I love noodles, a bowl of ramen is my go to and the gauge of a strand of udon is my favourite. So learning of a new “brothless ramen” place I was compelled to visit. Walking up and in, you know they are anticipating success as the place has a large waiting area, and your full party must be present before you can be seated policy. We came early enough to avoid a wait on one of the stools, gathered in a cluster by the door. With green plants and cushioned benches, this made for a fairly comfortable waiting room. But my guest arriving a mere 5 minutes before myself was treated to the third degree. They were hesitant on giving her a table, asking where I was and how long it would take me to get there to join her.
The restaurant was a large, open space; plenty of seating for a quick turn over. They could have easily fit another row of tables into the dining area, or squeezed in more seats between the ones that already existed, however, I appreciated the spaciousness and the privacy you got with this layout. Two toned walls in white and blue, cushioned benches that zagged around the space, well lit and fresh with greens.
The menu was easy to navigate with high quality coloured photos easing your decision making. Naturally I had to try their specialty, “Japanese style mixed soba” prepared in house with multigrain flour. In this process they utilize Japanese technology to soften the water, thus creating their perfect noodle.
Here, your choice is made based on what toppings you want, what ingredients do you want to combine together for your perfect bowl. There was one with cheese, another that featured mentaiko, one with a curry sauce, and even one for the vegans. I went for the one that almost had it all, the chef’s special: “Zenbu mazesoba” and made it a combo. The deal has you paying the full price of your chosen bowl, and then choosing one of six options as an add on for less. Save $2.61 for takoyaki, gyozas, or chicken teriyaki, or $1 on a donburi rice bowl. I went the sweet route saving $1.50 on dessert. More on that below.
The “Zenbu mazesoba” has slow braised pork chashu, spicy minced pork, raw egg yolk, seaweed, soft boiled egg, bamboo shoots, seaweed flakes, chives, green onion, minced garlic, and grilled Saba fish; all over their multi grain noodles made in house. It was a beautifully crafted bowl.
A little card placed on every caddy, on every table taught you how to eat the meal before you. You mix the raw egg yolk in, this creates a thick gummy texture, giving the noodles an extra chew, and the ingredients some sauciness. Altogether it almost felt like a rich and creamy pasta sauce coming together with Japanese flavours and the texture of a fulsome ramen bowl. It was so thick and heavy, that I found the salty chashu overkill. I wanted less grease and more freshness from the bowl, a desire that was self wrought, seeing as I don’t like greens and refused to utilize the onions and leeks for that purpose. Instead, I picked out the chopped up green onion and leek leaves, and reached for the bottle of vinegar as the sign recommend. The vinegar was suggested as an add on. I felt it helped to break the larger serving apart, it changed the taste, giving you some freshness like a pickle would. A nice change that allowed me the finish the portion with zeal.
In contrast, the “Fuji cheese cup cake” was a light and mild dessert, I found it the ideal palate refresher with bonus points for presentation. Served in a branded cup with a plastic shovel as a spoon. It looked like ice cream, and even scooped like a soften facsimile of it. But it tasted like whipped smooth cheese cake topping, over an Oreo crust. The latter we didn’t know about, until our shovels hit the hard bottom. We were both delighted by the change in texture and taste. It would have also been nice to have some topping options included, although I guess this would change the intended nature of the dessert.
In truth I tried to add on one of their “Hokkaido creme cones” to my dessert order as well. It is an organic milk soft serve ice cream made by their Japanese nissei machine. Although the ice cream itself is readily available, their coveted wafer cone isn’t. They only make 30 of them, fresh on the a day. So by today’s dinner at 6pm, they had already ran out, despite my placing my request in first thing.
My guest tried their ramen to her disappointment. I did warn her given it isn’t their specialty, but she wanted to try it for the sake of trying. She went for their “Tonkotsu ramen” and was disappointed that she couldn’t customize her serving to the point of her preference. Everything was preset. The pork broth was just the one, and there was no way to dilute it or make it less rich; similarly there was no thickness of noodle to choose from. The slow braised pork chashu came in just one cut, there was no lean version, each slice included some gristle and fat. At least she was able to have her request for the green onion and black fungus removed, granted. At the end she was left with the pork meat she trimmed the fat from, and the soft boiled egg she removed the yolk from. The result, a bowl that didn’t look all that appetizing, especially with the white broth and the pools of oil over it. My guest proceed to skim the oil before she ate, ironically as she original wanted a more thin and less fatty version of this entire serving. The broth was nice, but different. A flavour I remembered, but couln’t put my finger on. In fact, I found myself returning to it sip after sip, missing the flavour I quickly forgot. The noodles were at least well cooked with a nice chewy texture. The meat was leaner, it doesn’t feel fatty on the lips, but instead has a firm gelatin-like texture.
I felt so bad at my guest’s dissatisfaction, that I felt compelled to pay for her share, doggy bagging her thinner noodles for lunch the next day. I ended up mixing them into my bowl, with the noodles that was three times its thickness. When you finish your broth-less noodles and are still left with some sauce and meat mix, you are able to order a complimentary bowl of rice. This is to ensure you exiting full, and that you aren’t leaving anything in your bowl. Together, the ingredient mix makes for a saucy rice dish, a minced meat donburi. As a whole, I really appreciated the longevity of my meal above, how many times it evolved and how I was able to get more than just my original serving.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The setting is clean and comfortable, the food is fresh and tasty, and everything came out almost as soon as we ordered it. I would definitely be back craving a bowl, as there is nothing else like in Vancouver thus far. Plus I want to return to try for their house made ice cream cone again. Don’t deny your cravings.
51 Seymour Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 3H6