One of the differences between a restaurant chain and an independently owned restaurant is that the latter tolerates — even encourages — eccentricity.
Kobushi, a popular ramen joint near Kyoto’s municipal market can dress as it pleases, which might explain why there is a working Honda motorbike parked in front of the cash register, where another table could easily accommodate more customers. The male staff also have a thing for wearing hats — the more ridiculous the better.
None of this adds or subtracts from what Kobushi does best: shōyu (soy sauce) ramen. The bike and the hats are part of the restaurants personality. Kobushi has won a heap of awards and in the evening there’s often queues.
The two house specialities, Koi and Awa, are made from fish bones and soy sauce stock. My preference leans toward Awa, which uses a lighter blend of soy sauce, is slightly less briny and has a clearer broth than Koi.
Besides the al dente noodles, there’s a lot going on in this gourmet bowl of ramen. First there are the vegetables: thinly sliced red onions, scallions, spinach — an uncommon but worthy addition — and menma (fermented bamboo shoots). Then the meat: chashu (roasted pork loin) served with a slice of chicken breast, again another uncommon addition. While the chicken doesn’t have the same umami value as the pork, much like the Honda, it’s not out of place.