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.
228 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K 6V7