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Category: Ramen Page 2 of 4

Ramen Koika, prime rib ramen

I already associate “Koika” with fun and creative bowls of ramen, so it is nice to see they are keeping this imagine up with an all new prime rib ramen! There is no one else in the Asian fusion game adding their own ingredients and toppings to classic bowls of tonkatsu. Here you can get your ramen with a collection of shellfish, some deep fried chicken, or a mixed broth of pork meat and shellfish.

As the newer of the two locations it was still as fresh and as new as I remembered, during my original visit. Their name spelt out in actual lights, a mural dedicated to the master that they learned their Tokyo-Chiba style from. (Whom also got a shout out on their one page laminated menu.) And most eye catching their unique light installation, a collection of wood pieces dangling in mid air.

We were seated by the noodle making booth, although it was left unattended today. They do make all their noodles in house, it’s just a shame that I never visited when they physically are.

The “Prime rib ramen” got its own feature. A separate full page that did well to tempt the on looker. 1 price of AAA prime rib, onion, cabbage, wood ear mushroom, bean sprouts, and triple black garlic oil; all in a tonkotsu soup base. This runs at a premium price of $15.95, but it is worth trying, and when I do I suggest you add the $4.95 to get an extra prime rib. If you are going to do it, do it right, with enough meat to ration between all the slurps of noodles. The tender meat on bone was the flavour maker, it was plenty tasty on its own; but just bobbing in the broth, it’s meaty essence transitioned into the soup well.

As with all their other ramen bowls you can choose the level of heat from non-spicy, mild, or spicy; and you also have a choice whether you like your noodles firm or soft. And for both our ramen dishes we got a lot of noodles. Other restaurants charge you $1 for your ramen refill, more noodles to finish off the soup with, in full. Here, you get all the noodles you would need in the first go.

In comparison my partner got the much lighter “Tonkotsu shio ramen”. Cha-shu, bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, green onion, spinach, and bean sprouts. It was a clean broth and simple, it relied on its toppings to give it character. Like the sweetness from the side of corn at an extra free.

We also tried some of their appetizers. Like the “Ugly onigiri” sold by the piece. I assumed it was a small round so when I saw the two I had order arrive, I was ashamed. I had ordered two giant rice balls the size of grapefruits, and found myself eating them like an apple in hand. There were the largest rice balls I have ever had. A tuna and mayo rice ball mixed with seaweed and sesame oil. They made for a great filler, but I wished for more seasoning in the rice, so that the bites without the flaky fish centre still had flavour.

The “Coco karaage” is deep fried house battered boneless chicken with kaarage cream or a spicy sauce. We got the non spicy version that ended up being a sweet chicken dish. Nice nuggets of brown meat, juicy and fresh.

They were the perfect pairing to the “Creamy croquette”. You get 3 in an order, each golden brown and dressed in a tangy brown sauce. Corn, onion, mashed potato, and mozzarella cheese. Each ate like a meal of county chicken and potatoes, without actual meat. It had a nice texture, whipped smooth and almost sticks to your teeth.

 

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 bowl of ramen, a nice twist on one of Vancouver’s favourite foods. And the prime rib is definitely worth trying out. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN KOIKA
1479 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C1
604-428-6117
ramenkoika.com

Honjin Ramen

My partner works in New Westminster and has slowly begun to search out new places for dinner. Today he invited me to check out a newer ramen shop by his. This is “Honjin Ramen” in Coquitlam. Located in the plaza adjacent to the Silvercity movie theatre. Here, their little shop boasts “Authentic Japanese noodles” that they make themselves in house.

They have been open since April of this year, despite what their menu might say. Our server, who I guess is also the owner, based on his stature, and out of everyone he was the most keen on engaging with his customers and seeing to their needs. He waved off the bold first line on the menu reading “soft opening”, as it was something to disregard. I guess when you print a menu in colour and laminate it, you plan on using it for a while.

The restaurant was very brightly lit. It felt uniform and sterile, clean of debris and clean with its lines. Although sleek, it wasn’t a comfortable setting to eat slow and linger at. There is no music playing, nothing to cover up the pauses in conversation and the lone cough in the corner. The quite allows you to hear the hum of the fridge, and the kitchen at rest. Today there were three people behind the counter waiting for an order. And two more hovering around the dining area floor, looking for the slightest hint that they are needed by their assigned tables. Although earnest, it didn’t feel very welcoming. More like you are being watched, be cause there is nothing else for them to do. I certainly felt the eyes when I had to take the photos below. And the temperature within the restaurant was just a little too warm. To the point I felt discomfort and even more so when hovering over the bowl of hot soup below.

Each wooden table with matching chair and bench included a collection of sauces, spices, and extra seasonings. So many small jars and squeeze bottles that the intended tray couldn’t house them all. Vinegar, togarashi seasoning, garlic paste, soy sauce, a house made chilli sauce and a store bought version. The only way I know this is because I had to ask. I wished they were labelled instead

My partner had us share two of the dishes he would return and order again, should he like either of them today. The “Tonkatsu” is deep fried pork coated in crispy bread crumbs served with tonkatsu sauce, and a side of shredded cabbage. Served with steamed rice, a side salad with dressing, tangy pickles and miso soup. At $8.95 this was a great deal and a filling meal. With all the small sides and little bites you can have in between your pork cutlet, the meal lasted, it felt wholesome and it covered all flavours and textures. The pork itself had a great coating, and the meat inside wasn’t dry. My partner found it true to the taste he remembered when he first had it in Japan. And I liked it with the milder tonkatsu sauce. I am not really a fan of it in the first place, preferring more of a sweeter dipping sauce; so this was a good compromise.

I was impressed by the heartier miso soup. There were plenty of bits to chew through. Seaweed, regular tofu, the fried variety, and green onion. Like the broth below, this serving too was oily. I didn’t mind it in taste, but didn’t like the residue that adhered to your lips because of it.

The “Shio Ramen” featured a salt based chicken broth with homemade noodles, chashu, corn, marinaded egg, bamboo shoot, green onion, and roasted seaweed. It was super clean, flavourful, but not rich. I liked the variety of elements, how they offered variation in each bite. The sweetness of the corn, fermented qualities of the bamboo, creaminess of the egg; and the fatty, yet super tender pork meat. It was good, but as a whole it didn’t really stand out compared to all the other ramen offerings around. That was until I looked to the garlic paste on the table. With a glob mixed in, it gave my noodles new life and a longer lasting impression. However it also left me with the lingering taste of garlic on my tongue, and therefore I assume breath.

The “owner” took the time to promote and talk up his stamp card program, explaining to us that after the 10th visit or dish ordered and 10 stamps later we would get a plate of gyozas for free, but should we keep collecting to 20 stamps we could earn tonkatsu, or any bowl of ramen at 30 stamps. Stamp cards aren’t new, but the amount expects here is. 10 orders for one side felt pointless. If you can afford and do end up eating here 10 times, the possibility of free gyoza isn’t the reason. 4-6 visits feels more reasonable. With 8-10 for a main. Thought when it still came time to pay, I asked for one anyways. And ironically he looked confused over my mentioning ir 30 minutes later. We left with a card and two stamps.

We came into an empty restaurant, but left one that was full. The once awkward silence was now replaced with kids laughing, tables chatting, and plenty of clanging and sizzling from kitchen.

 

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.
They aren’t a destination, but instead, a good option for a quick and inexpensive meal in New West. $8.95 and $9.95 are such good prices for the quality of what we got and the portions of it. Most other ramen places just as good, charge you $12-14 for a bowl. The above at under $10 is great for everyday eating. An easy option for people like my partner and myself, who don’t really cook or meal prep. Therefore every dollar matters, and you certainly get your value’s worth here. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HONJIN
228 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K 6V7
604-553-7960

Menya Raizo

“Menya Raizo” is the reincarnation of “Menya”. In the first half of this year, the former ramen shop shut down, to rebrand and reopen under this new conjoined title. A reopening and a change celebrated with a string of white and yellow branded banners and paper lanterns that attracts your attention and signifies a change.

We walked up to it for a weekday lunch with a short line waiting outside. The menu is taped to the window, so those waiting can pick their bowl before hand. This helps to quicken the dining experience, as during this time it serves the community as a quick lunch destination.

I recalled the decor that it was before and liked the upgrades I saw today. Each row of tables was now topped with a bamboo roof, and black and white photos of city scenes hung on the walls as decoration. The space was tight and our options were limited. We were seated at the individual bar, as we had a stroller in tow and needed to tuck it aside. Our bar seat with its roof and overhanging light bulbs, gave us the feeling of being being outdoors in a night market setting. It also gave the meal a certain authenticity, and I really enjoyed it for this reason.

There are menus, jugs of water, and a caddy of napkins and utensils for you to help yourself to at each table. You easily hail one of the 3 servers to order, and your food comes out fast.

We stared with “Ita wasa”, as I was lured in by the bold colours of this Japanese fish cake with wasabi. It was chewy and light, a similar texture than that of hot pot fish balls that I like so much. It was served cold, with a pinch of spicy wasabi to offset it. As it came out first, we ate it like an appetizer, but I would have preferred to enjoy it as a side to my ramen below. A side offering a fresh taste between rich brothy bites.

I ordered the “Umami shoyu ramen”, on its promise of “umami”. “Umami has been described as savoury and is characteristic of broths and cooked meats”. Firm noodles sat in this deliciously light and translucent broth. This is the kind of soup that you order when you are feeling sick, or are in need of some nutritional comfort. It was so rich, yet so clean on the mouth. A beautiful base for the pork belly cha-su, Chicken breast cha su, green onion, thinly sliced Japanese leek, radish sprouts, half seasoned soft boiled egg, and onion to bob around in. The chicken meat was incredibly tender, so soft that it broke under the pressure of my tongue. By comparison the pork was fattier and had more of a chew.

My guest got the richer ramen with the heavier and creamier broth, the “Gyokai tonkotsu shoyu ramen”. This is pork shoulder cha shu, green onion, radish sprouts, bean sprouts, and nori seaweed. According to her this was one of the better servings of ramen she has had in a while.

 

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 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

Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba

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.

 

KOKORO
51 Seymour Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 3H6
604-559-8872
menyakokoro.com

Koyuki Sapporo Ramen

Tonight we were here looking for hot soup on a cold night, and ramen always hits the spot for me. Out of convenience and not wanting to re-park, having gotten a good spot on Robson Street, we found ourselves half a block away.

We both couldn’t remember what was here before, and if this was a new ramen shoppe, and if so, how new. But the promise of happy hour was one that lured us in close and the full house was what prompted us through the threshold. The little shop was deep with a lot more seating that you’d think. Their kitchen is visible from the front, up at the counter. It is here they make their own noodles and broths.

The restaurant utilizes chalk boards above the side of the bar to walk you through what makes them stand out amongst all the ramen places available to Vancouverites. Chalk illustrations and explanations. Like how they use three types of miso to flavour their soups: red, white, and “mix”. And how their’s is authentic miso ramen from Sapporo city, which is also referred to as “ramen kingdom”. The only other decorative piece to their decor were strips of wood with Japanese characters written on each. As, I am not literate in kanji I can’t tell you what each means.

Most interesting was their music choice. They had on loop the same best of Kayne mixtape. The rated “M” for mature version with swears rapped in full. I appreciated this dearly, but everyone else was talking too loud to take note.

My guest got the “Butter and corn miso ramen”, as the menu recommended. It was the first option on the menu and it got its own full page with the words “No.1 recommended” highlighted. The butter was a square piece cut off and allowed to naturally melt in the hot broth. Stirring it in makes the broth a lot more creamier. A richness of homemade miso and a creamy soup made from chicken and pork bones with vegetables. Flavoured with butter and sweet corn, and topped with bamboo shoots, green onion, a slice of fish cake, two pieces of tender pork char su, and a perfectly soft boiled whole egg. This is the flavour I crave for when I think of and want ramen. But instead, I opted for the most unique of all the ramen options: one with a white broth.

I was hesitant to order, but our server was confident enough for the both of us and it turns out, my guest really loved this wild card. The menu described this as “Vancouver’s first milky chicken ramen”. Chicken cha-shu, green onions, bamboo shoots, black pepper, and whipped cream. I ordered an egg when the server mentioned it, very happy to have the add-on. Although I don’t know why it wouldn’t be part of the bowl normally.

The white broth looked like it was be watered down and bland, but it was the exact opposite. A rich soup with a flavour that is true to the essence of chicken. The cream in the soup makes it more filling, and the various ingredients gave you a nice mix of textures to sink your teeth into. The chicken is lean, the ground pepper is a highlight, and the noodles are very fresh.  For any of their ramens you can choose your gauge of noodle between thick or thin, and also how long to boil them. A cook to the point where the strands are still hard, regular, or soft. At the end, we each preferred the other’s bowl.

 

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.
Good stuff. Would definitely come back for a quick and tasty, homestyle, comforting bowl of ramen. No complaints. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KOYUKI
795 Jervis Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 2B1
604-695-9177
Koyuki Sapporo Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Giga Ramen at Ramen TAKA -鷹の爪

Starting June 1st, 2018 there is a new big bowl eating challenge coming to Vancouver. This is Ramen Taka’s “Giga Ramen”, it is literally the largest serving of ramen to be offered up to willing challengers. With it you get a lot more than with other big bowl ramen challenges (take it from a gal who has attempted her fair share of them). Taka’s ramen bowl isn’t just more noodles or more broth, but this is basically one of their regular bowls of ramen enlarged. And luckily for me, I am already a fan for their Hokkaido style noodles.

To learn a more about one of Vancouver’s newest ramen shops, click on the link below.

Ramen Taka

 

This is their first location outside of Japan, offering ramen in a broth made with a blend of pork bones, vegetables, and seafood simmered for many hours. It is one of the lightest, yet richest broths I have had. This is thanks to the length of time in which it cooks, and the time they take to thoroughly strain it, alleviating any excess fat in the process. Their use of roasted Hokkaido lard, which is ladled over the top of the broth; also sets them apart. This layer of fat not only adds a deliciously rich, meaty flavour to the serving; but it also slows the soup from cooling down too quickly. Which means I will be racing the clock, trying to finish a hot bowl of steaming ramen in under 30 minutes; working past the amount of food and the additional heat of it.

The portion is basically 5 servings of their regular bowls of ramen, offered up in one giant bowl. Approximately 8lbs between noodles and broth. If you are successful in completing this challenge in under 30 minutes, the serving is free. But if you fail, you pay the fee: 4 servings worth of which ever ramen you have chosen to take the challenge with. Prices vary from $11.95 to $14.00; so multiply that by 4 times and that is what you pay if/when you lose. Naturally there are no breaks, you must finish the entirety of the serving in one sitting, which includes the broth, to the very last drop.

They are asking for you to call in and reserve a time in which to endeavour on this challenge, as truthfully they currently only have one large bowl to serve their “Giga Ramen” in. However, they have ordered more from Japan. But for now, this means only one competitor at a time, and no sharing; unless you are ordering it for novelty and not to compete. This “Giga” bowl does make for a great serving to share between a handful of friends.

Today, I would be the first individual to attempt the challenge. I did so with their classic “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu Ramen”. This is their signature broth made with soy sauce, the lightest of the flavours, and the one I had the best chance at finishing with. To see how I actually did and to get a more visual review of this post, check out my latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

If all this looks like too much food for you, try their “Mega Dragon” ramen. This is a smaller “big” bowl, equivalent to 2 servings. It is ideal to do a practice run with (in preparation for the real challenge above), or a great size for those extra hungry days. On top of more broth, noodles, and chashu; it also has the addition of bean sprouts, two pieces of Hokkaido fried chicken, and a whole soft boiled egg.

But if eating large amounts of food really isn’t your thing, they have a regular menu as well. And since my original visit, its offerings have doubled.

For the hotter weather, “Dipping Noodles” are available. It is popular amongst those who want the flavour of ramen, but not its heat. Taka’s version is the only one in Vancouver that features traditional Japanese dry fish powder as a topping of the “dip”. It is a roasted mixture of various dried fish, used to give the broth some great depth of flavour.

And on their dinner only menu, there are two new, more decadent bowls of ramen. Both are only available for ordering after 5pm. One features roast beef and truffles, and the other: tempura-ed shrimp and vegetables, and shrimp oil.

They also have a new take out option for those on the go. Their “microwaveable ramen” with chaushu, bamboo, and mushroom; comes in a plastic container with noodles, that you assemble, and then heat up in the microwave. It is great for travel, and good for three days in the fridge.

And lastly, they now have Happy Hour specials Monday to Friday from 2-5pm. With any alcohol beverage purchase, you get it and any of their sides at 20% off. Gyozas, fried chicken, and their assortment of pork over seasoned rice.

 

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.
My original assessment still stands, even after gorging on more ramen then anyone really should, in one sitting. This is still some seriously good ramen, just now with more varieties to choose from. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN TAKA
841 Bidwell Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2J7
604-620-3371
takanotsu.me
Ramen Taka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Ramen Taka

There is another new ramen shop to hit the “ramen district” on Robson, a strip offering you all the various ramen shoppes on one stretch of road. They have taken over for “Ramenman” and walking up to the restaurant, I immediately noticed the difference in ownership. The awning is printed with traditional Japanese characters, the store front is framed with paper lanterns, and cloth banners hang above the threshold. And best of all, a showcase of plastic dishes that are offered within are displayed outside. They tempt you with what could be, just as they would if you were in Japan. Each of these elements spoke to the difference and the authenticity of the new tenants.

This is the newest and first over seas restaurant of the traditional Japanese ramen chain, Taka Ramen. They specialize in Hokkaido style ramen with four locations in Ashikawa and one in Shinjuku, Japan. They are still newly minted in Vancouver, Canada; having only open their doors on March 16 of this year. Today I was in to check things out before their grand opening on April 9, 2018.

When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

I was the plus one to the one and only “@pickydiner”. Where we would be able to chat up their marketing director, and learn a little more about “Ramen Taka”. Asking they what sets them apart, and how they hope to complete with the already saturated ramen market in Vancouver.

According to their manifesto, printed on wood and hung on the walls; the restaurant is named after where they originated: Takasu in Hokkaido Japan. Takasu is a neighbouring city of Asahikawa with a smaller population of just over 7000. The name of the town means “Eagle Resides”. The owner lived here with his mother. He loved her cooking, especially her ramen recipe, so much so that he decided to offer it everyone else.

They are best known of their ramen broth, which really sets them apart. It is made with a blend of pork bones, vegetables, and seafood simmered for many hours. And not just pork or chicken, like at others ramen shoppes. To further the meticulousness of this broth, they also take the time to thoroughly strain it, alleviating any excess fat. This achieves a condensed broth that forms “gelatine from the collagen”, which only a pure broth could. Not using chicken also means that it takes longer for the broth to be set, and to be made golden clear in colour. A distinction that is worth the time, earning them a product to be proud of. The murkier the broth, the quicker the preparation. So the ability to see down to the bottom of the bowl was an achievement on their process.

All their ramen is also flavoured with roasted Hokkaido lard. This layer of fat not only adds a deliciously rich flavour to the bowl, but it also slows the soup from cooling down too quickly. The result is that the serving stays warmer for longer, or in our case from the first photo to the last in our mini photo shoot.

Their noodles are another factor that sets them apart. They use Asahikawa noodles, which is made without eggs and minimal amounts of water. The result is an ideal, lighter texture of noodle, that best complement the heavier broth above. Chewy and a tad sticky, easy to slice through with the slightest pressure from your pursed lips. These starchy strands are able to hold their texture longer, failing to become soggy when submerged in hot broth.

Their char shu pork is also selectively different. It is served in a larger slice and is fairly lean. Seeing as there is already lard on top of the soup, the lack of fat on the pork is meant to balance this out. It is also purposefully on the drier side, so that it soaks up the fat and the flavour of the soup when you submerge it into the broth for easier tearing and eating.

And finally, they don’t mince words here, they offer four types of ramen. The classic shoyu, shio, miso, and a spicy miso with fun names. The classics done to the best of their ability.

My guest had the “Dragon’s Dewdrop”. This is their signature shoyu ramen prepared with 100% pork bone, condensed clear soup, with the roasted Hokkaido lard that I mentioned earlier. This was definitely the milder of the two ramen bowls that we tried. It tasted like a clear broth. Clean to drink with a neat finish. Simple in flavour but refined by its depth. A taste that travelled right to the depths of your belly. But if you thought that was flavourful, my serving of miso ramen was much more bold, with ten times the punchiness.

The “Supreme Dragon” had a special miso mix. Their seasoning for this combined white miso, red miso, and a secret mix of fruits. This layered flavour gave it its distinct and complex nuance. Though admittedly it did get rich towards the bottom. A little too much to finish when I ran out of seaweed, soft boiled egg, bamboo shoot, and green onion; each necessary in adding a fresh quality to the serving.

Luckily you have the option to add “wari” soup to dilute things. This is more pork bone broth, helpful in elongating your serving and allowing you to drink every last drop.

We also shared a dish of chicken karaage. Thick pieces of juicy dark meat, generously coated in a crunchy batter. It was surprising how each nugget retained its crunch, even long after it cooled. They were a little on the saltier side for me, but I easily remedied that by dunking into my miso soup broth.

And if you visit “Ramen Taka”, be sure to finish your meal and head into their washroom to freshen up. There, toothpicks and mouthwash await you for your convenience. And a place isn’t authentically Japanese unless they have a Japanese toilet. This is the first restaurant in Vancouver that I have visited with such a thoughtful set up. I am not too embarrassed to admit that I took the heated seats for a test run, although was a little too shy to try the water jets. Just as thoughtful is their sign offering hair ties and disposable bibs before your meal, should you need the support.

 

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.
Some seriously good ramen. Definitely one of my new favourite places in the city for authentic style ramen, with the history to back up the prestige I am designating them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN TAKA
841 Bidwell Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2J7
604-620-3371
takanotsu.me
Ramen Taka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Koika Robson, spicy ramen challenge

Did you know that Downtown Vancouver has a “ramen corridor”, where serval ramen shoppes are located within spitting distance from one another. So if you don’t want to line up for some at one place, there is bound to be a free table at another. And now Ramen “Koika’s” second location is one of those options.

Tonight I was invited down to said location for a media event, which most excitedly included an eating challenge. I may not be the best at them, or really any good, for that matter. But heck, I love me a good food challenge, and this was certainly a challenge. More on that at the end.

“Koika Robson” is a franchise location. With the help of the original owners and chefs, they are training the new management and serving team to ensure that the brand that was established on Davie street lives on, at their Robson location as well. And today we got to see just that with the cooking and execution of the meal below.

The restaurant’s exterior explains itself. Some of their most beautiful and vibrantly coloured bowls of ramen are poster-ed, in contrast to their all black store front. A sleek black that carried on into their interior. Really, the decor is pretty low key. The only feature that sets their space apart is the use of staggered light rods cascading above the tables, along the right side of the restaurant. They dull orange glow calls attention to their wall length mural that travels from one end of the seating area to the other. Its recreation of Robson street, done by one of their employees. A memorable piece that took two weeks to finish.

As for food, a handful of their favourite appetites and ramen bowl came before us for sharing. Knowing I had a large bowl of spicy ramen waiting for me, I ate more cautiously.

But before we get into all that we tried: When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

I was a little confused by the name of our first appetizer: “Minions dice”. It is basically deep fried tofu with their special sauce. Similar to agedashi tofu with a similar texture and crispy breading made soft in pool of sauce. Except this “special sauce” had a lot more flavour to it, in a punchy way.

The “Handmade takoyaki ball”, tasted just like the classic deep fried flour balls with chucks of octopus, expect I couldn’t feel/taste anything that resembled chewy octopus tetacle within the ball itself. And all the flavour came mostly from the two sauces generously drizzled over. It overwhelmed, hiding the dough ball. There also wasn’t much texture to it, no vegetables, no octopus.

I liked the “Creamy croquette”, a battered and fried corn, onion, mashed potato, and mozzarella cheese patty. It was like enjoying mashed potatoes like you would a chicken nugget. It even had its own sauce for dipping in to; or rather, drizzling over.

The “Gyozas” were your classic pork dumplings, made with a juicy green onion and pork meat filling. All wrapped around a chewy shell that was pan seared for some char.

“Tonkotsu shio ramen”. Classic ramen served in pork broth, prepared Tokyo Chiba style. It featured ramen kneaded and pulled in house, like all their noodles are. It is available in spicy or non spicy, with cha-su, bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, green onion, spinach, bean sprouts, and thin noodles. It was good, but the least memorable bowl of all the ramen that we had.

“Triple black garlic ramen”. I liked the colour of the charcoal black broth, giving more literal meaning to the “black” in black garlic. Although it could have used more garlic flavour considering they deemed this a “triple” in the black garlic territory. It was also a little too salty for my tastes. The black broth stained the tofu and left an ashy film around it and all the other ingredients. I wanted to like this one more, so am sad that I don’t. This is the vegetarian version with tofu and bean sprouts instead of cha-shu, served with thin noodles.

The “Sapporo miso ramen” was my favourite of the night. Even though, despite how I read its name, it is NOT made with “Sapporo beer”. Thin noodles in a rich seafood broth with stir fried ground pork, bean sprouts, green onions, and corn. The bowl had the most savoury and rich flavour out of all that we tried. With this you have the option to make it spicy or non spicy, and to add stir fried seaweed for $1 more if you want some extra crispiness.

The “Queen’s ramen” is a vegetable heavy ramen made with chicken broth. If you want more meat, you can add shredded pork for $2, or have the broth be made 100% vegetable/vegetarian for $1 more. Carrot, cabbage, mushroom, green onions, spring onion, and bean sprouts. I much more prefer my ramen richer with pork fat and pork pieces, so by comparison to the ones above, this ramen tasted bland to me.

By further contrast was the flashy and seafood-flavour-full “Kings seafood ramen”. The collections of mussel standing upright at the back of the bowl, certainly looked like a crown befitting of its name/title. This was a generous collection of shellfish and vegetables with blue crab, clam, New Zealandgreen mussels, cabbage, black gree fungus, onion, red pepper, green pepper, Thai chilli, bean sprouts, and a red pepper powder.

When ordering any of their ramen you have your choice between mild, spicy, or not spicy. You can add kimichi for $2.50, or have extra noodles on the side for $1.50 more (except for tsukemen, dipping noodles, which would cost you $2 for a noodle refill). You can also select the texture of your noodles from soft or hard, and if you want your cha-su pork slices fatty or lean.

And last, but not least: We ended our meal with the spicy noodle challenge. We choose to conclude with this dish knowing full and well that if we started with this and tried to eat more after, it would be a bad scene. The noodles are served chilled and dry. The red hot mexican chilli and Thai paste is scooped atop, along with spinach, bamboo, green onion, and a whole soft boiled egg. It is advised that you mix everything up before you begin, turning yellow noodles into a florence orangey-red. Altogether this is a large bowl of red meant to feed 2.5 people. The challenge does not allowing sharing. Each contestant has 10 minutes to finish the serving with nothing but water to help you through. Doing so and leaving the bowl clean means you walk away with a $0 bill and a gift voucher for a free bowl of any ramen of your choosing, during your next visit.

Instead of me typing out my detailed blow by blow, I’ll invite you to check out my latest YouTube video on my channel MaggiMei. There, you will get a visual recap of all that we had, and some behind the scenes look as to how it is made. This is followed by the actual challenge itself.

 

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? – Yes.
Another great ramen place to join the leagues of all the others. Expect no other ramen shoppe offers up a big bowl ramen eating challenge, and one that pits you against the spiciest of noodle bowls. Don’t deny your cravings.

To check out one of my vintage food challenge videos, where we take on the aforementioned ramen big bowl challenge, visit the link below.

 

RAMEN KOIKA
1479 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C1
604-428-6117
ramenkoika.com
Ramen Koika Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Motomachi Shokudo

It was raining, and we had been in it all day. Soggy socks and a drenched jacket, the result of traipsing around without an umbrella. So when lunch rolled around, we were within walking distance of Denman Street, and thought ramen would be the cure. Something comforting to help warm us up.

With all the options in this “noodle corridor”, choosing is hard. My guest narrowed it down by refusing to visit any restaurant that was empty at 2pm this Sunday afternoon. I restricted our pool further, not wanting to wait for a table. So what cinched it for us, and had us stopping at “Motomachi Shokudo” was their menu. The menu opened and laid out, outside their restaurant showcasing their black charcoal ramen.

Having been to Tokyo, their exterior reminded me of a few of the more traditional design elements I encountered there. But theirs, a faux wooden facade outfitted over the glass front. It certainly gave the restaurant a more aged and authentic feel. Matching the lit lamp post out front, a visual cue and a great way to catch the attention of those passing by once the sun sets.

Inside, the restaurant had the same wooden motif. Dark plank walls, paint worn floor boards, and wooden tables with stow away stools to match. We grabbed one of the two tops by the window, preferring our own company over sharing the island bar with others.

The same menu that brought us in was now before us. And what looked like many pages and choices for ramen can actually be boiled down to the same four types of ramen with variation. These four were “Shoyu” (soy sauce), “Shio”(natural himalayan salt and shellfish), “Miso” (with four kinds of miso), and “Bamboo charcoal dark miso”. And it was the latter that we both were eyeing.

And the aforementioned options to have it are regular, spicy, vegetarian, with extra BBQ meat, or deluxe with more ingredients.

I went for their “Classic ramen” in their “Bamboo charcoal dark miso”, this is their signature ramen with a miso and bamboo charcoal powder broth. It is topped with BBQ pork or chicken, beansprouts, green onions, half a soft boiled egg, and bamboo shoots. We both went for the fattier pork over the chicken. Having the charcoal in the mix doesn’t really effect its taste. You get a bit of its ashiness, but it doesn’t stick to, our stain your teeth or lips. It is more just for colour and its health benefits. Overall a good broth that was a little salty, and benefited from a few shakes of the table side seasonings. I really enjoyed the texture of the noodle and there was plenty of it. A larger serving that had us both rubbing our bellies over how full we felt. But on the chance it isn’t the same for you, you can get a side order of just noodles for $1.30 more.

My guest got the Spicy version of the “Bamboo charcoal dark miso” for $1 extra and double the BBQ pork. It looked and tasted the same, except with more fire and heat.

As a side we ordered some gyoza, which was pretty standard. I would have liked more char on the pork dumplings, from a longer pan fry.

 

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.
Another good choice for ramen downtown. The novelty of a black broth brought me in initially, but it wouldn’t be the reason I return. I feel I could pay less for a normal bowl of ramen and get just as tasty of a serving. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MOTOMACHI SHOKUDO
740 Denman Street, Vancouver BC
604-609-0310
Motomachi Shokudo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Ramen Butcher, revisit

It’s been a while since my first and my last visit to “The Ramen Butcher”. The only thing holding me back is the travel time and the wait you expect, as they don’t take reservations. So after this latest visit, it all came back to me as to why I liked them so much. Simply put: they have good ramen.

To check out my origin review and read a little more on their decor that really hasn’t changed, click the link below.

The Ramen Butcher

 

The menu is pretty much the same, because why mess with a good thing? You still pick your ramen based on colour, although don’t take it literally like it did, unless you want to be disappointed.

Two of my dining companions went for their “Black garlic ramen” with roasted garlic oil. A popular choice full of flavour. With it you can choose your meat between lean or fat. And if you can’t get half half, which is a piece of each. Although one slice is just as tender as the other, and the “fat” slice just has a bit more gristle at its end.

Another guest got the “Red spicy ramen”, another fan favourite with a little or a lot of heat, depending on your presence. You get to choose your own adventure between three levels of spiciness, here, he went two. This too comes with garlic paste for that extra punch of flavour.

I had the “Orange Miso” only because it sounded unique. Miso marinated ground pork that actually isn’t orange in colour. But the paste that flavours it sort of is. It had a rich taste that went nicely with the chewy thin noodles. These are some of my favourite ramen noodles. I liked the thinner strands and the chewier consistency.

Although these bowls may look like a smaller portion size, the reality is you can make it double at no additional cost. If you slurp up all your noodles and are left with some excess broth, you can refill them. The first noodle refill is free, and I believe “The Ramen Butcher” is the only restaurant to offer this. A little side bowl of extra noodles to elongate your meal and your time with. This goes for any ramen dish, except for their signature “tsukemen”. If you want additional noodles for it, it is then $1.75, which is still a good deal. “Tsukemen” is the ramen served chilled and separate from its broth. Ideal for hot summer days, when you still want the taste of ramen. So by dipping noodle into sauce and then shovelling it into your mouth, you are decreasing how hot the noodle get and how much broth they soak up. Therefore you always end up with more soup than noodles.

I like it when I get to revisit and review only to find that what I said originally still holds true. There is no wonder why they are still standing and still seeing the traffic they do today, even with the same menu. Although they also have rotating specials. Like this Street Fighter mock up, featuring two different chasu dons “battling”. The suggestion is that you try both and vote for your favourite to win. It was such an eye catching advert, that it certainly had me reassessing whether I could finish a bowl of noodles with a side of rice.

 

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.
Even after 4 years, this is/was still good ramen. Worth travelling to and worth waiting in line for. Luckily the latter flows fast as the ramen is made to order and served quick. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN BUTCHER
223 E Georgia St, Vancouver BC, V6A 1Z6
604-806-4646
theramenbutcher.com

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