Best Ramen in Kyoto, Japan – Part 2

Our Best Ramen Restaurants in Kyoto, Japan post is a great roundup of the city’s top ramen shops. However, the list “only” has 8 entries. What happens if you want to eat 9 bowls of ramen?!?! You’d be left high and dry!

As huge ramen heads ourselves, we’d definitely eat more than 8 bowls of ramen in a weeklong trip to Kyoto. Realizing the error of our ways, we’ve now got you covered with this important follow-up installment offering another selection of rad ramen restaurants in Kyoto, Japan. As previously noted, we’ve dined in dozens of Kyoto’s best ramen restaurants (then over 50, now over 80), some numerous times.

To be honest, this is as much for us as it is for you. After compiling that best of list, we didn’t have a great excuse to continue dining at ramen shops with regularity. Doing essential research for the sequel to that best of list was exactly what the doctor ordered (well, the actual doctor ordered exactly the opposite, but never mind that). Along those lines, we still have nearly two dozen restaurants on our list of places to try, so expect part 3 of this list sometime in 2020…

It’s worth noting that the restaurants on this list are not simply the ‘second tier’ of ramen shops in Kyoto, Japan. Several are new (Kyoto’s ramen scene is burgeoning) while others are new-to-us.

As before, we’ll give you an idea of which ramen restaurants here are essential destination dining, and which are strong options if you’re already in the neighborhood. Oh, and as before, we have another dishonorable mention that you might see listed elsewhere–but that should be avoided.

With all of that introductory nonsense out of the way, let’s dig into the list of best ramen shops in Kyoto, Japan…

Wajo Ryomen Sugari – After you’ve finished up a morning at Nishiki Market, instead of stopping for ramen at Ippudo or Ichiran, keep on walking another block to Wajouryoumen Sugari (also known as Wajouryoumen Sugari), which is on a side street near Karasuma Station in a wood-front building reminiscent of a machiya. If you go during peak lunch hours, you’ll be able to spot it by the line outside.

You order from a touchscreen vending machine here (there’s an English option) and choose from ramen, tsukemen, and curry tsukemen. I am incredibly biased towards tsukemen, as I love the control it offers and richness of the thicker broth. We tried both the normal and curry varieties, and would recommend sticking with the normal tsukemen. The broth is fatty, rich, decadent, and delicious. This is ramen as comfort food at its finest. (Oh, and get the beef intestine for the ultimate indulgence!)

Menya Inoichi Hanare – You might recall a restaurant on the list last time called Menya Inoichi. Well, this is its sister location, which is in pretty much the same area (although closer to Shijo Station). Menya Inoichi Hanare is also the newer and more modern of the two locations. (Both are recommended by the Kyoto/Osaka Michelin Guide.)

Like its counterpart, Menya Inoichi Hanare’s broth uses dried bonito flakes and other types of seafood as a base rather than anything meat-based. This makes it “cleaner” and lighter, albeit with a surprising depth. This ramen is pretty much the best of both worlds. We’d recommend the extra slice pork ramen plus a side of tofu and Kyoto seasonal vegetables.

Hiro Ramen – Also known as Menyahiro, this ramen shop has an interesting story. Previously located in the Nishijin District near Kyoto Imperial Palace, but it was awarded Michelin’s Bib Gourmand distinction. That resulted in it becoming too busy, so the owner relocated to a quieter location. Can you imagine that? Being too popular, so you just move to somewhere less busy?!

Despite it being in a quieter location, you still might have to wait, as this ramen is something special. The owner uses Fushimi spring water to make the ramen, which features incredibly tender and delicate bamboo shoots. The most popular menu item is the kanishosoba, which has Japanese blue crab as the base. That’s the #1 ramen listed on the menu, and you need not look any further.

Niboshisoba Ai – Located on the northeastern side of town between the Kamo River and Yoshida Shrine, you’ll be able to spot this place by the sign outside that reads “Dried Sardine Noodle Indigo.” Niboshisoba Ai is a somewhat trendy spot (a perception undoubtedly aided by its proximity to Kyoto University) with a cool whale mural and other nice touches.

As that name suggests, the broth in this ramen is sardine-based. Consequently, it’s balanced and offers a more refined flavor, without the same salty and oily sensation you’ll find at other ramen shops on this list. Many of the ramen shops on this list offer heavy, fatty broths. To be honest, that’s our preference–ramen as decadent comfort food.

By contrast, the ramen at Niboshisoba Ai is much lighter and healthier thanks to the sardine base and vegetables used. With that said, it’s not lacking as a result–there’s still pork and excellent noodles. It’s just more nuanced, which is obviously what caught the attention of the Michelin guide when they recommended Niboshisoba Ai.

No Name Ramen – This unnamed ramen shop is listed as “No Name Ramen” on Google Maps, and that seems to be what everyone calls it, so we’ll roll with that. It’s located near the Kamo River, across from Sanjo Station, and on the basement level of a nondescript gray office building (below “Dining Bar Chichi”).

It’s gimmicky, but it’s good. More importantly, this is actually the second location of Wajouryoumen Sugari (above), with a very similar menu and equally good ramen. In our experience, No Name Ramen draws significantly smaller crowds, making it a great alternative if you don’t want to wait and are over in this part of Kyoto.

Ippudo (Kyoto Station Location) – I previously excluded Ippudo and Ichiran, the two most popular ramen chains in Japan, due to their ubiquity–including outposts in the United States. However, upon further reflection, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Ippudo. Specifically, the Kyoto Station location.

If you’re in a pinch for a meal (let’s say you’re coming back from a day trip and get back to Kyoto late at night) and Kyoto Station is your only option, Ippudo is a nice option. (Arguably better than anything up on Ramen Street, which is also in Kyoto Station.) It’s located in the lower-level Kyoto Porta shopping and dining complex, near the Karasumahigashi Exit.

Kamomachi Ramen – Located just outside of Demachiyanagi Station, Kamomachi Ramen is a great option at the end of a long day in Higashiyama–particularly after you’ve done a south to north itinerary, ending with the Silver Pavilion or Yoshida Shrine.

Kamomachi Ramen is a family restaurant that we’d describe as a neighborhood ramen shop. It’s not “destination ramen” that’ll be sought out by food tourists, but it draws a lot of locals thanks to its generous portions and inexpensive price. Of course, that’s not a sufficient basis alone for recommending it. We also love the creamy broth, perfectly cooked noodles, and tender chashu.

Ayam Ya, Karasuma – Near Karasuma Station in Downtown Kyoto, this is a specialty ramen spot, specializing in Halal chicken ramen. As someone who loves pork ramen, I was initially skeptical, but Ayam Ya won me over.

It’s not something I’d seek out unless you need Halal food, but if you’re in the area and want to try something different, Ayam Ya will not disappoint. There are a range of options from creamy to very spicy–and the ramen is quite good. We recommend the Potage Ramen plus a side of karaage chicken.

Dishonorable Mention: TowZen or Mamezen Vegan Ramen – This is currently one of the top-rated ramen shops in Kyoto on Google, and seeing that and being in the area, we decided to give it a try. The “problem” with crowd-sourced vegan restaurant reviews is that they’re reviewed, largely, by vegans. This means that everything is graded on a curve.

If you are vegan, perhaps you’ll enjoy this ramen shop. We found everything to be too forced. Too many substitutions and compromises gave it a very off and, ironically, artificial taste. The mix of soy broth and numbing spices was off-putting, and it just didn’t work. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine can be exceptional, but this isn’t. That’s unfortunate, as it’s an inviting setting.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend that you start by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit! 

Your Thoughts

Have you visited any of these ramen shops? Thoughts on the good and bad of the ramen scene in Kyoto? Any locations you’d recommend to a first-timer visiting Japan? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Any questions about what we’ve covered here? Does visiting these ramen restaurants in Kyoto interest you? Hearing about your experiences—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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