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This was my latest lunch destination, a shop my guest had passed by on several occasions and wanted to try. We agreed to meet at 5pm and arrived three minutes early. They weren’t open for dinner until 5pm, so we spent those few minutes looking longingly in, and we weren’t the only ones. When the door was propped wide and the “open” sign flipped over the server immediately showed us to our table. We followed her through the threshold with the other two staff members greeting us in unison, in Japanese.

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As the only ramen bar in the area, the small space that filled up quickly. The interior was wood on wood, dark and varnished: load baring posts, the panels on walls, serving and prep counters for the staff, and dining tables and benches for guests. Seating was available at individual tables with your party, on bar style counters facing the window, or at family style large shareable tables.

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All the non stationary chairs were wooden stools; they were not comfortable, but they were practical. They had built in little cubbies that enabled suitable storage of coats and bags, keeping them off the narrow tables and off your lap. Considering the lack of hooks for hanging and table space to store valuables on, this is a great idea.

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Each table was set with a tray of bottled sauces and shakers of seasonings, not that any were needed. Chilli oil, vinegar, soy sauce, chilli flakes, and pepper. The utensils provided were crafted to be used for enjoying ramen with. Slender chopsticks for precision noodle handling and a plastic soup spoon with groves that allowed it to balance on the rim of the bowl. This prevented the otherwise inevitable spoon sinking into soup. Clever.

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The menu was a one pager, printed in colour, laminated, and unintentionally curled at its ends from regular use. Six different types of ramen were offered, along with a possible side of pork and rice, and Gyoza appetizers that would coming soon. Based on the pictures they all looked the same to me, but fine print revealed slight differences. One used miso to flavour their base broth, another soy, one had tomato, and another was specifically spicy.

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My guest had the “Shio Ramen”. “Taishoken’s” unique pork and chicken broth seasoned with salt. All the ramen served start with the same pork and chicken broth, this variation was the least dressed with additional flavouring. The broth was incredibly thick, the heaviest I have ever had. My guest asked for hot water to dilute the mix and make it easier to consume, and the restaurant was at the ready. They had on hand kettles of unseasoned broth. There were enough at the ready to leave one at our table for us to used as we pleased. We added enough liquid to cater to our individual preferences. It wasn’t until my second bite did it feel the broth was too dense, too flavourful, too rich; and poured in some unseasoned broth. I estimated a cup was added for me and closer to two for my guest.

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I had the “Shoyu Ramen”; like the one above it, started with their unique pork and chicken broth, but then seasoned with soy sauce. This was recommend by our server over the miso one, and the pork shoulder was suggested over the pork belly. There was a language barrier, but she was able to tell me what she liked and that is what I went with. I am surprised that the broth wasn’t the least bit oily, this is probably because it was allowed to boil for a long time. I am all about textures and found the extras in the bowl great for adding some. The seaweed was gritty, the bamboo was gummy, the fish cake chewy, and the noodles spongy.

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Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The richness of the broth wasn’t to my liking, although I finished my bowl it was a struggle to do so towards the end. I am thankful I went for the regular portion over my usual large serving. Despite my ability to consume more food I just couldn’t stomach more ramen. Like fine French pastries this was too rich, I knew when to say when. As the first serving of ramen I have ever had to adjust my preference to, this is not my first choice. Though for those who enjoy their meal decadent, this one is for you. Don’t deny your cravings.

TAISHOKEN
515 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2L2
778-737-3805
Taishoken Ramen 大勝軒 on Urbanspoon