It sounds like it’s not just London that’s had a number of excellent ramen places open up recently. I’ve already tried one ramen place in Vancouver but when I heard of a ramen place direct from Japan, I jumped at the chance to try it. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is at the western end of Robson, surrounded by both old and new Asian places. You’ll know the end of Robson I mean if you’re familiar with the city!

My brother visited the place when he was back earlier this year and recommended the place and made suggestions on what to have. On his recommendation (and he got this recommendation from his friend), I ordered the cream soda float.

Wow, it was green. Like super green. It was good if a bit too sweet. It was perhaps more suitable as a dessert than a drink! I’m also convinced that my kidneys are now green.

Cream Soda Float

I went for the Toroniku Shio Ramen and this was how it was served, with its toppings separate from the noodles and broth.

Toroniku Shio Ramen

The bowl was full of their shio ramen, their signature ramen using just their tonkotsu broth seasoned with salt. The broth is beautifully creamy (though perhaps not as creamy as Ippudo) and delicious.

Shio Ramen

The toppings on the side were not the usual they serve on the ramen – the toroniku cha shu was made using pork cheek. This was excellent – I loved the texture and flavour of the pork cheek – and that pickled plum in the corner? It was crisp and provided a refreshing zing between bites of ramen and cha shu.

Toroniku Cha-Shu

My father ordered his usual – the kara-miso ramen, whose soup base is a miso tonkotsu with some spice within. His ramen was topped with the usual toppings, including the usual pork belly based cha shu. It’s good!

Kara-Miso Ramen

And we had to have the classic ramen accompaniment – gyoza. These were excellent specimens, full of porky filling.

Gyoza

With an order of tea, the total came to $40 CAD, not including tip. The main downside is the queue to get in; I think we queued for about 30 minutes in the cold and wet to get a couple of seats at the counter. Luckily I was on holiday so had plenty of time on my hands – I’m not so sure I’d be as keen after a day at work. But maybe I would for great ramen!

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
1690 Robson St
Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
Canada

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka on Urbanspoon

I’d heard good things of the ramen at Ippudo and even a Tokyo-native colleague recommended it to me before I set off to Japan. However, with busy times in the office prior to our trip, I didn’t have time to look up its locations and just decided to mostly wing our eating when we were there. Imagine my surprise when we passed an Ippudo in Ueno while we were walking back to our hotel the previous night! There and then we decided that our last dinner in Tokyo would be ramen.

The next night, we duly made our way there and waited for only about 10 minutes before a table freed to accommodate the four of us.

I had to try the Akamaru New, noodles in a tonkotsu broth but with ‘koyu’ (a fragrant black garlic oil) and ‘umami-dama’ (a savoury spice ball). I also added an egg to my order.

Akamaru Ramen

This was some amazing tonkotsu broth, all creamy and rich and porky. I would have liked the noodles to be a bit firmer but I didn’t know then that I could have requested a specific noodle firmness. The slices of pork charshu on top were brilliantly melt in the mouth tender. This was an amazing bowl of ramen.

I didn’t pay too much notice to the condiments on the side as I found my soup to be perfect just as it was. But there was vinegar, soy sauce, pepper, chilli oil and sesame seeds to add to your ramen to make it perfect for you.

Condiments

Further condiments included raw garlic, pickled ginger and all the spicy beansprouts you’d like to eat.

Condiments

Having some gyoza on the side was surely mandatory, this being our last full meal in Japan. Ippudo’s mini gyoza with spicy yuzu paste went down a treat. Yes, I think I cleared almost this entirely plate myself – oink oink. They were excellent.

Mini Gyoza with Spicy Yuzu Paste

Brilliant. Best ramen I’ve had in a while. Please come to London, Ippudo (I mean, c’mon, you’re already in New York!).

Ippudo
Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 3-17-5
(but there are lots of branches throughout Japan)

I’d been down Denman in Vancouver many times before and had passed the quaint little ramen shop by the name of Kintaro Ramen each time and I had glanced at the menu, with its cheese ramen (apparently, “the ladies loooove it!”), but I’d never bothered to get into the queue. It was only this year, when my brother’s friends gave it the thumbs up, that I managed to finally head over there.

After meeting a group of friends at the corner of Denman and Georgia, and then watching a massive bicycle rally go through that exact corner, we strolled down towards the tiny restaurant where there was already a queue outside. The deal seems to be as such: you take your place at the end of the queue and everyone in your party must be there at the time. The queue works on a first come, first served basis – if there are 2 seats available, but a group of 4 in front of your party of 2, you’ll have to wait until they are seated first. Fair enough. To hasten things, you’re given the menu (in both English and Japanese) to pursue and your order is taken while you’re waiting outside. We queued for about half an hour at around 7pm on a Friday night.

When you’re finally seated, there’s still quite a wait while your order is prepared. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long for our gyoza.

Gyoza

These gyoza were fried very nicely and separated easily, something that I’d never seen before. Most gyoza I’ve had tend to be stuck together and so there’s always a bit of ripping of skin as we pry them from each other. The flavour was very good – quite porky but these were also the first I’ve had where the filling is quite finely minced, almost like a mousse.

After we scoffed the gyoza, it was still quite a wait until we received our bowls of ramen. As I’d never been there before, I went quite middle of the road with my order. I chose the miso ramen (their special recipe) with medium strength broth (rich and light broths also available). Their broth is pork based and vegetarians are not catered for – keep that in mind if you’re planning to visit! Each ramen also comes with a serving of pork, available in both lean and fat versions. Of course, I chose the fat!

Miso Ramen

And this is what arrived – it was a massive, and heavy, bowl of noodles. The broth was opaque and you could see from the globules of fat and tiny particles of meat in the broth that it is very pork based! It’s so rich that I don’t even want to imagine what the rich level of broth is like. But it was delicious. The miso flavour is not as strong as in regular miso soup but adds a lovely creaminess to the broth.

Fatty pork is also the way to go – you get this Swiss roll of pork belly that has both tender meat and melting fat. A friend of my brother had the lean pork and they were drier slices of pork loin. My brother had their shoyu ramen, with soy sauce in the broth, and this was just as delicious, with lots of pepper to flavour it.

We were in and out of the restaurant in under 35 minutes, excluding queuing time, which shows how fast we slurped it all up. Now I’m keen to return again to try their cheese ramen, which comes topped with, you guessed it, a big pile of cheese. It’s supposed to go very well with the broth!

Kintaro Ramen
788 Denman St.
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Kintaro Ramen on Urbanspoon