Our Airbnb host had kindly provided us a guide to the local area, and starred all the restaurants he recommended- this was the only one with three stars so we had to try it. If you’re anything like me and plan your trip around recommendations on the internet, you’d never end up at this restaurant (search the name up on google and you’ll barely find a mention). About the tiniest ramen bar I’ve been to, Ramenso Chikyu Kibo inconspicuously tucked away within the quiet residential area of Fushimi (not to be confused with Fushimi Inari).
Blink and you’ll miss it.
There’s no signage to the restaurant, nor is there any type of fancy décor. When we first walked past it before they opened, we honestly thought it was a warehouse. And we probably wouldn’t have realised it was the restaurant we had on our itinerary were it not for the line of people outside!
Before you hop in line, order from the vending machine- we’d used a couple of these before at other ramen shops so we thought we’d be fine…..until we realised none of the options were in English. Since the only word I could really read was “pork” and “noodle”, which wasn’t particularly helpful in this situation, we took a random stab at the machine and ordered two of the dearer options thinking it’s probably be more interesting than the cheaper ones.
The machine spits out coloured plastic tags instead of tickets, with a different colour corresponding to a different ramen (there were a couple of people in line with the same colour as me so I figured I was off to a good start). As the waiter informs us, the shop sells large sized ramen- so if you don’t think you can finish it all, add a peg to the tag to indicate you want a smaller portion. You’ll probably want to add the tag, even if you think you’re hungry, because if you order the regular size, you have to finish it all!
The restaurant is mostly self-serviced- there’s a little shelf at the entrance where you grab your heated hand towels, chopsticks and water. Place your tag on the counter and your ramen will be served. Hopefully you will be hungry too…..
Because they were not kidding when they said their ramen were large!
For the regular sized ramen, the bowl is filled to the top with noodles, and then topped with a ridiculous amount of meat. Forget the two thin slices of chashu you usually get with your ramen- these are big, thick chunks of stewed pork, with enough pieces to cover the noodles completely!
Topped with enough garlic to give you garlic breath for a week (optional), the ramen was definitely not lacking in flavour! The broth was soy based, and not too heavy, such that the meat was what was giving it most of the flavour. The noodles are of the thicker variety and remind me of the maze soba I had in Osaka, although maze soba is dry whilst this one is in soup.
There’s only really two tourist spots we’re particularly keen to see in Kyoto, one being the red gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha, the other being the bamboo groves in Arashiyama. It’s my second time visiting and it’s interesting how much more details I noticed this time, for example these mini stone set models set up on the side of the path.
But food first! We love the little set up of small stalls right at the entrance of the bamboo groves and we’re eyeing all the ice cream options, given the warm weather.
We end up going for the super creamy soft serve, which is very reasonably priced considering its location!
We venture further in hopes of finding the perfect photo spot, without the crowds and end up stumbling upon this beautiful lake.
We’re back at Fire Ramen for dinner as they re-open at 6pm- it’s not quite as popular as we’d imagined, despite its high Tripadvisor rating, with only a handful of tourists when we arrived. We were imagining long queues but maybe having ramen lit on fire isn’t everyone’s thing.
No photos for this one, because cameras and fire are a no-no. The whole counter looks a bit oily and burnt, but they do take safety seriously, with a number of safety instructions prior to serving the ramen- almost like the mandatory safety demonstrations you get before a flight. All personal belongings are to be placed out of the way, aprons are given to protect clothes, hands are to be kept behind you and running away is not allowed. Any fringes need to be tied up, fountain style specifically (for the lols), and they even provide a selection of coloured hair elastics for this purpose. Talk about Japanese hospitality!
We opt for the ‘special set’ (2150yen) because it is the only one which comes with a ‘cool badge’. It also includes fire ramen, fried rice, gyoza and fried chicken but who really cares about that when you have a cool badge?
The fire ramen itself isn’t particularly special, a simple bowl of ramen topped with plenty of green onions. It’s a little on the salty side and quite oily after the fire, but we were really more here for the experience than the noodles. And what an experience it was to have your ramen light up in a massive flame only inches away from your face!