Ino’Ichi, Kyoto.

May 2016.

We had some problems with the Michelin guide here in Kyoto. But this wonderful little noodle house was not one of them.  A “bib gourmand” listing, it satisfied fully. Eventually finding it in spite of Google Maps’s imprecision, we joined a lineup of six or eight people out front at 12:15.

It’s a tiny place, specializing in ramen which we hadn’t yet tried here. An enthusiastic young guy came out and reassured us it wouldn’t take long, gave us a simple menu and took our order as we stood in line on the sidewalk. Eventually inside, the smell was inviting and the vigorous atmosphere reassuring. There are exactly 10 seats, six of them at the bar watching the chef. There’s a staff of three, our front-end man, a sort of rover who seated people, cleaned tables, and physically assisted the chef. These two cheerfully did their best to speak English. The chef manned a tight but magnificently efficient and clean boiling and grill setup, covered by a big quiet stainless hood.

The three main ramen bowl choices were pork, chicken or beef for lunch. There were other à la carte items and additions available. We went for pork and chicken, one each. These were handed down over the bar in deep bowls, smelled of the clean rich stock and vegetables, and were way beyond simple noodles and meat in soup. Everything floated in what seemed to be pork stock, but the chicken dish may have been done in its own soup. Chopped soft vegetables including onion, garlic, daikon radish, scallions, sprouts, and bamboo added flavour and variety, and Asian herbs added aroma. One could add nori, ouzu, and citrus zest. Pork and chicken were tender, fatty, gently simmered, loaded with meaty taste.

The noodles were simple wheat spaghetti-style, round and long, boiled to just-beyond-al dente Asian perfection.

What a treat. These three enthusiastic hard-working young guys kept this tiny clientele happy and probably fed better than most of us could appreciate. We drank a straightforward Japanese beer, and had another one but hurried in order not to slow them down. I don’t exactly remember the price but it was completely reasonable.

This is a dynamite successful effort by obviously energetic, smart, and ambitious young restauranteurs. I can’t imagine them staying with a ten-seat room for much longer. I won’t miss this place next time, if ever, I’m in town. Food 9.4, service 9.3, ambience 9.2, value 9.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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