Kyoto Style Ramen and Yatai ‘Night Stand’ Culture: Samata Ramen — CLOSED

Samata Now Closed. This place is still a ramen shop but looks pretty unkept from the outside so I haven’t ventured in to check it out.

In addition to having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in one city, Kyoto is a university town. Ten percent of the population of Kyoto are students, so there are a lot of ramen shops in Kyoto. Most of these shops offer conventional tasting ramen or are part of national chains and are not Kyoto style. We know of a few authentic Kyoto-style ramen shops that we would like to introduce here on OpenKyoto.

SHARE! Kyoto Support Topic: Great Ramen Shops in Kyoto

Ramen of course came to Japan from China and while there are various regional styles and tastes for ramen, you can’t find Kyoto-style ramen in other cities like Tokyo. You can find Kyushu, Hakata, Hokkaido style ramen all over Japan though, including Kyoto.

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Samata Ramen Night Stand, circa 1980’s (poster detail)

Night stands, called yatai in Japanese, are a common sight in much of Asia and are still seen in Kyoto, but they are a culinary species doomed for extinction. Ramen stands are carts that contain both service counter and kitchen, and of course are mobile. Running a ramen night stand isn’t the best line of work these days though and they are disappearing.

Samata is a ramen shop that up until 10 years ago was a ramen cart night stand along Oike Street; near the Zest underground shopping center, Teramachi Shopping Arcade and the Kyoto City Hall. While I never ate there, I recall seeing it when I first turned up in Kyoto as a grad student.

Due to various circumstances Samata decided to change business models and establish a restaurant. Samata is now located near Doshisha University on Karasuma Street just south of Kuramaguchi Station on the Karasuma Subway Line.

I ordered the Oike Ramen and Kakunin Donburi. The ramen was not too rich as is often the case with Kyushu style ramen. The kakunin of course was very rich, but two pieces, with rice and scallions, was just about right. Both dishes were very delicious.

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Kakunin Donburi and Oike Ramen

The soul of ramen is the soup, and Kyoto is a ‘dashi’ (broth) town, so you need to have some truly special soup for your ramen if you are going to qualify as being authentically ‘Kyoto’. Samata more than hits the mark with ingredients for their soup that are indeed unique: chicken wings, chicken neck, chicken leg, pork bone, beef tendon, shiitake mushroom, kombu (kelp), dried mackerel flakes, dried baby shrimp, vegetables, Japanese sake, unsweetened evaporated milk and skim milk. They say that the use milk as a kakushi aji , or hidden taste. You probably wouldn’t recognize the taste of milk but it does add complexity and uniqueness. The taste of the soups is rich and complex, but refined and subtle. It qualifies as ‘Kyoto’.

The broth, while subtle, was quite unlike any that I have had previously. I thought that this was a very ‘Kyoto’ style ramen.

My only criticism is of the ramen noodles. While not bad, I thought that they were run of the mill, nothing to write home about.

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Oike Ramen

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Oike Ramen

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Kakunin Donburi: Simmered Pork Belly

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Kakunin Donburi: Simmered Pork Belly

The restaurant interior is wonderful as it draws on the history of Samata Ramen with a very theatrical seating arrangement obviously inspired by their night stand ramen cart, complete with bare light bulbs.

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Samata Ramen Interior ‘Night Stand’ Cart Table

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Samata Ramen Interior Poster

Yatai 'Night Stand' Culture: Samata Ramen さまたらーめん

Samata Ramen Storefront

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2 Responses to “Kyoto Style Ramen and Yatai ‘Night Stand’ Culture: Samata Ramen — CLOSED”

  1. kat says:

    Hi, was wondering if Samata Ramen opens during the day? What are the opening hours? Any closing days? Thanks! :)

  2. Michael says:

    Hello kat,

    As of Jan 2012, Samata Ramen is open during the day. Please see below.

    lunchtime: 11:30am – 2:30pm
    dinnertime: 5:00pm – 12:00am
    Closed Tuesdays

    おいけらーめんさまたの店舗情報
    http://r.tabelog.com/kyoto/A2605/A260503/26004755/

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