Dinner the first night was at a Ramen place called Ramen Kubota, not far from the Ryokan. It was a little pokey place, but very welcoming. One of the two very busy cooks came up to me as I entered and helped to to understand the system. You buy a ticket from a vending machine, then give the ticket to the cook.
The cook gives you a seat at the bar and you wait for your meal. Assuming, that is, that there’s a seat free. There was a long queue, but I took that as a good sign. At least I could tap my toes to the squealing Japanese synth-pop that was blaring out of the stereo. Think of Alvin and the Chipmunks meets the Cheeky Girls and you’re not far off. Once you do get a seat, you sit right up close to the action and can feel the heat from the cookers.
The cooks work at a frenetic pace. If they’re not mixing up a batch of soup, they might be loading the dishwasher. If they’re not scrubbing out the wok, they might be checking on the beef they’ve got going in the slow cooker. If they’re not doing that, then they’re boiling or straining noodles. They strain the noodle water out onto the kitchen floor and wear rubber boots.
The result: cold noodles in a chilled bowl, served alongside the most deliciously meaty and scalding miso broth I’ve ever had. You dip the cold noodles into the hot broth and suck them up noisily. At first, I was a little hesitant about slurping – after all, my mum and dad brought me up well! After a few minutes, I thought, “When in Kyoto…” and went for it!
Delicious, cheap and filling! I’ll be going back!