Ramen is something Vancouver does better than any other city on this side of the Pacific. Here are a dozen of my local favourite ramen-yas presented for our reader’s ranking consideration (poll at bottom). If I missed the spot that you love deeply, please turn me on to it on Twitter via @scoutmagazine.
Hida Takayama Ramen | Though tucked away in the food court of the Robson Public Market, this hideaway does a brisk trade in deliciousness, serving up unique noodle soups (eg. four miso, white sesame) that stroke synapses in the brain. All the broths are made in house, as are the noodles. Well worth seeking out!
The Ramen Butcher | 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 | 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 | A ramenhead fave. They do consistent shio, shoyu, miso and spicy miso at this busy, boisterous, efficiently run spot (line-up not as bad at the Broadway location). The pork broth satisfies. Aim for the miso-flavoured bowl sweetened with a hit of corn. Bonus: optional toroniku (pork cheek) chasu.
Motomachi Shokudo | 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.
Menya Raizo | Located in the old Menya Ramen address on West Broadway, this able newcomer – inspired by the post-war “yatai” black market food carts of Japan – is part of the Zakkushi group of restaurants. Menu covers the shio/shoyu/miso bases, with some interesting originals. Secret weapon: tebasaki chicken wings.
Jinya Ramen Bar | This chain is slowly making its way across North America. It shiny Vancouver home base is a high-rent biggie on Robson St. that packs in the punters. Massive menu with a lot of things beyond the realm of ramen, but some of the soups are tasty and well worth a try. I wasn’t too impressed by their regular Tonkotsu broth (overseasoned, thin) but I dig the “black” and the spicy chicken.
Marutama Ramen | 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 | 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 (pictured at top). They do a well-regarded veggie ramen too with a squash and miso broth, but I’ve never tried it. Because candied bacon!
Ramen Danbo | The only thing I don’t like about this place is how damn popular it is. Count on there being a queue even in the dead of winter or in the midst of a three-day rain session. Why? Excellent, restorative, rib-warming, Fukuoka-style tonkotsu broth, good noodles and quick, cheery service. Seemingly endless customisation options, from broth fattiness to noodle firmness. Superb broth. Chasu meagre and thin, but tasty nonetheless.
The Ramenman | They’re long gone from their original Ramenland address, moving across town to Davie St. in Yaletown. It still feels like a delicious little secret and I half feel a fool for sharing the address. Kyoto/Osaka style Kansai chicken broth is fabulous (choose “rich” over “clear”), 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 | 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.