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Category: Ramen Page 1 of 4

J&G Fried Chicken

My original visit to this fried chicken joint came with my responsibilities as one of the judges for “Vancouver Foodster’s” chicken wing challenge. I was tasting my way through the competitors, and this was one of them. I may have originally came for just their chicken wings, but found myself staying for their fizzy fruit drinks, yam fries, fried dessert, and popcorn chicken.

With two available locations, I visited their stand alone shop downtown. It, as opposed to their food court presence within Crystal Mall, in Burnaby. Located at the tail end of Robson Street, they are easy to spot with their well lit sign. Past it is their all glass facade, with a oversized chicken statue by the door. Walking in, there is an invitation in neon to try their “Fun 2 Eat”, Taiwanese style fried chicken.

The restaurant has a small square foot presence with kitchen and counter up front, and a handful of smaller tables that run down the length of the shoppe. We would order at said counter and then grab a couple of high top stools by the window, looking out on to the sidewalk.

The menu is a single page back and forth. Well used with scuff marks and 1/4 of the menu options blocked off by paper. More tempting to order from is the television screen broadcasting informative slides and high resolution photos.

We would start with their chicken wing entry and work our way through their regular offerings. The former was a combo that came with three pieces of chicken: 2 drums and 1 thigh, served with hand cut yam fries and deep fried mini buns.

The chicken was fired to order, with the grease stains to prove it. Piping hot and incredibly juicy, be warned, you want to allow your meal to cool before biting down. This was fresh chicken marinated in five spice, sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce. The chicken’s thin and crispy coating was the product of their special formulated wet batter dip. For added flavour you can get the chicken spicy in varying degrees. Overall, it had a very unique essence, and one I haven’t had until here and now. Deep with a layered umami flavour, and a tad on the salty side. To help change the taste I would have liked a dipping sauce, maybe a sweet and sour or a zesty mustard?

I highly recommend ordering it and any of their chicken with a couple of their refreshing drinks, to cleanse your palette in between bites. I was immediately drawn to the colour and whimsy of their gradient ones. The purple to orange blend was flavoured in peach, and the white to black: a strawberry with hints of pink. I suggest stirring the drink up before taking a sip. This helps to dilute the sweeten syrup at the bottom of the cup. Each fruit flavour was beautifully effervescent with tiny bubbles that popped on the tip of your tongue.

“J&G’s” take on yam fries was a sweet one. With a sugar and sour plum coating it ate like a hearty, starchy dessert. You didn’t quite know what to make of it, so found yourself going back for more. Soft yet firm, and completely interesting.

The fried buns was a nice, neutral sweetness to end on. Best hot and crispy with a generous smattering of condensed milk. I just wish there was a lot more of it, as it was what gave the dessert its flavour and flair.

We also had to try their popcorn chicken. It is one of their staples and their best selling item. I found it much more palatable that the chicken above. Soften white breast meat that pulls a part. It too had a 5 spice, herbal blend seasoning, but more mild. They were similar in taste to the chicken bites that you get at bubble tea cafés, making them a great anytime snack. I just wish they were served in smaller chunks. As is, these required multiple bites to finish, and were clumsy to eat with using the skewer they provided.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was delicious, but indulgent, not something you could have two days in a row, but a flavour you would find yourself craving. We definitely walked away feeling full with our meal sitting heavy. Don’t deny your cravings.

J&G Fried Chicken
1706 Robson St, Vancouver BC
604-423-2870
jgfcwest.ca

Hakkaku Ramen, revisit

It has been many years since my last visit to this long standing ramen shoppe, in Burnaby. It was over 5 years ago, and with so many other options in the area and in general, I guess I never found a reason to return. However, today the weather was weary and my friend and I were wanting something comforting to warm up with. She is particular in her restaurant choices, but boldly declared that this as her go-to for ramen in our neighbourhood.

A single, traditional Japanese lantern hangs outside, marking the way. Inside, the restaurant is configured slightly differently than from what I remembered. Smaller tables with plenty of space in between one another. Outside of the giant oriental fan on the wall and the few pieces of art hanging from the bar, there wasn’t much to the decor. It was similar to their menu, straightforward and to the point.

The menu was written in English and kanji, kept safe behind plastic sheet protectors. Offered on it were the main ramen staples of shio, shoyu, and and miso; as well as five specialty broths all their own. And with each you have a choice between a regular or rich version of the broth, and the topping of pork chasu in either shoulder or belly cut.

My guest got her usual “shio ramen” and liked it just fine with the regular broth. The bowl typically comes with chashu, bean sprouts, lettuce, fish cake, green onion, and seaweed. But my she had her’s with only the soft boiled egg and chashu in shoulder meat. The meat was lean and cut thick, but not tough. And even with the regular broth it was still fairly rich and flavourful.

She also added on the “shrimp cake” under additional toppings. It was a different option, not offered anywhere else that I have been to. Although the two flattened patties had a taste that overpowered. And I couldn’t help but liken them to the shrimp loaf that you find in the dim sum dumpling, ha gao. It tasted okay, but I didn’t find that it paired well with the mild salt flavoured pork bone broth.

I preferred and was surprised by their “Tomato ramen”. Tomato, bean sprouts, onion, corn, fish cake, green onion, boiled egg, and chashu in my chosen cut of pork belly. The belly meat had a great fatty char to it. It was the decadence I wanted, along side the rich version of the pork broth. And the tomato flavour added kicked things up a notch. Its tangy quality somewhat reminded me of canned tomato soup. Warming and satisfying, although it did get fairly rich, and I found myself reaching for more tea than usual with this one. And luckily my cup was never half empty thanks to their caring staff.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not my first choice for ramen, but not one I would shy away from either. Made wholesome and served by what looked like 3 generations of women. Simple delight and much charm from this local eatery. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAKKAKU RAMEN
4530 East Hastings St., Burnaby, BC V5C 2K6
604-558-3386

Marutama Ramen Metrotown

Unpopular opinion: “I am not a fan of Marutama Ramen”.

Maybe it’s because I like being the odd man out, or maybe my taste buds are a skewed; but I am not a fan of the multi-location, ramen chain, “Marutama”. In fact they may very well be one of my last choices for ramen. But today we were in Burnaby, my guest had been craving a bowl of their chicken broth ramen, and I didn’t have the heart to say, “No”. Although, I did suggest dining at the neighbouring “Boiling Point” instead, due to their lack of a line.

However, the wait for “Marutama” wasn’t that long, and we only had to endure 5 minutes of it in the cold with all the others hungry folks. So there we stood patiently by the doorway, after having written our names down on a clipboard out front. We would stare into the all glass interior, watching lustfully as the tables turned over quite quickly.

This is the latest location of this popular chain, located is in the expanding area of Burnaby, just past Metrotown. Once home to a different ramen restaurant, the space didn’t feel all that much different now. Narrow tables meant to maximize seating, and the kitchen/bar towards the back. Well lit and warm, even despite us sitting by the door that regularly swung open, exposing us to the elements.

The menu is a one laminated sheet. It showcases their chicken broth and the variations of ingredients and noodles with it. With an egg, without, spicy, extra meat, or all of the above. At the base of it, it is all the same.

Remembering I wasn’t a fan of my first and most recent bowl, I ordered their signature bowl with creamy chicken broth, seaweed, and a whole soft boiled egg. It came with the maximum number of toppings for a more varied meal. I don’t find that the broth has enough flavour, the richness that I love in my favourite bowls of ramen was missing here. It felted watered down and it lacked interest. I would have also liked a thicker noodle, to offer a better balanced collection of textures to sort through. Something satisfying to gnaw on. With this it was small pieces of soften seaweed, a whole egg that was hard to ration out bite by bite, fatty slices of cha su, and thin wispy stands of noodles.

The table side condiments do help in curating your bowl. Between us we used 3/4 of their fried garlic slices. I was also heavy handed on the toasted sesame seeds, and torgarashi power. Yet I still couldn’t finish my serving. I found myself growing bored of the taste mid way.

Anticipating this, I ordered some gyozas to have something else to help change up the taste. They were your run-of-the-mill pork and vegetable filled dumplings. I knew exactly what I was going to get with this, and it delivered. A classic with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce.

Sorry, for those who have been offended by my opinion here. But I have had this a handful of times now, and can safely conclude that I don’t like their ramen. And in fact, I like them less after each subsequent visit. I can see why others love their chicken broth though. That there is quality and authenticity that goes into each bowl, everything is made fresh daily, without msg or imitation flavours, and its lighter nuance appeals to more individuals. The latter was the goal of its creator, based out of Japan. He wanted to create a bowl of ramen that would satisfy anyone from around the world, and given that chicken is one of those food items that majority of people like, this became his flagship product.

That being said, my guest like what she had just fine, cleaning her bowl it full satisfaction. She had the “Aosa ramen” with aosa seaweed, two pieces of cha su, and an egg she added on. She also requested it to be made spicy. Although truthfully in terms of ingredients, it was no different than mine, same seaweed and all.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Once again, I am not a fan of their chicken broth ramen, but will recommend it to those who like a lighter broth, and all the garlic chips they can stomach. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. We don’t share the same mouth after all. Don’t deny your cravings.

MARUTAMA RA-MEN
5278 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2E9
(604) 430-3343
marutama.ca

Harvest Community Foods

We were looking for food in the area, and after weighing our options along Union street, we came back to “Harvest Community Foods”. One, it had the most diners within for lunch, and two they had a nice table right outdoors to take in this sunnier winter’s day. And then there is the noodles, I am always down for noodles and there is nothing like a warm bowl on a cold day. But sadly, the latter was not as expected.

The restaurant is more like corner store with shelves of preserves, grains, and organic cleaners. And at the counter, healthy snack bars and fresh fruit to grab and go.

The menu was ink on bleach wood. You squinted at it from across the room, shielding your eyes from the streams of sunlight hindering your vision. The daily specials are a little easier to read, dry erase marker on a white board, at the till. Each, with the option to add in some house made kimchi or change your regular noodles out for the zucchini variety.

We decided to keep it safe, and asked the clerk what she recommend. She was fairly unfriendly, and seemed annoyed with our indecisiveness. This attitude would stay pretty consistent with all subsequent interactions; to the point of us bussing our own table before we sat down, then again after we had finished eating; handing in our dish ware to her, as she stool behind the counter.

As for the food itself, it came out fast. I had their vegetarian “ramen” with a squash and miso broth, nori, scallion, radish, and sesame. I liked the flavour and the consistency of the broth thanks to the purée squash, although when I read “ramen” I expected a better noodle, something of the buckwheat variety. But what was before me was neon yellow and from a pack of instant. Here, quality noodles would have made a difference, and added some much needed flavour to this serving. The daikon and greens gave you little to maw on. I would have liked more toppings to help change the tone, more to customize each bite with. For example, some tofu, mushroom, or egg would have done wonders. Instead, I felt like this was lacking.

My guest got the vegan “rice noodle”. These were saucy noodles coated in an almond, hazelnut, and charred chilli mix, all sitting over braising greens. It was dry and sticky, an unusual texture, having to chew through the coating of nuts. Although it was very light and with the greens it acted more like a spicy salad.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They are a solid opinion for those who are vegan or vegetarian, just not for me. If I want noodles I will go for something in a fatty pork broth. Don’t deny your cravings.

HARVEST
243 Union St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2Z7
(604) 682-8851
harvestunion.ca

Koyuki Ramen, Japanese Tapas

Today I was invited down to “Koyuki” to check out their Japanese fusion tapas menu. Located just off robson on Jervis street, this hole in the wall specialized in Sapporo style ramen.

The restaurant utilizes chalk boards to walk you through the history and heritage of their authentic Sapporo style ramen. Like how they use three types of miso to flavour their soups: red, white, and “mix”. And how it authentic, hailing from Sapporo city, which is also referred to as “ramen kingdom”.

Given this testimony in chalk, we had to order one of their bowls. Their “Tonkotsu ramen” had a pork based broth with Chau-shu, green onion, garlic chips, half a soft boiled egg, and your choice of noodle thickness between thin or thick. We got the latter in this nice simple broth. Which was mild in flavour, compared to all the other dishes below. My guest liked how you were actually able to make out the smokiness of the seared pork within the creamy broth itself, but found the meat dry.

As for their smaller share plates, there were so many creative things to try on their fusion menu. Familiar items I liked, combined together to form something new. Like their specialty, the “Curry poutine”. The curry was a deliciously rich, Japanese style sweet curry, it almost had the consistency of gravy, (like there would normally be in a poutine), and included melted bits of cheese. I could have done without the addition of the pork chunks. They were hard and dry, and really didn’t offer much to the dish. The fries were also quick to go soggy for a mealy potato texture. Although I still enjoyed the dish, and now want their curry over other potatoes like a baked potato, or some that are mashed.

The “Pizza tempura” was another two becomes one for some fun. Frozen pizza (I am only guessing because it tastes like some that I have had from a grocery store), deep fried in tempura batter and served with ranch dressing as a dip. I liked the idea and the extra crunch the tempura gave, but I found it too oily. It would have been nice to find a way to blot some of the greasy off, or to choose a lighter pizza to tempura. Maybe a simple cheese, instead of the deluxe toppings, paired with the classic tempura sauce to dip into for a cleaner dish. Although after a few drinks in, having this as is on the menu, sounds like it would hit several spots.

Similarly, the chicken wings were also oily. From four different flavours I choose the Japanese bbq with melted cheese and mayo. The addition of cheese and sauce over wings were a novel idea, but the cheese was greasy, and its oils pooled on the plate. The weight of the cheese took away from an otherwise crispy wing. I would have liked the melted cheese and mayo as a dip instead.

Their “Japanese pancakes” is one that is highted as being “popular” on the menu. Good enough, but it wasn’t my favourite rendition of this Japanese street snack. It was overly salty with too much sauce. Whereas, I wished it was doughier, with a more satisfying chew.

And my favourite dish of the night was the “Tonpei”. A fluffy egg omelette wrapped around slices of pork and shredded cabbage. It was messy, hard to cut into, and harder to share, on its small plate. But once you were able to dig in, it was a tasty dish offering a variety of flavours and textures to comb through. The pork was chewy, the egg spongy, and the lettuce refreshing with a nice crunch. And it was the sauces brought all together with a tangy creaminess.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A fun spot for some great eats. Creative tapas to try and share, best enjoyed with a beer; because it does get salty and greasy at points. But that is just my own doing in ordering. Don’t deny your cravings.

KOYUKI
795 Jervis St, Vancouver, BC V6E 2B1
(604) 695-9177
koyuki.ca

G-men Ramen Steveston

We were in Steveston and looking for lunch. Though this being a Saturday, the historic fishing village was busy and all their popular spots saw lengthy lines.

So wanting to eat sooner than later, we stopped at the new ramen place that just opened up, Steveston’s first. Although, had I known the restaurant was without air conditioning, I might have reconsidered our idea of hot noodles in broth on a hot summer’s day. None-the-less here we were, two amongst many with the same idea. We were able to grab two stools at the very back bar. And there we would be ignored by the busy staff, after we ordered and they delivered our two bowls of ramen. To paint a better picture, it was a struggle to get our bill to settle up and leave. This was despite a line at the door for those wanting to dine in.

I went for their most popular choice, the miso ramen, I added butter and corn to it for $2.50 more, and added an egg for $1 more. Authentic chicken and pork broth with their homemade miso seasoning and thick noodles. This was already a rich serving, and I don’t think the butter made a difference in that regard, except for additional calories. I did like the sweetness the corn added and how they popped with each bite.

My guest ordered their “RCMP” ramen advertised as being “addictively spicy”. She too added an egg, because after all ramen isn’t the same without a soft boiled egg. It was exactly as she expected, spicy with a bold red broth, but manageable in terms of heat.

Everything was good, but one bowl isn’t enough to properly assess the restaurant, especially since their menu is one of the largest I have ever seen at any ramen place. On top of 8 different types of ramen and all their variations, “G-men “ also offers plenty of appetizers from mixed nuts to a chicken dip with crackers, raw octopus to pickled squid. They have salad with and without seafood or meat, plenty of sashimi as is, seasoned and in combos. There are rice bowls and poke bowls, and a section just dedicated to deep fried and bbq items.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t travel all the way to Steveston for ramen, and when there I would choose somewhere to lunch that better showcases the town. However, for the locals this serves as the only, and therefore best place for ramen in Steveston. Don’t deny your cravings.

G-MEN
3711 Bayview Street, Richmond BC, V7E 3B6
604-275-4636
gmenatsteveston.com

Ramen Taka, Aberdeen Centre

“Ramen Taka” has opened a second location, and now you can get their Hokkaido style ramen in Richmond’s “Aberdeen Centre”. An opening that has already seen many line up to try their soup noodles, most notably finished off with a scoop of sizzling liquid lard.

Like their original location this new one is happy with a small cluster of tables, a few bar seats, and a family style large share table. The lighting is also the same; giving the room a golden glow from hanging incandescent bulbs.

The only empty wall space is home to their mascot, sketched in black and white. An eagle with out stretched wings looking fierce. Fitting considering, “Taka” does mean “eagle” in Japanese.

The menu is the same from Vancouver to Richmond, although it is worth noting that it has changed several times, since the popular Japanese ramen chain has made the Lower Mainland their home. They are here to offer up their traditional Hokkaido ramen, but are also open to their customer’s feedback. Each table has comment cards and pens, which gives the diner the ability to rank their food and service, as well as leave the restaurant suggestions on how they can improve. “Taka” has taken the latter to heart, and now offers up the ability to customize their ramen for your palette. Like the ability to have less or no lard. And more recently a creamier noodle soup.

Hokkaido style ramen uses a clear broth with plenty of lard, and is traditionally saltier than other versions of ramen. But for the Vancouver appetite they have created a “Vancouver special soup” that gives diners a heartier and ricer broth: paitan. “Paitan” is a creamy white tonkotsu broth made with pork bone. And today would end up trying both this new version and their classic, in order to compare the two.

But first appetizers, and their Hokkaido fried chicken that cannot be missed. An order of the “Zangi” is available in either 4 or 8 pieces. I suggest getting the latter because one taste is not enough and you won’t want to share. Juicy, white meat chicken with pockets of fat, made crunchy in a thick and jagged batter. Each nugget is gently seasoned to allow the natural flavour of the chicken to come through. Dare I say, this might be my new favourite place for fried chicken!

We also had to try the “Kakuni” given how delicious it looked in photo. The menu was right in describing this as “Melt in your mouth braised pork belly”, served in a pool of their tasty “special sauce”. The meat was so tender around the sinew of fat, and so juicy from the sauce it soaked up, that it had a different texture to it. Different than chewy and stringy pork meat; it was almost like liquid, which easily broke down from the weight of your tongue. The sauce was also super tasty, I didn’t want to waste a drop of it, so wished we ordered some rice to absorb it all with.

Next, we moved on to their ramens. Ordering two bowls of the “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu” flavoured with soy sauce. First was the “Paitan”, easily identified by the murky broth. Once again, this creamier version came to be due to the request and preference of their North American clientele. It was definitely creamier as promised, but the fullness of the flavour is missing. Something that you do get in full from their original “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu”, below.

I highly recommend coming for their clear soup noodles, this is what they are known for and you can get a version of the one above from every other ramen shop. But you can only get the “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu” from “Ramen Taka”, and it is worth traveling for. This is a great light broth for first timers. It is simple and clean when it hits the tongue, but then unpacks its flavour the more you take in. Each spoonful leaves a film of oil on your lips, just so you know the fat is there. Here, you don’t need many toppings. The ones included simply add a change in texture; like the perfectly soft boiled gooey egg, the crispy to chewy seaweed sheet, and rubbery bamboo with its distinct bitter note.

The only down side, you can’t take anything you don’t finish home. When we visited, the lids of their to-go bowls didn’t connect. We were told to make it fit, and this photo is the result. We showed the server and he was satisfied with the outcome. I, however, was less then impressed; soup doesn’t travel well already, now you are adding a hole to the equation!?

 

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? – Yes.
I would visit the downtown location first, due to its proximity to my home. Although when in Aberdeen and looking for traditional Japanese style ramen, this is the one to visit. A soup base like no other and sides so tasty. I would come back just for the chicken. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN TAKA
Aberdeen centre, 2nd floor
2780-4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
ramentaka.ca

Koika Davie

Tonight I was invited down to the original location of “Koika” to check out their latest ramen concepts. Understanding that the Vancouver ramen scene is pretty saturated and that they need to stay competitive, “Koika” continues to lead the way in ramen with a twist. They have done so in the past with the city’s first big bowl ramen challenge, their super spicy ramen challenge, and the beef rib ramen.

But today we would trying their new curry ramen and a ramen with a basil pesto broth, as well as visit a handful of their most popular bowls.

The “Curry ramen” comes with your choice of either a chicken or pork based broth. Then to it they add shredded pork, onion, carrot, mushroom, and cabbage. You can also choose your level of heat, though mild still had a hint of spice to me. Whereas I was more expecting a sweeter curry, much like Japanese curry. The soup was thick like curry, and the collection of pulled and thinly sliced ingredients offered some interesting texture to munch on.

The “Basil ramen” had a striking green chicken broth base. The basil and spinach paste giving this bowl its neon hue was made in house. It comes with cha shu, parsley, and for $2 more a scoop of Parmesan cheese. Considering it is like Japanese noodle with an Italian pasta sauce, you might as well go the whole nine yards and get it with the salty powered cheese. This was an interesting interpretation and tasty too. But I still prefer the classic ramen pairings below.

Especially the “Triple black garlic ramen” with cha shu, spinach, seasoned egg, bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, green onion, garlic chips, and their triple black garlic oil. It is served thin noodles, and is also available in a veggie broth with tofu instead of pork. This was packed full of flavour and punch, ideal for those who love a garlicky mouth.

The “Mayu miso ramen” also comes with some triple black garlic oil, along with cha shu, and green onion. The difference is that there are bean sprouts and corn in the mix as well. It is served with regular noodles, and is sweet with the corn, and smokey from the garlic oil.

And if you like it hot you can also get it spicy with a bold red coloured broth.

The “Sapporo miso ramen” was different in its feature of fried ground pork, along with the usual bean sprouts, green onion, and corn. This broth is creamier than the mayu, and a whole lot meatier and saltier with the ground beef. This too is available in a spicier version, which we didn’t try.

“Kimchi ramen” is another fun fusion twist. Shredded pork, kimchi, mushroom, onions cabbage, green onion, and chicken broth. You could smell the sour tang and spicy heat from the broth. A heated bowl with plenty of vegetables to chew through.

The “Chicken tamago ramen” was a lighter ramen option. Thin noodles, garlic chips, bamboo shoots, and green onion, all in a chicken broth with two seasoned eggs on the side. For those who love the flavour of chicken this one is the one to get. And tonight it really stood out amongst all the heavier pork broths that we enjoyed.

And my favourite of the night was the “Kyoka tsukemen”. This is ramen where the noodles and broth come separate, and you dip one into the other. Great for those who want ramen on a hot day or for those who are weary of a soggy noodle. Dipping noodles with shredded pork, green onion, roasted seaweed, bamboo shoot, and a half seasoned egg. Here, the broth is more concentrated, you get more flavour even with a quick dunk. I especially liked how much meat there was and how bold its seasoning was.

We also broke our meal up with some appetizers. Like the “Puri puri ebi”. Four deep fried panko breaded jumbo shrimp, dressed with tar tar sauce, sesame seeds, and parsley. Each prawn was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The sauce was what made you go back for another stick.

The “Takoyaki ball” helped to change the taste with its thick sweet and salty sauce. Deep fried flour ball with a chunk of octopus hiding within. Sticky dough that melted under pressure and a chewy centre that surprised you.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If they keep their unique ramen options coming, they will keep seeing me through their doors. Currently they have 16 bowls and counting, and each one is as different and as unique as those who come in to enjoy them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KOIKA
1231 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N4
604-336-2779
ramenkoika.com

Menya Raizo, revisit

I have been to the new reincarnation of “Menya” once before, when they originally opened. And today I was back out of convenience. With the latest snow fall, I was cautious with my driving, so met my friend up at a noodle place closest to a sky train station. So here we were, and here she was able to try a new noodle place. Whereas myself, I got a taste of three completely different dishes than during my first visit, which is enough of a reason to write a revisit post.

For my original review, including more detail on the decor and a feel of the place, check out my original review post below.

Menya Raizo

 

Today we sat by the window, getting a good look at their cute interior. It was almost like a tiny village with each set of tables having their own shingled roof and wood stump stool. We were seated, greeted, and consistently tended too. Our server was a little fuzzy in translation when it came time to ordering and answering our menu focused questions. But he was quick to suggest a beer or any drink, then offer it hot when we opted for water. He also made sure our metal water cups stayed 3/4 full with frequent check ins.

My guest wanted something spicy to warm her up, so got the “Tan tan men”, “spicy minced pork, bok choi, green onion, Japanese leek, half a seasoned soft boiled egg, and chilli pepper thread”. The dish had a richness to it, with a pork bone broth and a heat that grew with the bright red strands of chilli pepper. The first few bites were the best, taken in with large slurps of firm noodle strands. Of note, with each bowl of ramen, it looks like you are getting a lot more than what is actually in the serving. The bowl used is elevated, balancing on a narrow base.

I had the “Menya champon” out of curiosity. I like the following list of ingredients over instant noodles, and in my fried rice; so figured it should be good in pork based ramen broth as well. Sliced pork, cabbage, bean sprouts, carrot, onion, prawn, squid, snow pea, fish cake, and quail egg.

The broth is different from anything I have had, and although both our bowls of noodles today, featured a pork base, they tasted completely different from one another. The bevy of ingredients in my bowl really lent to the overall taste. Complex with how many different flavours are brought together, though at the same time flat, and I grew tired of the broth quick. Luckily the assortment of meat and vegetables in this, still made it an interesting bowl. You got to pick and choose your pieces and combinations. Tender and fatty pieces of pork, small shrimp that you pluck meat from tail, rubbery black wood ear fungus, and a particularly gritty fish cake. Decent if you like variety and various textures, like I do.

And to start we actually had the “Rolled eel omelette”. I have never had such a combination and decided to give it a try, after reading it being described as an “luxurious eel” wrapped in a fluffy and sweet egg omelette. I was surprised by how much I liked this and how great the combination was with the salty eel and its crispy bits.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Same review as before. A quick and easy lunch stop, good food and good value. Just be warned, they don’t take cash, only plastic. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MENYA RAIZO
401 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Y 4A8
604-829-0697

Ramen Gaoh

Whenever I travel I always come back to Vancouver craving Asian food, and lucky for me I have acclimated my partner into enjoying ramen; meaning we got to get a bowl of the good stuff our first meal back.

New to our neighbourhood is “Ramen Gaoh”, brought to you by the same folks running the well celebrated “Ramen Butcher”. In fact one of the servers working today was sporting their branded hoodie with its large pig face logo on the back.

With Japanese bamboo growing up front and a large glowing lantern marking the way, the restaurant stands out with its painted black exterior. To enter, you shimmy past a narrow passage, past the black wooden bars, and the covered patio. I considered a seat on the latter as I liked how cozy it looked, but it is still a little too cold to be dining outdoors, so we wafted in side instead.

The staff greet you in unison as you past the threshold. We were directed to one of the two top tables that ran parallel with the bar. With the high counter top and the stacks of bowls atop it, you can’t make out much of what is happening in the open kitchen.

Their dual sided, laminated menu features ramen prepared with miso blends from across Japan. Shiro miso from Nagano, and Aka miso from Aichi and Miyagi.

My partner got the “Shiro miso” ramen made with white soybean paste. It was described as being more mellow and sweet, for a lighter miso flavour. And compared to my bowl below, it was. It was okay, a flavour of ramen I had never had before. Different, but not my favourite to date. My partner finished his portion, but declared that this salty broth wasn’t to his liking either.

I did prefer the more flavourful “Aka miso” ramen made with red soy bean paste. As promised by the menu, it had a deeper umami flavour, with a richer and saltier miso broth. This was also a meatier broth that paired well with the thick and chewy noodles used. Interesting, but not a flavour profile I could see myself craving for any time soon.

Like all their bowls, this too doesn’t come with an egg, so I ordered one at an additional $1.50. A medium boiled and marinated egg. I just wish such places cut their eggs in half, no one bites into a whole egg like this. Inside was a very runny yolk that pooled out. It had a great creamy texture, but was cooled to a chill at the centre.

You can make your ramen a combo by adding gyozas as a side, but unfortunately only the original pork version, made in house, using their “secret recipe” is available as an add on for $3.

So I passed and paid full price for one of their topped gyozas, choosing the most unique of the four options. This is the “Truffle aioli with Parmesan paste”. Tender and meaty bundles topped generously and made salty. There was no hiding the flavour of truffle. Overall, an interesting twist, but a little too much and too rich as a side to my ramen. The toppings felt unnecessary and I found it overwhelming.

As a precaution, my partner ordered a side of their “Teriyaki spicy crispy deep fried chicken”, in case he didn’t like the ramen. The meat used was fatty and dark, each nugget coated heavily in crunchy fried breading. The teriyaki sauce was the highlight of this dish with its fishy undertone, it paired well with the spicy sauce that was not too spicy.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not my first choice for ramen in the area. Nothing was what I expected, it didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t a taste that I recognized or look to when craving ramen. This was a good reminder that there are so many different styles of ramen out there; all worth trying. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN GOAH
4518 E Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C 2K4
604-299-5407
ramengaoh.com

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