Fancy watching your ramen go up in flames before your very eyes? Or how about a side of dinnertime theatrics along with your meal?
Menbaka Fire Ramen in Kyoto is no stranger to both. Nestled deep in Kamigyo Ward to the north of Nijo Castle, the eatery has been serving up it torched ramen since 1985, when its founder discovered the fiery taste from combining green onion with extreme heat. Needless to say, the eatery opens to swarming queues of curious tourists right up to closing time!
The space itself is pretty small, with counter seating the only seating available – after all, who would want to miss out on the action? Although the sight of a snaking queue may compel you to dash for a space, don’t forget to get a ticket number from the machine in front!
With its extreme fire stunts and small space, it’s no wonder that Menbaka Fire Ramen follows a pretty strict set of rules. You’ll be given a paper apron to prevent oil spillage, and sitting with your hands crossed behind your back is mandatory.
No photo or video taking during the process, either, to prevent risk of burning! But don’t worry about missing your moment – the eatery is fitted with selfie sticks for you to place your phone. And with a hearty cry of “No Ramen, No Life!” it’s time to star the show!
Be warned – the fire is legitimately hot, so hot that I felt tears streaming from my eyes seconds after the moment passed. The breath-taking flames emanating from your bowl blossom towards the ceiling in a great, fiery cloud, leaving behind a thoroughly charred surface of green onions that cover the noodles completely.
Now for the moment of truth – the Fire Ramen (¥1, 350)! Combined with the intense heat, the topmost layer of Kyoto-grown green onions give off a distinct, charred note that enhances the flavour of the ramen. So it’s not purely for show; the billowing cloud of flames do serve a purpose!
While it’s oh so satisfying to slurp up ’em charred noods and green onions, the burnt taste does dissipate rather quickly once you get past the top layer. It’s still a pretty tasty treat, especially if you queued out in the cold like I did!
A top of ¥240 – ¥450 gets you additional sides including fried rice, gyoza, and fried chicken – quintessential additions to a typical ramen meal in Japan. If you want something more to remember your meal by, the Special Set (¥2, 260) gets you all three sides and a Cool Badge featuring Menbaka’s founder!
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in traditional Kyoto, Menbaka Fire Ramen is a noteworthy spot. You can even combine it with a visit to the neighbouring Nijo Castle. Can’t wait to see how they replicate the experience when they open their first Singapore store in April 2020!
Address:757-2 Minamiiseyacho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-8153
Nearest Station: Marutamachi Station
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm daily
Contact: +81 75-812-5818