Okazaki area in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City. The area is home to Heian Shrine and the Kyoto Zoo, and is crowded with many tourists, especially on weekends. However, it is not only tourists who come to the area. There is an udon shop in this area that is highly rated as “the best in Kyoto,” and long lines form even on weekdays before the store opens….
Yamamoto Menzo｜Be prepared to wait even on weekdays! Kyoto’s No. 1 Udon restaurant with a long queue!
I visited Yamamoto Menzo around 10:00 a.m. on a sunny Sunday morning during the Golden Week holidays. The restaurant opens at 11:00 a.m., so I was there an hour earlier than that. Even so, there were already several people waiting in line outside the store, and about 10 customers who had arrived first thing in the morning were sitting inside the store waiting for the store to open.
Of course, customers kept coming in after that. It was not because it was a GW Sunday, but because even on weekdays, you have to be prepared to wait in line. If you come during lunch time, there is no guarantee that you will be able to enter the restaurant before the start of work in the afternoon…
In order to ease the congestion and shorten the waiting time for such customers, the restaurant gives out numbered tickets before the restaurant opens (the distribution time is usually around 10:00 a.m.). However, this numbered ticket system is unique and can be confusing for first-time visitors.
Now there is no more confusion! A complete explanation of Yamamoto Menzo’s unique numbered ticket system to make the most of your waiting time
Unfortunately, customers who are unable to enter the restaurant must wait in line outside the restaurant, but there are two lines, one on the restaurant side and one on the street side, with different purposes for customers waiting in line. The queue on the store side is for customers waiting for numbered tickets, while the queue on the road side is for customers waiting to be guided to the next store.
Therefore, when you arrive at the store, you must first stand in the store-side line to secure a numbered ticket. There will be a staff member at the front of the store, so tell him or her your name and the number of people in your party, and receive your numbered ticket. During the free time, depending on how crowded it is, you may want to open up a map and use it to explore the nearby Heian Shrine, Hosomi Art Museum, Gion/Yasaka Shrine, Eikando, etc. (a guide for exploring the area is also available: see the image below). When the time written on your numbered ticket approaches, you will return to the store and wait in line, this time on the street side, to enter the store.
However, there are a few things to note about these numbered tickets that you should know. First, the time written on the numbered ticket is a “gathering time,” not an “estimated time of entry”. Just because you arrive at this time does not necessarily mean that you will be able to enter the restaurant immediately. Even if you arrive before the set time, you will not be able to join the line, and conversely, if you arrive more than 15 minutes late, you will not be able to eat. When you enter the restaurant, you will be asked for a numbered ticket, so do not forget your numbered ticket when you get in line. Just because you get a numbered ticket does not mean that you have “made a reservation,” so please be careful with that.
This may seem like a bit of a strict rule, but it is unavoidable since the restaurant is extremely popular and there are many customers. Don’t bother the restaurant or other customers, and follow the rules to have a pleasant dining experience.
Thick, slippery, glutinous noodles and a clear bonito broth… Yamamoto Menzo’s udon is definitely worth waiting in line for!
This was my first visit to Yamamoto Menzo, but I managed to get in just in time for the first round, thanks to the fact that I had done my research in advance and lined up an hour in advance. The restaurant has a total of 18 seats in an austere space that was renovated from the owner’s grandmother’s house. I was guided to the counter and ordered the fried rice cake udon, which I was a little curious about from the menu, and the earthen burdock tempura, the specialty of this restaurant.
First, I started with the noodles, which the manager had traveled to Kagawa to learn how to make. The noodles are thick and long, with each noodle having a slightly different thickness and length, giving them a handmade feel. Unlike ordinary Sanuki udon, the noodles are soft and chewy, and they slide smoothly down your throat and settle in the stomach. It is hard to tell from the picture, but the amount of noodles is quite large, so unless you want to eat a big bowl of udon, it is not necessary to have a large bowl of udon.
In addition to the noodles, what I personally find remarkable is the udon broth. The broth is clear and clear, with a strong flavor of dried bonito broth, but without a hint of cloying taste. The fried rice cake that has fully absorbed the broth melts in the bowl, and when you scoop it into my mouth, the clear flavor of bonito broth spreads throughout my mouth together with the melted rice cake.
Usually, as one eats more and more, the flavor gradually becomes boring, but I never felt bored with this soup stock. I savored the flavor of bonito with udon noodles and fried rice cake, and when the rice cake was gone, I scooped it up with a bamboo skewer and poured it into my mouth, finally lifting the bowl and gulping it down.
Crunchy, crunchy, and slightly sweet burdock root tempura｜A popular menu item recommended by Yamamoto Menzou
One of the most popular menu items at Yamamoto Menzo is the Tempura of Gobo (burdock root), which many of the customers order together….
Although it is called “earth burdock,” it does not smell earthy at all. The burdock is freshly fried and crispy, but the texture of the burdock remains intact. The burdock’s flavor is revitalized by the heat, and the contrast with the curry salt gives the burdock a hint of its own sweetness.
Although I did not order it this time, the “Tsuchigobo Tenzaru” (burdock tenpura with zaru udon) is said to be the most popular. It has been introduced as a recommended menu item on TV programs, food logs, Gurunavi, and numerous blogs. It must be great to eat it with cold zaru udon noodles and beer in the hot and humid summer…
Another reason to keep coming back to Yamamoto Menzo: The service, which shows the personality of the handsome owner, is very popular.
Yamamoto Menzo is famous not only for its udon, but also for its excellent customer service. When a restaurant becomes this popular, it can become a conveyor-belt type of work due to the busyness of the restaurant, or it can offend customers with its arrogant attitude, but at Yamamoto Menzou, you will never have such an unpleasant experience.
For example, when I was eating warm udon and my face started to sweat, they offered me a hand towel cooled in the freezer, or when I was eating spicy udon, they proactively asked if the spiciness was okay. They often generously serve desserts, such as almond jelly, which is not originally sold at the restaurant.
And as I watched, it seemed that whenever a customer paid his bill, the handsome manager (a former volleyball player, apparently) talked to him in a friendly manner. At first I looked at the customers leaving and thought, “They must be friends or something…,” but then I realized that it was not the case, as he talked to me, a first-time customer, in the same way. He talked to me in a really natural way, as if he had known me for a long time. That makes me want to come back, doesn’t it? I will be a repeat customer.
My second visit to Yamamoto Menzo… If you want to get in right after the restaurant opens, you should come at 9:30 a.m.
So, I visited Yamamoto Menzo for the second time after the first visit. Learning from the lesson learned last time, I arrived at 9:30 a.m. This time, two customers were already waiting in the restaurant at that time. More customers arrived one after another. It seems that if you want to get there right after Yamamoto Menzo opens, it would be a good idea to arrive at 9:30 AM.
I sat in a round chair in the restaurant and looked at the menu until the opening time. However, on this particular day, I had decided on “Kyo Curry Udon” (priced at 950 yen), so I easily decided to order it. In addition, I ordered a small chicken tendon (priced at 500 yen), which I had been curious about while browsing the menu.
The small chicken tendon: a new sensation of coolness that comes late in the day from the bonito broth in the tentsuyu sauce! A dish that is too good to be left as a side menu item!
After the opening time, we were shown to our seats at the counter and had to wait for about 10 minutes. The first thing to be brought to us was this Chicken Sasami Tendon…
Three freshly fried chicken pieces of tempura in a small bowl. I looked inside them and…
The egg yolk is hidden under the chopped nori. You can crack open the yolk later and mix it with the bonito broth and tempura sauce…and enjoy the sticky yolk on white rice at your favorite time.
And the chicken tempura…crispy batter with soft and chewy chicken meat. So far, it was within my expectations, but later on, I felt a cool sensation spreading over my tongue…
Could it be that there is powdered sansho (Japanese pepper) in the batter? （No, it is not so strong as to numb my tongue, but there is a sensation similar to when I put sansho in my mouth. Well, it’s fresh – this taste sensation. You may try it with tempura at home.
Kyo Curry Udon: The spicy curry broth with a hint of cumin and the sticky noodles go well with it…
And just as I was almost finished with my chicken tendon, the Kyo Curry Udon arrived on the table…
A large bowl of curry broth is poured into the bowl. The thick noodles, deep-fried tofu, and kujo leeks, Yamamoto Menzo’s specialty, peek out from the surface.
First, a sip of the soup…a slightly spicy broth made from a Japanese-style broth with a strong bonito broth, curry powder, and spices. The bowl is filled with authentic curry broth with the aroma of cumin, and the soup is moderately thickened so that it blends well with the noodles.
The thick noodles, the pride of Yamamoto Menzo, are as glutinous as ever. Like the noodles at Sanuki Udon Ittetsu, a famous Sanuki Udon noodle restaurant in Osaka, the noodles are so firm that when you try to bite through them with your teeth, they push back against you. However, the noodles are not hard from the start, but rather they have a high degree of perfection, being both mochi (sticky) and firm at the same time. I would like to hear what people in Kagawa think of this noodle without any prejudice. No, seriously.
We ate the hot and spicy curry udon while sweating, sometimes taking a break from the crispy kujo leeks and sweetened fried bean curd…we finished the dish without leaving a drop of soup. The after-meal dessert of apricot jelly, which was served to us as a service, was especially sweet after the spicy udon noodles.
For those who want to enjoy Yamamoto Menzo’s handmade udon at home…take-out and local delivery are also available!
Yamamoto Menzo’s excellent handmade udon noodles can also be enjoyed at home. In fact, two doors down from the store is a take-out noodle store with a counter. It would be a good idea to eat delicious udon noodles and buy some souvenirs on your way home.
They also offer local delivery service, though shipping costs are not included, so you can enjoy their slippery, glutinous udon noodles anywhere in Japan.
Here are the menu and prices for take-out (for ordering)…
- Kake udon (semi-raw noodles): 630 yen
- Dashi soup (frozen 400 ml): 500 yen
- Cooked rice: 350 yen
- （Kake Udon 3-pack (for delivery): 1,890 yen
- (For delivery) Kake Udon 3-pack (boxed): 2,140 yen
Please enjoy the power of Kyoto’s No.1 udon store…Yamamoto Menzo is an 11-minute walk from the nearest station, Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto Municipal Subway.
Now, here is the details of the restaurant…
Address: 34 Okazaki Minami-Gosho-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone number: 075-751-0677
Business hours: 11:00-18:00 LO (11:00-14:30 LO on Wednesdays)
Closed: Thursday and the 4th Wednesday of the month (if the Wednesday is a national holiday, the restaurant is closed the following day)
Parking: Available (3 spaces available in a nearby coin-operated parking lot)
Credit card payment: Not accepted (cash only)
If you are heading there by bus, take the No. 5 line from Kyoto Station toward Sanjo Keihan and Ginkakuji, get off at the Zoo Animal Park bus stop, and it is a 2-minute walk.
Finally, Okakita, another famous udon restaurant, is located next to Yamamoto Menzou. The fact that both restaurants, both of which are so talented that they have both won Michelin Bib Gourmand awards, are located next to each other is either a very high level of excellence or a shame…
P.S. If you are looking for delicious udon noodles in Kyoto, please stop by this article below…
P.P.S. On the same street as Yamamoto Menzo, there is also a queue of Western-style restaurants…