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.
1231 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N4