Our company has been doing quite well on the sales side the past couple of months – and given the fact that we are inside sales, we work more on an incentive base like being taken out for lunch or extra vacation day rather than commissions. This has its perks in more than one way for me. Given that I work a typical Monday to Friday, 8-4 day job, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to broaden my horizons and take myself out to new places for lunch, and unfortunately Ramen doesn’t really seem like a swanky dinner-type destination….although I may be changing my opinion on that after visiting this restaurant.
Santouka Ramen (http://www.santouka.co.jp/en/index.html) is located on Robson Street in between Cardero and Bidwell. The restaurant is a franchise with the majority of its locations being in Japan but with a select few in the US, Canada, Singapore, and China. Sorry Toronto friends; you are NOT lucky enough to be selected for a location… Vancouver is the only one in Canada :-). This fact does heighten my opinion on this place – I mean if you’re serving Japanese food, I would hope the people are actually Japanese, or at least have it’s roots established in Japan.
If you come at noon, expect a little bit of a wait. Luckily, we take our lunch at 11:30, therefore we were seated right away, and actually were able to select our own table. The staff was typical Japanese sweetness and light. Kind, attentive, polite, and gosh darn cute. I always leave Japanese restaurants feeling a little warmer inside.
Now – healthwise…. FORGET IT. The sodium content in this broth, I imagine, is way above the recommended weekly limit, let alone daily…. but I mean, if you don’t do it everyday splurge once in a while – it’s okay to – actually your body might respond quite well to it. Just make sure you drink a litre of water or more after, k??
Like any typical Ramen restaurant, they pretty much only offer…..RAMEN. Yes, they have a select few small appetizer plates, ie. gyoza (dumplings) – but you don’t go to a Ramen restaurant for anything other than Ramen. Also – if you don’t eat meat…. I don’t think you’ll get quite the same experience, I mean they do offer vegetarian broth and salmon (instead of pork) and I guess if you have never tried pork cheek then you wouldn’t know what you’re missing….oops! I may have spoiled the surprise…. 🙂
Anyways, we all ordered that same thing….but, I’m sorry, what I put in my mouth that day was probably one of the top 10 things I have EVER tried. So listen up. We ordered Tokusen Toroniku Miso Ramen, and washed it down with a delicious Asahi beer (SO much better than Sapporo).
Toroniku Cha-Shu is their specialty pork – which really is just braised (or pressure-cooked, couldn’t tell) pork cheek……..sorry, just had to give you time to wipe up the drool…. They braise it in a light soy sauce so it has a distinctly salty flavouring, but not overwhelmingly so. A word of caution though – they only have a limited number each day so get there early and cross your fingers that not everyone in Vancouver has read this blog, and is rushing over there today…. You DO NOT want to miss this tender, melt-in-your-mouth, delicious piece of pig. Mmmmmmmmmm.
Now – this type of Ramen is served a little differently than the others having the toppings on the side. It reminded me a bit like Pho, but I imagine it’s sole purpose is to preserve the texture of the meat, and allow the consumer to decide how they want to eat it. I put the bamboo shoots, black cloud mushrooms, scallions, and imitation crab directly into the broth but opted to just dip the meat in to warm it through before popping it into my mouth.
I chose the Miso (Soy bean) flavoured broth, as opposed to the Shio (Salt) or Shoyu (Soy), as I gauged it like a medium “spice” kind of idea. There was also one that was labelled “spicy”, and you know how I love hot things, but I decided as this was my first time to let the flavours shine through rather than burn my taste buds off :-). The broth was everything I was hoping for – robust and rich with a clean, not overly insulting, saltiness.
All-in-all this lunch; quick, easy, and delicious as it was, was probably one of my favourites. I would highly recommend it to anyone but especially those working in downtown Vancouver looking yummy noodles and delicious pork goodness in the middle of the day. The only negative, and really with the quality really doesn’t bother me that much, is the price. If you want cheap, this is not your place…..if you want quality, you’ll find yourself here over-and-over again.
Happy Eating, Friends!
*This experience was completely paid for out of my own pocket. Santouka Ramen did not ask me to write this post/nor did they pay for any of my meal.