Conveniently located just beyond Kyoto’s Nijo Castle, Menbakaichidai Fire Ramen defiantly stands out compared to the imperial city’s more traditional atmosphere.
Upon entering you’re greeted with a boisterous welcome from the charismatic staff and the surprisingly sweet aroma of charred kujo-negi (a type of green onion grown in Kyoto). With the daily influx of visitors over the past three decades, it’s surprising that the interior has aged so gracefully. The singed and slightly melted countertops, on the other hand, stand out as much as the restaurant itself. This serves as both a warning and an enticement for what is soon to come.
After ordering your fire ramen (see ordering details below), a bowl of ramen is placed before you with a mammoth helping of kujo-negi completely overwhelming the noodles beneath.This special ingredient is key to the ramen’s flavor and can’t be removed or substituted. After a final safety check, the staff will pour a small amount of scalding oil over the ramen which instantly erupts into a fearsome tower of fire. At this point, the ramen is more volcano than an entrée. As soon as it begins the theatrics come to an end and what remains is a flavorful bowl of ramen and happy customers (minus their, um, eyebrows… Just kidding!).
Although the presentation of the fire ramen attracts thrill-seeking, ramen-loving customers, it does serve a purpose.
Although the presentation of the fire ramen attracts thrill-seeking, ramen-loving customers, it does serve a purpose. Menbakaichidai has been serving ramen the same way since its inception and claims that when the kujo-negi are quickly burned with the oil they add a delicate flavor directly to the broth. Cooking the onions in any other way simply will not yield the desired results. If you’re still a skeptic see for yourself and have a memorable meal at the unapologetically bold Menbakaichidai Fire Ramen.
Know before you go
Menbakaichidai offers menus in several different languages, including English, Chinese and Korean. For your safety, there are rules that should be strictly followed: no pictures, stay seated “no matter what,” don’t touch the bowl and keep your apron on while eating, are all clearly stated before any fires are lit.
Although customers can’t take photos nor video while the ramen is being plated, the staff are well prepared and have a set up to take a video for you free of charge. Fire Ramen starts at ￥1,250; with rice ￥1,480; with rice and gyoza ￥1,690; and with rice, gyoza and fried chicken ￥2,150 (also comes with your choice of commemorative button.)
Please note, Menbakaichidai’s Fire Ramen is not vegetarian or vegan-friendly.