Menbaka, a Kyoto ramen shop, is famous for its signature dish, a literal fiery bowl of noodles (seriously it’s on FIRE).
A Kyoto ramen shop popular with the locals and tourists, they have non-meat options for vegetarians as well.
So, what exactly is this “Kyoto fire ramen”? How does it taste? We set out to find out just that.
- Table of Contents
- What kind of place is this Menbaka - Kyoto Fire Ramen?
- What kind of heat Kyoto fire ramen packs
- Finally! A first look at the Kyoto Fire Ramen
- What kind of taste does Kyoto fire ramen have?
- Why fire ramen?
- Vegetarian alternatives also available at Menbaka Ramen
- Anything on the side?
- Book a table now!
What kind of place is this Menbaka - Kyoto Fire Ramen?
Menbaka is located some 10 minutes away from Nijo Castle, with the image of a bowl of Kyoto ramen on fire at its doorstep. It sits snugly along the Marutamachi-dori, with the closest bus stop being the “Marutamachi Chiekouin” bus stop. Taking the city bus will get you there from Gion or Shijo Kawaramachi straight to the establishment without needing to transfer rides.
The establishment used to have table arrangements along with counter seats, but they renovated to only have counter seats in 2019. The old wooden counter seats were swapped out for stainless steel tables which are more fire-resistant so customers can have a safer and fuller experience with their flaming bowls.
Entering Menbaka Ramen, the owner greets with a smile, “Where are you from?” About 80% of the store’s customer pool are foreigners, and so there’s always an English-speaking staff around on all days. The menu is also available in English, making communication here buttery smooth.
What kind of heat Kyoto fire ramen packs
While the flavors are great as expected, the fire ramen’s signature is unabashedly the flaming pillar that rises from the bowl. It’s such an iconic element to the bowl, many customers have been drawn to Menbaka Ramen after seeing videos of it on the establishment’s website.
The fire ramen comes only in one variation. Once you place your order, the owner will give a short safety briefing. His instructions such as “the bowl is going to be very hot, so avoid touching it” and “place your hands behind you and avoid standing up” are also written in point-form on a memo, so foreign customers can rest easy. Moreover, paper aprons are available so that customers do not sully their clothes, this small gesture reflecting the conscientiousness of the establishment.
Of course, what would this experience be without having a video of it to remember by? Using your smartphone to take a video with the flames right in front of you is a bad idea, but you can get the staff to mount your phone on a hanging stand to take a video for you in the kitchen.
Because your phone will be hanging from the kitchen, it’ll be able to capture your expression perfectly when things start to heat up. Taking a commemorative photo with the finished bowl of ramen is also another enjoyable experience.
Finally! A first look at the Kyoto Fire Ramen
Finally, we received our special Kyoto ramen. The soup base is a mix of seafood stock and chicken bones with a dash of soy sauce, with the thin noodles boiled swiftly to give it a nice bite. To complete the dish, slices of chashu and Kyoto’s own famous brand of “kujo scallions” are layered on thick.
This particular brand of scallion is crisp and has a stronger sweetness as well as high water content that makes it suitable even as a salad. Even as it is right now, the dish looks like a proper bowl of scallion ramen.
Inside the kitchen, scallion oil is being heated up to be dashed on top of the ramen. Scallion oil is made by deep-frying scallions to add an aroma to it, used in Chinese cuisine as well to add flair and fragrance to their dishes.
The pot used to boil the scallions is also uniquely fitted with spouts, to make pouring easier. By pouring the oil on the ramen, the scallion oil reacts with the scallion and soup’s water content, resulting in a fiery pillar bursting out, thanks to the scallion oil being heated up to more than 300 degrees Celsius.
Prepare yourself while waiting expectantly for this blazing moment.
“Are you ready?” says the owner just before he douses the ramen with the scallion oil to create a pillar of flame!
For a better impression of the impact, do check out the videos! The latter half of the video was taken from the kitchen by the staff.
What kind of taste does Kyoto fire ramen have?
Finally, we get to taste the actual ramen. The soy sauce base was surprisingly light. The kujo scallions were also extremely fragrant thanks to the fire, and the scallion oil’s aroma stirs the appetite. The bowl is extremely hot due to the flames, so take care to avoid touching it as you eat.
We interviewed two other ladies who were in the restaurant having a bowl of noodles as well. The two ladies in their 20s came all the way from Singapore, and they told us with a smile, “The fire was really amazing! We saw a video of this on the internet but seeing this yourself firsthand is really a different experience. Feeling the heat on your face was really surprising!”
As expected, seeing the fire through a video and experiencing it yourself is a world of difference in impact.
“It was so good we finished the entire bowl. The aroma of the scallions after the fire was really fragrant” adds on the pair. Evidently the taste of the ramen doesn’t lose out either.
Why fire ramen?
This Kyoto ramen was born from the owner’s simple desire to create ramen with his beloved kujo scallions. However, using a lot of cold scallions as toppings would result in the ramen becoming tepid.
Thus, he came up with the idea of using a burner to scorch scallion oil, but even though it made the scallions warm, the noodles were left for too long and stretched… Regardless, the owner was insistent on using kujo scallions to serve piping hot ramen!
So, after trial and error, he came up with the idea of topping the Kyoto ramen with scallion oil, which resulted in the birth of fire ramen. The fire isn’t just for show and was born from the owner’s sincere desire to serve delicious ramen.
Vegetarian alternatives also available at Menbaka Ramen
Since 2020, Menbaka Ramen has introduced an authentic vegetarian menu. It doesn’t stop at just asking for no chashu: you can ask for a variety of alternatives like the soup base to be replaced with vegetable stock instead of chicken, or the chashu to be swapped with fried tofu at no cost. Vegetarians can visit Menbaka Ramen at ease to enjoy the Kyoto ramen.
Anything on the side?
Lastly, set menus are available which come with Menbaka Ramen's original tin badges. The special set (2,260-yen) is a full-course option that comes with scallion ramen, fried rice, gyoza, karaage and an original badge.
The badges come in both Japanese and English, and you can choose which design you want. The ones in Japanese are also popular, and many customers buy the set as a commemorative item to remember their experience here.
Kyoto fire ramen, packing a punch in both thrill and flavor. Payment options are extensive, including credit cards (except for UnionPay), Alipay, and WeChat Pay.
“I hope more people come and experience the impact of the fire in front of their eyes firsthand,” says the owner Mr. Nishihara. The restaurant is also conveniently located within walking distance to one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist locations, Nijo Castle. Why not pay a visit to this exciting ramen restaurant after some sightseeing?
MENBAKA - Kyoto Fire Ramenめん馬鹿
- Address Sasaki Bld.1F, 757-2, Minamiiseyacho, Kyoto Shi Kamigyo Ku, Kyoto 〒602-8153
- Phone Number 075-812-5818
Operating Hours: 11:00 - 22:00
Text by: Niki Shigemi
Book a table now!
The friendly staff at the Kyoto Restaurant Information Center by Gurunavi are happy to help you choose where to eat in Kyoto, plus book your table for free!
We also recommend these ramen restaurants in addition to those above.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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