketplace for ramen in Kyoto.Their ramen is characterized by a rather heavy kind of soup which is chicken-based and features rich flavors and a creamy texture. It is such a thick soup that even if you place your china spoon on it, it will not sink!The menu features 4 different types of ramen: toridaku, which is also written on the shop curtain on the restaurant and condenses the delicious flavor of chicken; akadaku, with red pepper on top; kurodaku, with garlic oil; and uodaku, which comes sprinkled with fish powder. All of them are 700 JPY. If you like fish, we definitely recommend getting a taste of their uodaku - the key to this dish is to thoroughly melt the fish powder and mix it with the soup!While the business hours of the restaurant are set between 11:30 am and 10:00 pm, they do close earlier if they run out of soup, so we recommend visiting it early in the day.
2. Ramen-ya Akihide
The ramen of Ramen Akihide is characterized by a special super concentrated Junnoko soup made by simmering together pork and chicken bones over a long period of time. Their Junnoko Ramen (750 JPY (incl. tax)) for a regular sized bowl), their signature dish, is very popular for its mellow and tasty soup to the point that fans from all over Japan come from afar just to have it. The restaurant, however, is rather small, featuring 9 seats only, so there are always lines of customers waiting outside. In addition, and this makes it hard for tourists to visit, they do not have established business hours; according to the locals, the restaurant tends to be usually closed and does not open very often. When they do open, though, they post the information on Twitter 30 minutes before opening. Usually, their business hours are between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm, but they always change, so if you want to visit the restaurant, it is best to not have high expectations and just hope that, if you are lucky, you will be able to get in. If you manage to eat here, though, it will undoubtedly become a great memory of your trip to Japan.The restaurant has some rules, such as taking a numbered ticket to wait for your turn, staying quiet while waiting so as not to bother others, and leaving immediately once you finish your meal so make sure to follow them.
3. Seabura no Kami
Seabura no Kami, as its name indicates, is a ramen restaurant serving seabura chaccha-style ramen. Seabura chaccha is type of ramen in which pork back fat is cooked for a long time until it melts, and is then sprinkled on top of the ramen, where small pieces stay afloat, to enhance the flavor of the soup. This may give you the impression that the dish might give you heartburn, but their staple dishes like Seabura Niboshi Soba (750 JPY (tax incl.)) use a dry sardine broth for their soup which, combined with the pork back fat, tastes lighter than it looks. In addition, if you prefer a less greasy flavor, you can opt to increase the amount of onion used at a cost of just 100 JPY (tax incl.). The roasted pork fillet, gently cooked to a moist and rare finish, is thick and tender, which makes it exquisite too! As for the noodles, you can choose medium thick or thick noodles according to your taste. If you are not sure which to go with, we recommend the thick noodles. It takes a little longer for them to boil, but they mingle very well with the soup!
We recommend Inoichi to those wanting to enjoy some ramen made with a Kyoto-style broth. Their Torisoba (Shiro) (900 JPY) uses thin noodles that remind one of Japanese soba noodles with a lightly flavored shiro soy sauce-based soup that does not use any kind of animal fat. The exquisite balance of the flavor of the soup and of the kelp-flavored roasted chicken fillet makes this a superb dish.If you wish to make small changes to the flavor during your meal, you can use the seasonings that you will find on the table to try different options. The available seasonings are kuroshichimi (a powder seasoning that combines white sesame, red pepper, Japanese pepper, green laver, poppy seeds, black sesame, and hemp seeds), ichimi (powdered red pepper), and powdered Japanese pepper. These are luxury spices from Kyoto's famous Hararyokaku. Add just a little at a time to try them all!
5. Tenkaippin Main Restaurant
Tenkaippin could be said to be the representative restaurant of kotteri ramen. Besides the main restaurant featured here, the chain has branches all over Japan, which makes it easily accessible to foreign visitors traveling in Japan. The secret to the popularity of their Kotteri ramen (700 JPY (incl. tax) for a regular size) lies in their full-bodied soup. The soup, made by thoroughly boiling chicken bones and 11 types of vegetables, definitely contributes to create a one-of-a-kind ramen that you will not be able to enjoy anywhere else.It is important to note that, in order to enjoy the ramen served at Tenkaippin to its fullest, you should not lift the noodles with your chopsticks. Instead, it is said that the correct way to eat their ramen is by placing your mouth on the edge of the bowl, and slurping the noodles in together with the soup. If you finish your noodles and have some leftover soup, you can pour it over your rice, which is also delicious!If you are not a fan of kotteri style ramen, they have other lighter types of ramen in their menu. However, if you are visiting Tenkaippin, we definitely recommend giving their specialty kotteri ramen a try.*The picture shows a bowl of kotteri ramen from a Tenkaippin branch.
How did you find this article? Besides the ones featured here, there are many other prestigious ramen restaurants in Kyoto. If the one that you would like to try is too crowded, it is a good idea to try and go to another nearby restaurant, instead of wasting your precious time in Japan waiting in a line.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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