Kichi Kichi ya ya da da…

A classic of “yoshoku” (western-influenced Japanese cuisine) is omurice. This is essentially an omelet-style fried egg draped over a large scoop of rice with meat and vegetables that are all typically seasoned with ketchup.

It’s a simple meal often enjoyed home-cooked, but there are also restaurants that specialize in the dish. And then there’s Kitchi Kitchi in Kyoto which has elevated cooking omurice to a performance art and has earned a worldwide reputation for it.

I was lucky enough to get a coveted seat at the counter of this hugely popular dinner show and meet the sole founder and head chef, Yukimura Motokichi. I arrived around 3 p.m. to have a chat with him a few hours before opening and there were already about a dozen people who had made reservations lined up in the hopes of getting into their prefered slot among those available hourly between 5 and 9 p.m. that evening.

If you make a reservation for a day, your best bet is to line up well before 3 p.m. for a good spot. And if you don’t have a reservation you can try your luck by swinging by around that time to scoop up any no-shows or cancelled spots. It’s tough though and I saw a fair number of people get turned away because there just wasn’t room.

When I entered the restaurant, everyone was busy preparing for the evening, but Motokichi was kind enough to sit and talk with me for a moment. He told me about how he honed his unique omurice-making technique over 45 years of experience and took his show on the road to places like Australia and Indonesia.

He also proudly showed me his Certificate of Excellence from Tripper Guide for his consistently high reviews.

What struck me about Kitchi Kitchi was that the restaurant itself is incredibly tiny, with only a few tightly packed seats along the counter and a shared table in the back. But that seemed to suit what was about to take place there just fine.

I left to let Motokichi get ready and returned at about 4:40 that afternoon. Again, there was a lineup of people who had made reservations along with even more people who stopped by in the hopes of getting a last-minute cancelation or open seat. The staff came out and talked to everyone one by one to either tell them to come back later in the evening or give them a menu. Some were also told that they would have to share the table seats, but they all seemed perfectly fine with that and happy just to be able to get in.

Everyone who got into the 5 o’clock slot also made their orders while in line so Motokichi could prepare everything in advance. He told me before that even though about 90 percent of his customers are from abroad, he speaks very little English, but his staff is fluent and can easily handle English questions and orders.

Customers have to be very punctual when visiting too. If you arrive later that five minutes before the scheduled time, you probably won’t be let in. Everyone in my group was on time though, and we were all let in and shown our assigned seats. Motokichi and the staff were quitely preparing the side dishes like rice, bread, and pork cutlets.

That was just the calm before the storm, however. The main event here is the omurice and shortly after that the show began.

Here is the making of Kichi Kichi Omurice in full

Earlier that afternoon I asked Motokichi if he ever got requests from people to teach them his style of omelet making and he just gave me a strange look, saying that he shows everyone who comes in to the restaurant or watches his videos online how to do it. Sure enough, he did give a step-by-step explanation of how to cook the egg so that it does this.

He also shows off the tools of the trade, such as his specially designed omuchan frying pan and extra-sharp knives, that are all for sale and will increase your chances of recreating this magic. He seems to have a really keen sense of the heat from the fire and makes it look easy but it certainly seems like one of those all-in-the-wrist things that requires considerable experience so get right.

As you can see in the first video, customers can choose between either getting their omelet sliced with a knife so it delectably drools over the rice, or “flying style” in which Motokichi flips it from the frying pan onto the rice so that it pops open like a gently burst water balloon and achieves the same result.

Normally, omurice is considered a sort of kids’ food and often has a very sweet taste. Kichi Kichi omurice, on the other hand, uses a demiglasse sauce instead of ketchup for a more elegant and savory taste.

The sheet of egg on omurice made in most places is generally very good, but a little on the coarse and dry side. Kichi Kichi’s, however, was silkly smooth and unlike any I’ve ever had before. The rice also includes mushrooms and edamame to give it an outstanding texture overall.

I ordered a small sized omurice for 1,450 yen (US$10) but even that was a decent enough size that felt like a satisfying meal. The other great thing about omurice is that it’s incredibly easy to eat. All you have to do is shovel it in your mouth with a big spoon, so everyone in the restaurant finished up their meals rather quickly. This was fortunate since the next slot of reservations started from six o’clock.

I was beginning to think this was the end of the meal, but Motokichi wasn’t through yet. He called out to everyone, saying that it was time for a song. This would be the official Kichi Kichi theme song “Kichikichi Happy Omurice,” available on Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music, written and composed by Motokichi and Keizo Horiuchi with vocals by MMOH.

Though nothing beats a live performance sung by Motokichi himself.

After that, everyone settled their bills and Motokichi came out to personally thank everyone for coming and pose for pictures.

There was something very intimate about experiencing all this in such a small space, and everyone there really felt connected to the performance. I asked Motokichi what his thoughts were for the future of Kichi Kichi such as expanding to other locations. However, he’s the only person who does this kind of thing, so his goal is just to continue spreading the word about omurice to as many places in the world as possible.

His business card even has his job title down as “Evangelist of omelet.”

So, everyone who also wants to experience this one-of-a-kind dining will have to seek out his restaurant in the Zaimokuchu area of Kyoto and have a bit of luck on their side. The good news is that even though Kichi Kichi just celebrated its 45th anniversary and Motokichi himself is in well into his 60s, he still seems to be in better shape than me and will probably keep on flipping and slicing for a long time to come.

Restaurant information
The Yoshoku Kichi Kichi / ザ・洋食 キチキチ
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Zaimokucho 185-4
Hours: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Weekdays / Noon – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Weekends)
Closed Wednesdays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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