This ramen shop may be nameless, but it’s made a name for itself in Kyoto.
Ramen makes a seriously delicious and quick dinner. – image © Florentyna Leow
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants in Central Kyoto, so it’s difficult for restaurants to stand out from the crowd these days. Nevertheless, this nameless ramen shop has managed to attract a steady flow of customers by the sheer quality of its ramen. I’ve been here several times now, and it’s definitely what you’d call a hidden gem.
The nondescript looking staircase leading to dinner. – image © Florentyna Leow
There’s no identifying sandwich board or signage, so you’ll need to find the staircase that leads to this restaurant, which is located on the basement floor of a building just off Kiyamachi Street. The staircase is nondescript, even slightly dingy-looking.
A rather chic interior for a ramen shop. – image © Florentyna Leow
Open the door, however, and the space within feels more like a stylish cafe than ramen joint, with its industrial-chic white walls, concrete floors and interior greenery. Heightening this is the background music, which when I visit is some kind of dance-pop music that wouldn’t feel out of place in a club. Luckily, the music isn’t obtrusively loud or distracting.
Only 12 counter seats are available at this ramen joint. – image © Florentyna Leow
Even the ticket machine at No Name Ramen is a sleek technological upgrade to the many-buttoned versions you typically see at ramen shops – it comes with a touch screen! The only drawback is that there’s no option for English, so let’s walk through this together. This is the fun part about this restaurant – from the range of options, you can build and customize your bowl to suit your tastes. The first step is to insert some money into the machine.
The opening screen on the ticket machine. – image © Florentyna Leow
The first screen above shows you three choices of noodle bowls. From left to right, these are: ラーメン ramen, つけ麺 tsukemen and カレーつけ麺 curry tsukemen. Tsukemen refers to noodles served with dipping broth on the side, and curry tsukemen here means the dipping broth is curry-flavored. For our purposes today, we’ll order a bowl of ramen.
Building your own ramen bowl is super fun! – image © Florentyna Leow
The next step for your ramen is to choose the broth base. Once again, you are presented with three choices: 濃厚スープ thick soup, 重層スープ layered soup, and 淡麗スープ light soup. The thick soup really is viscous – the chicken carcasses forming the base of the broth have been simmered so long that they’ve disintegrated into a rich, viscous liquid. The light option, on the other hand, is a more delicate broth whereby chicken thighs have imparted their flavors to the stock through a gentle simmer. The layered soup, or what I like to think of as the Goldilocks option, is a blend of both thick and thin versions to make a balanced broth. I love this broth – it’s full of depth, but not overwhelmingly rich. This is what I’m choosing.
(Incidentally, if at any point you make a mistake or want to change your order, hit the bright blue button at the bottom right corner of the screen to start all over again.)
Photo illustrations make it easier to order. – image © Florentyna Leow
Whichever broth you choose, the next screen will take you to charshu options. Charshu refers to the roasted meat toppings for ramen bowls. Traditionally, this would be pork, but in this case you have a choice of 牛もつ beef tripe or 黒豚 black pork. Either option is delicious, but I personally have a soft spot for tripe.
Here’s where it gets slightly complicated – but never fear. – image © Florentyna Leow
On the next and final screen, you’ll see three rows of boxes.
The top row shows two boxes, which read ラーメンramen and 味玉ラーメンajitama ramen respectively. Aijtama refers to a flavored soy egg. This is one of the traditional ramen toppings, which not only makes for a more substantial bowl of ramen, but is also super tasty with the noodles. I never have ramen without an ajitama egg! Don’t forget to choose the size of your bowl: a normal-sized bowl is indicated by the character 並 nami, meaning regular; if you’re a little hungrier, the 大盛 omori button will net you a larger serving of noodles.
The second row indicates additional toppings – an optional, but highly-recommended extra. These are: 黒豚チャーシュー black pork charshu, もつチャーシューbeef tripe charshu, 牛すじチャーシュー beef cartilage charshu, 素揚野菜３種 3 kinds of deep-fried vegetables. All are JPY200 each. I love offal and it’s summer, so I’ve chosen extra beef cartilage and some vegetables.
The third row shows you rice-based sides you can have: 白飯 white rice, 卵かけご飯 raw egg on rice, and もつ丼 beef tripe rice bowl. To the right is a button for beer.
Once you’re finished, you can touch the large square button at the bottom right of the screen, which should be flashing bright green. This will prompt the machine to spit your change out. Have a seat at the counter and pass your ramen tickets to the staff, and wait. Serve yourself a glass of cold water while you wait.
Seasonings from left to right: ガラムマサラ garam masala, 山椒 sansho pepper, 一味 ichimi chili pepper and 胡椒 black pepper. – image © Florentyna Leow
In case you were wondering, cutlery, seasonings and napkins can be found inside drawers at the counter.
I can’t stop thinking about this bowl of ramen. – image © Florentyna Leow
Ramen is a quick, no-nonsense affair, and it doesn’t take long to arrive. But look: it is a thing of beauty. Ramen typically emphasizes meat and noodles, but I love that No Name pays equal attention and care to the vegetables that go into the bowl. The grilled negi (Japanese leek) which is included in the standard bowl, for instance, is an explosion of sweetness that almost brings tears to my eyes. A roasted cherry tomato tastes like pure summer. The beef cartilage is incredibly flavorful, so tender it collapses under my teeth. Uniting this noodle bowl is the broth, which here is a blend of thick and thin – with a little body and heft from the disintegrated bones, and deep, roasted chicken-y flavour. You could season it with a touch of sansho pepper if you like, but I already love it as it is.
It’s no surprise that little conversation takes place here, even with such chic, cafe-like surroundings which would normally encourage talking. This is a bowl of noodles that deserves your undivided attention.
You’ll definitely want to drink all the broth. – image © Florentyna Leow
No sooner have I drained the bowl to the last drop than I wish I could eat this bowl all over again. Unfortunately, one cannot linger long with ramen, and so I leave reluctantly. But my thoughts are of this bowl of ramen for the rest of the night.
N/A (No Name Ramen)
Name in Japanese:
B1, CEO Kiyamachi Building, 534-31, Ebisu-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Mon – Fri: 11:30～15:00, 18:00～22:00
Sat – Sun, public holidays: 11:30～15:00 (L.O.14:50) 18:00～21:00 (L.O.20:50)
Sanjo Station (Keihan Railway), Shiyakushomae Station (Tozai Line Subway)
Customer Reviews: Read customer reviews on TripAdvisor.
About Florentyna Leow
Florentyna Leow is a writer and photographer based in Kyoto, who has written for outlets such as Silverkris, ZenVita and Lucky Peach. Her interests include food, doors, and Thomassons. Her blog is updated here. She Instagrams regularly at @furochan_eats.
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