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.