A short 10-minute walk from Shimogamo Shrine is “Iicho Ramen”, a store popular among Kyoto ramen lovers for its traditional Kyoto ramen. It is not a famous restaurant that is well known throughout the country, but it is a ramen restaurant recommended by locals, and in fact, many professional athletes and celebrities have visited the restaurant.
What kind of Kyoto ramen flavor is available at Iicho Ramen? I was curious, so I visited the restaurant one Sunday around noon. Among the many Kyoto ramen stores, this store is “recommended by locals,” so my expectations were at maximum before eating…
Although born in the Heisei era, Iicho Ramen is full of the retro atmosphere of the Showa era… Iicho Ramen is like this…
Iicho Ramen is located a little north of Kitaoji Dori, the main artery in the north of Kyoto City. It is a bit secluded and may be difficult to find, especially if you are coming from Kitaoji Station… I recommend using Google Maps on your first visit.
I was lucky enough to find three counter seats available around 12:00 when I visited, so I was able to enter the restaurant without a wait, but all the seats were filled within a few minutes. When the restaurant is full, the system is to write your name in the name book at the front of the restaurant, so you don’t have to wait in line, which is nice.
Iicho Ramen was founded in 1998, so it is a bit early to call it a long-established ramen shop, but its storefront and interior give the impression of dignity. 1998 is supposed to be the Heisei era, but when you are actually in the store, you can feel the retro atmosphere of the Showa era wafting in the air. The rather cozy store space has 16 seats for customers, including an L-shaped counter for 8 people. I felt quite cramped with my business backpack, so it would be better to visit the restaurant without luggage as much as possible.
I tried the “Yakimeshi Set”, a popular menu item ordered by many of Iicho Ramen’s regulars.
This time, I ordered a set of soy sauce flavored chashu ramen and yakisimeshi (fried rice). The “Yakimeshi Set” seems to be a popular menu item ordered by many of the restaurant’s regulars, and in fact, almost all of the other customers I shared my time with that day also ordered the ramen with yakimeshi.
After about 5 minutes of waiting, a bowl of Chashu-Men (regular, price 1100 yen including tax) arrived…
The bowl is a size smaller than a typical ramen, and the volume is probably smaller than expected. However, the surface of the bowl is covered with chashu pork, so it is impossible to see what the inside looks like.
So, first of all, I scooped up the soup by pressing a bamboo whisk against the top of the chashu… As you can see, the soup is quite cloudy, and is made by boiling chicken bones and pork bones in a ratio of 7:3. When you take a sip, a mild soy sauce taste and deep animal flavor spreads on your tongue, followed a little later by the soft sweetness of the back fat. There is no unpleasant animal smell, and since there is no red pepper in the soup as in Ramen Sugiuchiyo, even small children can enjoy it.
However, this soup was quite lukewarm…to be honest, it was a bit “hmmm…” for my taste. I would be quite disappointed if I were served soup at this temperature, especially in the cold winter. However, the lukewarmness of the soup seems to have the effect of making the animal-based flavor seem even richer and richer. Is it possible that this soup is made at this temperature on purpose?
The noodles, on the other hand, are really like old-fashioned noodles, lightly absorbing the soup and releasing its flavor in the mouth. The noodles are cooked a little hard, and you can feel a little bit of chewiness in the chunky texture. The noodles do not have the full wheat aroma of modern ramen, but I feel that this is more Showa-esque and suits this ramen. If you want to feel the Showa-ness of ramen more strongly, you should not eat it in a hurry, but leave it for a while and slurp the noodle that is almost stretched out after absorbing the soup….
There were 10 pieces of chashu pork in total, though they were sliced very thin. When you put it in your mouth, you feel as if the meat is melting right away…this was unexpected in a good way. If you put the broth on this pork chashu and throw it into your mouth, you can enjoy a flavorful version of the broth that has more pork flavor infused into it. If you can enjoy this sensation 10 times, it is well worth the extra 300 yen to have chashu-men.
So, although there were some aspects of Iicho Ramen’s soy sauce-flavored chashu ramen that were not to my personal taste, I felt that the taste was enough to convince me that the ramen has a strong fan base. Among all the Kyoto ramen I have had, I don’t remember many that have such a mild animal flavor.
I was also a little concerned about the lack of volume, but for ramen, you can upgrade your ramen from medium to extra-large for only 100 yen more. Even with the extra-large portion, you can eat ramen for less than 1,000 yen, so if you have enough room in your stomach, you should probably choose the extra-large portion.
Yakimeshi (Fried Rice)
While I was slurping down my chashu-men, I finished my yakimeshi (regular, priced at 550 yen (tax included)). To be honest, the volume of this dish is also quite small compared to the yakisimeshi served at other restaurants. There was a customer next to me who ordered yakimeshi (large), and it looked about the same as regular fried rice. If you order a large portion of yakisimeshi, the price is 200 yen more…almost the price of ordering another bowl of ramen.
Aside from that, when you try this black fried rice… the rice grains break apart in your mouth, which triggers the release of the aroma of burnt soy sauce and the spicy aroma of pepper, which tingles in your mouth and your nose. Black fried rice that looks black is often surprisingly light when you eat it, but this fried rice tastes as exciting as it looks.
But the stimulation does not end there. The rice grains are also quite hard. Fried rice is originally cooked hard, but I think it is one of the hardest among them. It would be an exaggeration to say that I felt like I was eating a half-snack…that’s how hard the rice grains were. Was it just a coincidence that the rice was like that on this particular day? If this is the default rice cooking condition, I guess there are two sides to the story. The fact that it is quite hard makes it surprisingly satisfying, even though the quantity is small…
So, I am sorry to say that both the ramen and the yakisimeshi set of Iicho Ramen that I am going to introduce here are a little out of my taste…. However, the soup, with its mild animal flavor, stands out from other restaurants, and it is no wonder that some people say “this is the best Kyoto ramen”. If you are interested in old-fashioned Kyoto ramen, you will surely be satisfied with the ramen here.
Iicho Ramen’s complete menu (prices include tax)
- Ramen: Normal 800 yen, Large 850 yen, Extra Large 900 yen
- Shio Ramen: Normal 800 yen, Large 850 yen, Extra Large 900 yen
- Miso ramen: Normal 800 yen, large 850 yen, extra large 900 yen
- Yakimeshi: Normal 550 yen, Large 750 yen
- Rice 150 yen
- Kimchi 150 yen
- Chashu 600 yen
- Beer (medium) 600 yen
- Sake 500 yen
Chashu-men (fried pork) is an additional 300 yen on top of the ramen price. 100 yen will be deducted from the bill for a ramen and yakimeshi set.
How about taking your ramen and yaki-meshi home and having a relaxing lunch on the banks of the Kamo River? To get to Iicho Ramen, walk 15 minutes from the nearest station, Kitaoji Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line.
Iicho Ramen also offers take-out of ramen and yakimeshi. Normally, take-out is only available to those who live or work close by, but in the case of Iicho Ramen, it is a different story. Because the Kamo River runs about a five-minute walk from the restaurant, anyone can have lunch in a spacious and relaxing atmosphere on the riverbank. Along with Grill Hasegawa on the other side of the Kamo River, this is a good candidate for food procurement around the Kamo River. There is an additional charge of 50 yen for a container of ramen, but if you have the urge to slurp up ramen in the great outdoors, why not consider taking your own ramen home?
Here are the details of the restaurant. Check here for restaurant data…
Iicho Ramen Out of 5.
Address：70-10, Shimogamo-higashi-hangi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-0824, Japan
Phone number: 075-711-0141
Business hours: 11:00-15:15, 17:30-20:45
Closed: Thursdays (temporary closures may occur, please check the store’s X (formerly Twitter))
Parking: 4 spaces available in the parking lot 100m north of the restaurant
Credit card payment: not accepted (cash only)
From JR Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus No. 205 bound for Kitaoji Bus Terminal, get off at Prefectural University bus stop, and walk 3 minutes.
P.S. If you are looking for delicious ramen shop in Kyoto, please drop by this article below…