Rain-Craving Noodles? Scout Readers Rank The 11 Best Ramen Houses In Vancouver

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I don’t want to date this list, but at the time of writing my wife is away in Japan and here in Strathcona it’s pouring with rain in the most miserable way and the weather report says it probably won’t let up for close to a thousand years (or something). So my thoughts have naturally turned to ramen and where I should go to eat it, a feeling amplified by the fact that ramen-fetishist film Tampopo is screening in the city soon. Ramen is something Vancouver does better than any other city on this side of the Pacific. Here are eleven of my local favourite ramen-yas presented for our reader’s ranking consideration. If I missed the spot that you love deeply, please turn me on to what I’m missing on Twitter via @scoutmagazine.

The Ramen Butcher | 223 East Georgia St. | 604-806-4646 | www.theramenbutcher.com | A personal fave as it’s so close to my house (I eat here at least twice a month). Go for the “Classic” and spice up the salty, cloudy but none-too-unctuous tonkotsu broth with a side of impactful red garlic paste. Extra thin noodles made in house. Bonus: free kaedama (a fist-size ball of extra noodles).

Kintaro | 788 Denman St. | 604-682-7568 | No Website | The greasy grandfather of Vancouver’s ramen scene, where the excess of tonkotsu is laid bare via a veritable steam bath that coats everything – especially your nostril interiors – with a technicolour dream coat of pork (courtesy of two huge pots bubbling bar-side). Nightly line-ups for a reason. Rejoice in the gnarl!

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka | 1690 Robson St. | 604-681-8121 | www.santouka.co.jp | Not my favourite, but I know some ramen freaks who swear by it. They do consistent shio, shoyu, miso and spicy miso at this busy, boisterous, efficiently run spot (expect a line up). Pork broth satisfies. Aim for the miso-flavoured bowl sweetened with a hit of corn. Bonus: optional toroniku (pork cheek) chasu.

Motomachi Shokudo | 740 Denman St. | 604-609-0310 | No Website | Locally famous for its black charcoal ramen (bamboo, charcoal, miso), which is an altogether singular ramen-ya experience that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Don’t be put off by the colour as the taste is totally on point. Poor service is this place’s only consistent weakness. Endure it by focusing on the adventure.

Menya Japanese Noodle | 401 W Broadway | 604-873-3277 | www.menyaramen.com | Hard not to slurp their shoyu soup like a wild person. It sees an umami-bomb soy sauce, chicken, and vegetable base brightened with bonito, egg, cabbage, green onion and seaweed. Skip the cha-su pork in favour of chicken. Really balanced seasoning in the broth. Noodles nice and tender. Underrated!

Ramen Jinya | 270 Robson St. | 604-568-9711 | www.jinya-ramenbar.com | This place has had its ups and downs with consistency over the years (changing stocks, noodles, service issues), but my most recent pass saw a return to its original form. Their extra garlicky “Cha Cha Cha” tonkotsu bowl was better than I’d remembered it — nice and heavy. Slow-simmered broth a palate knockout.

Marutama Ramen | 780 Bidwell St. | 604-688-8837 | www.marutama.ca | Increasingly well known for its tori paitan chicken broth and aosa sea lettuce, this stylish (for a ramen joint) and popular spot benefits hugely from its sharp service team. Table turnover is quick so don’t sweat the queue. Focus on the all-dressed “Zenbu” option that includes pork belly, cha-su, aosa, and good ajitama.

Harvest Community Foods | 243 Union St. | 604-682-8851 | www.harvestunion.ca | I have a soft spot for Harvest as I was there when they debuted their first ramen, a top-to-bottom organic beauty with pork shoulder, candied bacon and exquisitely marinated egg. They do a well regarded veggie ramen too with a squash and miso broth, but I’ve never tried it. Because candied bacon.

Benkei Ramen Noodle Shop | 545 West Broadway | www.benkeiramen.com | They do a bowl here called “Spicy Akaoni” that I haven’t seen the local equal of. Loaded down with pan-fried minced pork, the broth is hit hard with sesame and slicked with a lot of roasted garlic oil; the whole thing leans to the unusually delicious, and it keeps me coming back. Plan B: chicken curry ramen.

The Ramenman | 841 Bidwell St. | 604-620-8806 | No Website | This adorable off-Robson hideaway feels like a delicious little secret and I half feel a fool for sharing the address. Kyoto/Osaka style Kansai chicken broth is fabulous, and they also do an option 100% vegetarian broth that is layered with shroomy and smoky nuance (uncommon in ramen-ya). An absolute charmer.

Gyoza Bar | 622 West Pender St. | 604-336-5563 | www.gyozabar.ca | Good-looking rooms and ramen have never been big buddies in this city, so this looker is a welcome addition on both the aesthetic and gastronomic fronts. Spice up the tamago-shoyu version and go to town (extra heat is an option). The egg revels in the hot broth. Fringe benefit: a deep selection of interesting gyozas.

Which is your favourite ramen restaurant?

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There are 28 comments

  1. I have to give a shout out to my 2 favourite Ramen places. Ramengers on Kingsway which unfortunately is now closed. Their Chasu was the best in this whole town. I’m an ex vegitarian and I couldn’t get enough of the pan seared secret recipe. It melted in your mouth and the fat was like a butter spread on it’s own.
    Kamamarui Ramen and Don at 4219 E Hastings is apparently more korean ramen than japanese. Their Chasu is sliced thin and seared better to me than 90% of the other chasu I have tasted. I love Ramen, I keep a list of all the new places to try. I love their combos. No gyoza but other interesting sides.

  2. Twitter was quick to say the same. Was underwhelmed. I guess it’s time to go back. Thanks for the comment, and for being nice about it. Ramen is special to a lot of people. There is a tendency among many hardcore noodle enthusiasts (myself included) to bring an emotional bent to their otherwise entirely subjective opinions. Phew!

  3. I just tried Kokoro Ramen at the corner of 41st and Victoria which opened not to long ago. I don’t have a lot of experience with Ramen places, but it was very good.

  4. You were expecting just one person to read this article? 😉
    Very informative, thanks. Can’t wait to do the rounds!

  5. Came here to mention the white sesame ramen at Hida as well! The shoyu is pretty good, too; it’s bafflingly minimalist, with a rich clear soup giving a nice view to the ball of noodles below.

  6. Benkei? Kintaro?? Are you serious. Benkei has the worst ramen and service hands down. Probably the worst service of any restaurant I have ever been to.
    I’m Japanese and I know what ramen is supposed to taste like, unlike the writer of this article. I supposed I should go to Taco Bell for authentic tacos and McDonalds for authentic poutine too. Don’t write about food. Just don’t.

  7. “I’m Japanese and I know what ramen is supposed to taste like, unlike the writer of this article.” Er…don’t do that. Race is hardly the ultimate arbiter of authority in the entirely subjective territory of taste. And I don’t think a career change is in order since you disagree with me on two out of eleven choices. I wouldn’t like to have to restrain myself – based on my Scottish ancestry – to only writing about haggis. Thanks for your silly input though!

  8. Why did you tell everyone about The Ramenman, it’s lowkey the best spot in Ramenland to get a bowl without a wait.

  9. Great list of ramen places, been to all except 2 (Hokkaido & Ramen Man). Motomachi is still good with best service. Marutama is good but terrible service. Others just O.k.

  10. Because it’s my business, I guess. As another lover of The Ramenman, do what I did and don’t vote for it. 😉

  11. I’ve been going to Motomachi since their grand opening and I have never felt their service was ever in the “poor” category. What do you expect from a ramen joint?

  12. A little better. Love their soups though. (I’ve been going there since the start, too.)

  13. OK, putting Benkei on this list and leaving off Santouka totally discredits this article. Benkei is pedestrian, uninspired ramen and the manager is pretty horrible too.

  14. Are these photos from actual Vancouver ramen shops? I’d like to try the one in the bottom right with the charred pork, don’t recall seeing that at the shops mentioned in this article, anyone know?

  15. Hi Sam. It’s actually a shot of my first bowl of ramen at Kuma in Tofino (not on this list due to its remoteness).

  16. Instead of having a list of 11 ramen shop with 3 just being okay, you should have gone with 5 decent ones.
    Btw Dennis is right, those 2 suggestions are almost offensive 😉

  17. Part of the exercise is to let the readership do the whittling in the poll, letting the best rise to the top. They’ve done just that. 😉

  18. I am just gonna mention Danbo. Don’t go though. The wait is already always at least 30 min.

  19. You’re a brave man, Andrew. Very brave. I’m a fan of Hida Takayama Ramen. Not much for ambiance, but delish.

  20. OMG, are you kidding me? Ramen Butcher (not so good) makes it on here but no Ramen GoJiro (soooo freaking good!!!)? You need to add these guys to your poll!!!!!

  21. I’ll leave out the extra exclamation points when I break this to you…Ramen Butcher and Ramen Gojiro are the same company.

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