Monday, January 18, 2016

Koganeya in Kyoto -- "Ichiban" Ramen in the basement of Avanti Mall

Right behind Kyoto Station is unprepossessing Avanti Mall.  Take the underground walkway and emerge at Basement 1 where the mall's restaurants are.  While there are different types to choose from -- izakayas, a barbecue wagyu place,  a soba restaurant, an Italian pasta place ... it is the ramen place called Koganeya that is a hidden gem.

Avanti is a no frills, no fuss mall frequented more by locals than tourists.  The basement where the eateries are is about as basic as you can get.  You'll find Koganeya at one corner near the escalator.

There are no english menus but the board at the entrance is easy to understand. 

This is the omnipresent vending machine where you choose and pay for your food.  
Because there are photos of the various dishes and beverages, ordering is easy. I asked the 
waiter what their "ichiban" or number one ramen was and he recommended the 800 yen 
tonkotsu ramen.   I don't normally like milky tonkotsu ramen preferring a clean, clear broth 
but since I asked,  I had to take his word for it.

We came in at a bit early for dinner so we had the place to ourselves.  

Koganeya has a much bigger space than any of the restaurants in Ramen Koji in Kyoto Station.  
The open kitchen is centrally placed so you can see it  from almost anywhere you sit in the restaurant.

The waiter spoke a little english and came by to pick up our order stubs.  He asked how we 
wanted our noodles -- normal, hard or harder but quickly suggested that the harder noodles were 
the preferred option.

When my ramen bowl came out,  I found it so kawaii that there was a small sheet of nori printed with a multi-lingual thank you note on top of the soup.  

The nori of course is edible and after I had dissolved it into the broth, I took a sip of Kogenaya's ichiban tonkotsu ramen.  
This has got to be one of the best tonkotsu ramen I have tried --  no, change that, this is one of the best ramen that I have ever had!  
The broth was dense, deep, delicious and tasted of long simmering pork bones.  There were 
small drops of an oily black soy sauce which did not  distract from the broth's complex pork taste.
The garlic was not overpowering.  The ajitama eggs were perfectly cooked.   
Blend a bit of the yolk with the noodles and broth for a  creamy umami explosion in your mouth.

In addition to the ramen, Jay and I split a chashu don.  The pork slices were soft and succulent and melted in the mouth.   A bit of ichimi togarashi or pepper flakes  sprinkled on the soft runny egg yolk did wonders to kick up the flavour.  Mix everything up with the rice and it makes a good side dish to the tonkotsu ramen.

Cheers to Koganeya Ramen!  You should have a space in Ramen Koji where the best ramen restaurants are.  But for my purely selfish purposes, I much prefer that you are unexposed to the tourist crowds, undiscovered in the basement of Avanti Mall.

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