I was walking around Teramachi dori (a long shopping and eating street, with lots of smaller side streets for even more eating and shopping) for the third time or so, with the goal of finding good ramen. I had been craving ramen for the whole day, and was walking around to develop some hunger for dinner time.
Sometimes, I feel like I travel, in order to eat… That is, I walk around for the sole purpose of working up an appetite. Sigh.
Surprisingly, I didn’t stumble across any ramen shops simply by strolling around, so I had to resort to searching “ramen” on Google maps. This is how I found Sen no Kaze (translated 1000 Winds).
You have to get to this ramen shop by getting off Teramachi street, and going into a backstreet. I thought it was going to be an obscure local spot because of its hidden location, but how wrong I was.
Super tourist-aware door flap: “NO. 1 in Kyoto. NO. 1 in the World. Kyoto Style. Kyoto Taste”. Humble much? Menu by the door has full explanation of each ramen in English.
There are signs in English at the front, instructing that you must enter the shop first and get a number. You might be seated right away if there are spots open, but otherwise, you get a wooden plaque with a number on it.
It was a father, mother, daughter team running the shop. The father and daughter speak enough English to give you your number, tell you how long of a wait it is, how many people are waiting before you, etc.
This place is so popular that there is almost always a wait. I went at 5:30pm on a Thursday, and I became the third person in line. The first two in line get seats inside the shop to wait, and the third or later have to sit outside the ramen shop.
I was customer #12. They have portable chairs and heaters outside the shop, as it was pretty chilly in mid-March.
I was provided a thick menu book to peruse while I waited. It had pictures of all their offerings and translations in English and Korean. From what I saw, 90% of the customers were tourists.
After a 30 minute wait, I got a seat at the bar. The have a table right by the door, a long seating bar that covers the entire kitchen, and some more tables at the back. It’s a good-sized ramen shop, but it wasn’t big enough for how popular it was.
I ordered their spicy miso, and wait for another 20 minutes. It was cool to see the mother-daughter duo (I saw the father leave while I was waiting) mass produce piping hot bowls of their prideful Kyoto style ramen. They were wearing matching Western-style outfits and straw hats.
Finally, my bowl of spicy miso after a 50 minute wait!
This place is famous for their underseasoned soup and freshly re-fried char siu that supposedly melt in your mouth. Ermahgerd, so exciting.
Spicy Miso, 950 yen. Bit more expensive than other places, but you get a whole egg (the egg wasn’t seasoned. Probably explains why it was only 20 yen extra instead of the usual 100 yen), three hearty slices of char siu, and a lot of parboiled bean sprouts, which most ramen places do not provide as a standard topping.
Itadakimasu…The men (noodles) is of the very thin variety, which makes sense. They say the milder your soup, the thinner your noodles should be, so that more soup clings to the noodles.
It wasn’t my favorite bowl of ramen, but I’m glad I tried it, despite the 50 minute wait. This was the most clean-tasting ramen I had in Japan. You could drink the soup, without writhing in worry from all the salt you could feel yourself consuming. The soup had pieces of ground beef (it definitely didn’t taste like pork to me) that added flavor and texture. I liked that they provided a mound of bean sprout that added some chew. The char siu was pretty darn great, as rumored.
I am a big fan of really thick tonkotsu, so this tasted too mild for me. However, I can see how some people would appreciate the softer, more elegant taste. It would also be a great intro ramen for those just starting to get into it.
Being back in Toronto now, I would be more than happy to have another bowl of this if I could… I miss having easy access to amazing, soulful ramen wherever I went!
When in Kyoto, try Kyoto ramen!!!