For this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday we go back exactly five years to when Ramen Gojiro held its menu tasting for staff, a day before the restaurant officially launched on the northwest corner of Dunsmuir and Richards.
The new restaurant was from the Menya Kouji Group, which also operated Chinatown’s popular Ramen Butcher, where I’d been a regular since its first day. Managing Director Kaito Kaneyoshi had invited me down for this pre-opening taste, and I was so excited that I skipped breakfast. Here are some of my notes and photos from the day…
It’s a corner location (501 Dunsmuir, to be exact), with awning branding that you can’t see from the sidewalk. I imagine word will spread easily enough, as the surrounding area is a haunt of hungry international students on a budget. Though the windows were still papered up on the weekend, the interior of the 38 seater was nailing the look and feel of the milieu: tight, busy, loud and aromatic with a whole lot of slurping going on. With the finishing touches of construction were still underway, the cooks in the open kitchen (including an exec flown in from HQ in Japan) were hard at it, bowling training noodles for all assembled.
While I am an admitted fan of The Ramen Butcher, I was glad to see that they were trying to do something different here. The ramen is done in the “gatsuri” style: the noodles are thicker (think bucatini) than the thin, addictive strands at The Ramen Butcher, so they can stand up to the considerably saltier/fattier broth (a mix of pork and chicken). The toppings are much more generous, too; lots of cabbage and sprouts, and a crowning tower of pork. You can have yours basic or intensify it with an impactful, garlic-heavy spice paste that electrifies the broth. Alternatively, you can go the tsukamen (dipping noodle) route. Oh, and instead of gyozas, the ancillary focus at Ramen Gojiro is on karaage chicken, which they do deliciously in multiple ways, such as alongside a tartar-style sauce lit with Japanese pickles. They also pile the karaage on top of bowls of ramen – true story. I don’t want to give the whole game away, but it’s good.