Shinpuku Saikan, Kyoto
Food/Drink | Avg price: ¥800 | English Available: None (Unknown)
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Black ramen at a super popular ramen restaurant in Kyoto
Shinpuku Saikan (新福菜館) ramen restaurant in Kyoto came to us as a recommendation from a Japanese business person who is a regular visitor to Kyoto as well as a regular visitor to Shinpuku Saikan. We were told with some considerable glee about the ramen's black soup, and the black chahan.
Despite a location just northeast of JR Kyoto Station, Shinpuku Saikan is located in an area that is somewhat off-the-beaten-path for Kyoto. The area and the restaurant have a very salt-of-the-earth kind of feel, much removed from Kyoto's temples and shrines. Anyway, once you're in range you should have little trouble finding Shinpuku Saikan - it'll be the one with the queue outside! At around midday on a Thursday we had to queue for around 15 mins to get into the restaurant. Don't expect anything from the interior here, it is functional at best. There are two floors. We were seated on the first, a fairly tight space that seats around 27 at petite tables and chairs. There's a small counter, too. The atmosphere is busy and no-nonsense - this isn't a place to hang around and chat. That said, service is honest, friendly and efficient.
Menus for Shinpuku Saikan are easily available in English. Essentially this place is about noodles, of which there are seven items that range from 550 - 1150 yen. All of them, as far as we could see, come with the famous black soup (made from soy). The fried rice / chahan (yakimeshi) is 500 yen. Beer starts from 350 yen.
This expat is no ramen expert but the dishes at Shinpuku Saikan were tasty and not too heavy (which I often find ramen to be). A side serving of chahan is also easily manageable.
It seems that there is almost always at queue at this place as such menus get passed down the line and as you approach the entrance a friendly chap will take your order. You'll then have to wait a short while inside before being directed to empty tables (or you may have to share with strangers). Pay at the table when you leave. There's a water cooler from which you can help yourself.
At the time of visiting most customers were Japanese but there looked to be some overseas tourists, too. All in, it was a pretty mixed crew.
Shinpuku Saikan (新福菜館) seems to have garnered itself a bit of fame and there should be no reason to feel shy or reluctant to come and eat here. They have a website but it's in Japanese only.
You can also buy packs / boxes of the ramen from Shinpuku as omiyage for around 1,000 yen (three packs inside I think). The same is also available at one of the gift shops in Kyoto Station (after you go through the Shinkansen ticket gates) for a few yen more.
Maybe the best way to access Shinpuku is to head out of the main exit of JR Kyoto Station (the one that fronts Kyoto Tower). Turn right onto the main road (Shiokoji Dori), keep going past the Dormy Inn hotel (on your left) and then turn right at the next crossroads. Shinpuku Saikan is around the corner on your right.
Hours: 07:30 - 10:00