Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

Kota Kinabalu Food Guide For Tourists – walking distance from Centrepoint: Yamagoya Ramen

People often argue that all the good Japanese restaurants are located outside the town area and you need a car to get there. Luckily for my readers – I discovered a good ramen place within walking distance for those who are staying around Imperial Boutech Hotel, Warisan Square, Centrepoint, Suria Sabah or Gaya Street areas. For this post – we travel to the Far East of Japan through Gaya street ~~ Yamagoya Ramen!



At the famed historical Gaya street, comes a new addition to the wide selection of eateries in this area; Yamagoya Ramen, serving the iconic Kyushu ramen from Japan. Ramen enthusiasts will know that, like laksa or tom yam soup, ramen is a pretty diverse dish and can differ from province to province; Kyushu, Hokkaido, Honshu and Shikoku.



Among these different styles, I have to say my favourite has been the Kyushu style ramen, which is distinctive via its rich pork broth and thinner than usual springy ramen The broth is different from other styles of ramen because of its rich, cloudy and hearty broth that’s mostly done with Tonkotsu (pork bone) to produce a deep, flavorful taste and it is balanced nicely with a beautiful layer of fat on top. The depth of flavor and richness of Kyushu ramen broth is definitely one to fill your tummies. To make this ramen even better, it is usually served with charsiu, thin slices of specially selected layered pork belly, slow braised for long hours, which melts in your mouth. I can say each sip of the distinctly heavier and flavorful Kyushu ramen broth, slurping the springy thin noodles while feeling the chashu melt in your mouth, was a fuel for my soul.



Yamagoya’s most popular ramen is the Mitsuya Ramen, which is Kyushu ramen with the works; served with one sliced soy sauced egg, Japanese bamboo shoots, kikurage (wood-ear mushroom) and green onions.



The soy sauced egg deserves a mention; with firm whites and custardy yolks, making it a perfect accompaniment to the ramen or even on its own! One can only imagine the amount of work and time to make sure these eggs come out perfectly marinated with the same custardy yolks every single time!



If you love the melt in your mouth sensation of the thinly sliced charsiu, you can order the Charsiu Ramen, which gives you more slices of charsiu – One simply does not say no to more delicious Charsiu – so …



You can order it as a side dish, and be welcomed to sight of charsiu, arranged like beautiful sashimi on a plate! OMG OMG OMG!! ATTACKKKKK!!!!



Yamagoya also has a great selection of alternative ramens such as their spicy Tobanjan ramen, curry ramen and the unique black garlic ramen. If you like a bit of added kick to your ramen, go for the spicy Tobanjan (though I admit it’s more on the milder side, but you can order extra Tobanjan for a price to bump up the heat rating), for some who love Japanese curry, you can go for their curry ramen, which is again a milder sweet curry.



The one that won the hearts of most is their black garlic ramen. The dark inky coloured broth comes from the smoked garlic infused sesame oil on top of the Kyushu style broth, giving it a fragrant aroma. For those with a preference for strong bold flavours like me, this is the one for you. Now here’s a good tip for you ramen eaters, after finish slurping your delicious thin noodles, you can order a bowl of plain rice and mix it with the remaining broth for a delicious finish to your meal!



There are also a range of other side dishes to complement your ramen experience. Popular side dishes such as their Gyozas; marinated minced pork filled dumplings, lightly toasted and steamed to give good lightly crisp texture of the skin.



Another clear favourite is their Pork Katsu; breaded pork cutlet, using specially selected cuts of the pig, to ensure a moist tender chop.



Yamagoya also has grilled pork and chicken skewers, though I lean more towards the fatty pork skewers with a good squeeze of lemon to balance the richness. There’s also their delicious crispy fried chicken and the popular Japanese restaurant favourite; Agedashi Tofu.



Simply Okonomiyaki – Simply Japanese style pancake ~~ thick fluffy goodness loaded with Japanese Mayo and that sweet salty sauce! Nom Nom ~~



A special mention goes to their Daigaku Imo; chunks of purple sweet potatoes, fried and then tossed in a sweet honey sesame glaze! An addictive snack!



To wash down our rich strong flavoured meal, Yamagoya offers quite a few refreshing options. You can go for hot refillable green teas to soothe the palette and aid digestion



or a good glass of iced cold Mugi Cha, which is roasted barley tea, better served cold. It has a toasty taste, with slight bitter undertones, but much less so than the Black Oolong tea which is available as well.



I also had the pleasure to try their zero proof Kirin Beer, which means non-alcoholic beer. For me, this is a great thirst quencher to match the typically greasy- saltier flavours of the Kyushu broths.




While dining in the restaurant, I noticed quite a number of Japanese customers frequenting the restaurant, which is a good sign of the authenticity of the food in this restaurant.  One might be put off with the slightly saltier and greasiness of this style of ramen but for most who enjoyed Kyushu ramen, this is the street food which started as a poor man’s meal and became a dish enjoyed worldwide. A simple pleasure is to have a nice warm bowl of Kyushu ramen with extra charsiu and soy sauced custardy eggs, a side order of Gyozas and Mugi Cha. To end, let me say my favourite Japanese phrase: Itadakimasu!

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Yamagoya Ramen is next to Party Play lifestyle café – another favourite place of mine to chill along Gaya Street. It’s a very easy 12 minutes walk from Centrepoint/Imperial Boutec Hotel. Along with other great dining establishments.

Yamagoya Ramen,

Lot 109, Jalan Gaya,

88100 Kota Kinabalu,


Tel: 088-253701

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