The Internet has made some of the biggest modern celebrities out of the most regular of people, doing the most regular things. The same can be said of how Instagram has turned some of the most incredible hidden food gems into #FoodPorn sensations.
The alleyway where Youshokuya Kichi Kichi Omu Rice can be found
Kichi Kichi Omu Rice (洋食屋 キチキチ) is one of those restaurants that became a sensational discovery after one traveller posted a video of Chef-Owner, Chef Motokichi Yukimura, doing his “thang”, whipping up a plate of the fluffiest, most video-ready plate of omu rice the internet has ever seen in his small Youshokuya (Western-style restaurant) in Kyoto. The restaurant was founded in 1978, but only gained cult status in the recent few years.
This red sign is what you’re looking for
I actually spotted a video of the famed omu rice on Instagram, not once, not twice, but a couple of times over the past two years and I was just wringing my hands that I never knew about it sooner to be able to work it into my itinerary during my 2014 trip to Kyoto. This trip, I intentionally created a stopover in Kyoto, even though I had no plans to visit, just to have dinner at Kichi Kichi Omu Rice. Yes, I was that determined. I even made sure I made reservations prior to flying to Japan. I would leave nothing to chance!
We’re early to the restaurant and spotted two other early birds who like us were anxious to get there in time to secure their reservation
The restaurant isn’t a place you’ll stumble into easily. It’s hidden in one of the many alleyways in Nakagyō-ku and you practically have to want to find it in order to do so.
We visited at the earliest reservation slot for dinner at 5pm, because all other slots were booked when we tried to make a reservations about a week or so out from when we wanted to head there.
We made every effort to be early, knowing that the restaurant has been known to turn away patrons with reservations who arrive too late. (The maximum time they’ll hold for a reservation is 15 minutes.) If that sounds a little strict, you’ll have to understand, this place is literally a tiny hole-in-the-wall. There are probably eight-seats at the bar counter and a small group dining area at the back.
We spotted a group of fellow Singaporeans and another couple from Hong Kong, waiting for the restaurant to open.
The interior of Youshokuya Kichi Kichi Omu Rice
We have a reservation.
That was all the English speaking staff needed to hear and we were asked where we were from. The staff then informed Chef Motokichi that we were from Singapore. I found it interesting that staff made it a point to let him know where his diners were from.
Just as we hung up our jackets and sat down at the bar table in front of the open kitchen, we heard the footsteps of two other people entering the restaurant. Two women had decided to visit without a reservation. A flurry of exchanges occurred between Chef Motokichi and his staff member, but unfortunately they were unable to accommodate and staff apologetically explained that the were full. It was then that I realised that it was a good call for us to have made sure we got ourselves a reservation. I’ve heard great stories of people getting lucky and walking in at the right time, but as we observed that visit, not everyone can get as lucky.
Making A Reservation
Visit the Kichi Kichi Omu Rice website and make a reservation.
What do the symbols all mean?
- ○ (Circle or Maruまる) – Available
- × (Cross or Peke ペケ,) – Unavailable
- △ (Triangle or Sankakuさんかく) – Almost Full
Click on your preferred available slot. The △ usually means that they are filling fast, so if you have a bigger group, you may get an alert after you’ve filled up and tried to submit the reservation form that there are unavailable slots for your party.
If you have dietary preferences, please input that into the form. I only just found out that Chef Motokichi can do adjustments to his menu items if a certain ingredient cannot be taken by guests.
Chef Motokichi plating the fried rice in demi-glace made of beef stock
Before it was 5.15pm, the restaurant was full and that’s when the performance began.
Each step from the frying of the rice with butter to the addition of a new ingredient was accompanied by instructions in Japanese and deft theatrical movements.
Chef Motokichi explaining what he was doing with the omelette for the omu rice
A flick of the wrist and the rice is tossed.
Firm pats on the fist, and the omelette jumps little by little in the pan.
He puts on a real show with such pizzazz and pride, drawing his diners into his world by always keeping them engaged even if in a different language.
The Performance Art of Omu Rice
Before you can look away, it’s yet another “stunt” and another. Then as you’re completely spellbound, it’s “time” as Chef Motokichi gingerly places the omelette onto the plated fried rice. Gently and quickly, he slices it open and the omelette “blooms”, unfurling and spilling out into a marvellous “inverse omelette” showing off its perfect texture while enveloping the fried rice.
I could not help myself from gaping each time he sliced open each omelette. I watched every single time he did it.
One word: Amazing
The skillful masterpiece
I went for the full-sized Fluffy Open Omelette over the Fried Rice ふわふわ卵の逆さオムライス(¥2,700). There is also a half-sized version going for ¥1,450. Kichi Kichi Omu Rice was one of my pricier meals and I went in fully aware of how much I would be spending on dinner.
I found the omelette rice tasty and definitely full of fresh ingredients. The egg itself was marvellous and while some reviews have mentioned that the demi-glace is a little bitter, I actually enjoyed it.
Of course, don’t come here expecting a Michelin star dish. I found the omu rice rather delicious but not particularly mind-blowing. However, what really made the entire dining experience memorable were Chef Motokichi’s frying pan tricks, personable and cheerful nature along with his desire to entertain. He not only welcomes cameras, but also makes it a point to pose for them.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a similar experience in a country as reserved as Japan where in some popular restaurants, chefs are known to actually frown upon patrons whipping out their cameras and find it disrespectful to their craft.
Happiest chef I’ve ever met up close
Right before we left, Chef Motokichi popped his head out from a little space between the kitchen and the front door and offered us a firm and hearty handshake and smiles all around, complete with yet another photo opportunity – of him with a thumbs up and wide grin.
He definitely knows what it takes to keep in the (internet) public eye.
Kichi Kichi Omu Rice 洋食屋 キチキチ
〒604-8017 京都府 京都市中京区材木町185-4
604-8017, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Zaimokucho 185-4