Raining Miso Showers ~
With the pouring rain outside I thought, nothing better than ramen cooked in warm broth. I choose to try out “Hakkaku Ramen”(info and link at bottom of post), based on it being the highest voted ramen place, that is not downtown, on Urban Spoon: 87%. Was only able to make a reservation because I was dining with a party more than 6. And was later embarrassed for making one because when we got there we were the only guests for about an hour. Had trouble finding the place as google maps directed us to Hastings and Boundary instead of its correct location at Wellingdon. I was late for my pointless reservation.
I went in very optimistic, hoping to find a great ramen place that did not require a trip downtown or an hour wait for a table. Between myself and my party we pretty much ordered everything on the menu, and no two people doubling up. Now that is how you strategize a meal.
The restaurant is old and definitely your typical out of style, hole in the wall. The tables were odd, leather wrapped with a sheet of glass on top; and the chairs had a pattern that reminded you of your grandmother’s kitchen dish towels. The only framed “art” on the walls were 15 x 18 sized framed photos of selected menu items. They hung slanted on the aposing walls. When we arrived for our reservation at 7:30pm the place was empty, but by 9pm all but one of the 9 sets of tables had been filled with bodies. The ages varied from late teens to late 40’s and tables were occupied by couples, groups and late lone diners. All the patrons were asian and a few Japanese. So I thought if Japanese guys come here for their ramen it must be the real deal.
I ate with a group of white folks. I always take pleasure in going to authentic Asian restaurants (food court Chinese food does not count) with white people and being the only Asian. I get to lead in ordering and recommend with absolute authority what is good. Its a power trip thing.
We started with some appies. Goyzas, nothing new or different form all those other places who orders pre-made dumpling; ones that you only need to fry in hot oil and serve. This dish was however lazy, each goyoza was attached to its brethren; and all still dripping with oil from not being dried off thoroughly.
We also had what they call a “chaushu burger.” Here is one of those dishes I order not to taste it, but because I think it will look awesome as a picture. (yup, pretty sad. If you don’t know me or get this comment read my ,”Into the Madness” post.) The burgers did not look like they had enough sauce. Maybe it was the low expectation I had going in for a bite, but this was surprisingly good. It actually had the right amount of sauce that boasted a unique flavor and was in good company with the fresh green onions. And the chinese “bao” (bun/bread) was soft and moist and it showed that it was properly steamed and not just microwaved warm.
We came to the conclusion that ramen is always served with pork because not only is it a cheap meat, it doesn’t over cook as easily as beef or chicken, and it does well to absorb the taste of the broth. This was a very important fact as with most of the dishes the broth was the only thing giving any ingredient flavour.
For the pork you were able to choose from pork shoulder which is a leaner cut of meat or pork belly which is more tender and fattier. For the broth your options were regular or a thicker, richer version. For both I choose the latter, I always believe if I am eating out and paying for this I want to go big. If you care about your calorie count when you eat out you are better off eating at home. I am sure this was saturated with much MSG as are most great Asian dishes.
Each bowl of ramen is served with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots green onion, and a couple had half a boiled egg.
We ranked the ramen as being more successful than another with the amount left in each of our bowls. Frenchy who is a very vanilla diner, does not eat seafood nor foods absent from his childhood; he got the safest bet: “Shoyu Ramen”, described as a well balanced soy sauce based soup. After he picked out everything but noodles and the pork he found the broth tasteless. He was unable to rectify this as there was no salt readily available on any table. He barely touched it and therefore this was the “worst” one.
Travis had the “Curry Ramen”, one of the more esthetically pleasing bowls, but at the end he had not touch 3/4 of the noodles. He found there was not enough curry taste and what little of it remained was in the soup broth. The curry powder coloured the noodles with yellow and zero with flavour.
Kristina ordered the “Shrimp Wonton Ramen” in a “smooth and light” soup. It was admirable that the shrimp wontons looked hand made, but that admiration fleeted as she found out they lacked any flavour other than shrimp. As with the others she too had to use her broth for any taste, but it was light and the regular so it fell a little short on the savory meter. She did however end up eating majority of it as she was hungriest.
James ordered the “Spicy Miso Ramen” and I the regular “Miso Ramen”. This being James’ first ramen adventure he really enjoyed the spicy taste and engulfed the entire bowl. At one point he commented on the taste getting stagnant, but he was able to perk it up with the additional chili paste that accompanied his order.
I was jealous of the bonus egg James got by ordering spicy, but I cannot stand the heat. Having been to both “Kinatro” and “Santouka” (2 of the more popular and busiest ramen places downtown off Robson); and not having ramen for the first time tonight, I had a better point of reference. It was simillar in pricing of the above mentioned restaurants, but the portions were much larger.
And there was the convinence of free parking and a transit stop near by. For each bowl being under $10 with tax and tip, there is not much to complain about. Yes for the other ramen shops their soup may be a little tastier, but if you are hungry, in the area, and need to keep it cheap, this is a “why not?”
Just be sure to get the “Miso Ramen” in either orginal or spicy as those seemed the most flavourful and had their bowls the most empty; therefore being considered the most successful of the Ramens.
Green tea with red bean was their only dessert option. The presentation is a little silly. The dish is literally just green tea with red bean paste on the side. Together in a bite it was a horrible mix a blend of cold and warm, smooth and chunky, melty and chewy. But seperate they were exactly as advertise just green tea and red bean. If that is what you like it its only $3.50.
Will I go back? – Yes, but I will not go out of my way to do so. If a friend wanted to go and asked me to accompany them I would not presuade them out of it and be their companion for the night.
Will I recommend it? – No, becasue after trying everything on the menu we found it too inconsistent with equal hits and misses.
But in terms of value it is absoluetly there. To the right is a bowl of “Miso Ramen” from “Santouka”, simillar in colur of the soup and greyness of the pork, and it even bamboo shoots. The only special compenent is the pink spiral fish cake. So as a smaller bowl at a slighty higher cost is not necessarily any better. (The asian in me loves a good deal, most for the least amount of money.)
4530 East Hastings St., Burnaby, BC V5C 2K6