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Kintaro


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Santouka (山頭火) Ramen

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Santouka is "soft-open" since Friday, February 26, 2010 with a limted menu; official grand opening is a week hence, on Friday, March 5. The limited menu includes most ramen; the sets, rice and snacks (including gyoza) will come later.

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This stylishly-appointed ramen shop features a long common table, several 4-tops and a bar facing the glass-enclosed kitchen. All seats thoughtfully include under-the-table space to tuck away bags and jacket. Sleek and clean -- a harbinger to everything about Santouka -- yet not over-crowding, the atmosphere is an appetising one. The staff is all Japanese delivering the expected energetic service.

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Prices tend to be on the high side ($8 to $13 for a bowl of ramen), more on par with Motomachi Shokudo than with the other ramen shops. It uses the style of noodles that is lower in egg content and alkaline water, similar to that Meny-ya uses rather than to, for example, Benkei's or Deli Nippon's. This style of noodle is not as springy as the other type and is harder to the bite. Santouka cooks its noodles al dente -- just about right.

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Since Hokkaido, where Santouka was born, is famous for its miso ramen, we gave it a try. Whereas the miso broth is definitely miso, it is not over-whelmingly so. It is not bland, but neither is it exploding with flavours. It is also a little surprising that it does not include corn, one of the pride produces of Hokkaido. The serving temperature tends to be on the low-end: still hot, but slurping is not de rigueur.

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An alternative to the more regular ramen is the toroniku ramen. "Toroniku" is the prized neck meat of the hog and Santouka braises it to the point where it literally melts in one's mouth. Of the 3 types of broth (shio, shoyu and miso), we had the shio ("salt") type, which is essentially milky pork-bone broth. It's thick without being oily and over-bearing. Very calming and soothing indeed.

All in all, not bad -- however, at these prices, it'd better be! Interestingly, when I compare my pictures with the those taken at other Santouka locations, they look almost the same. Now that cars are "driving machines" and pens are "writing instruments", perhaps the style of Santouka Ramen can be said to be "precision-engineered slurping materials"?

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Ramen shops in Asahikawa although being a city in Hokkaido are more famous for their shoyu ramen. We were on a tour last year of Hokkaido and we stopped for lunch at the Asahikawa Ramen Village. Its a building with about 10 of the more popular ramen shops together in one place. Ramen Santouka was one of the shops in the village but we ate at Aoba Ramen which is supposed to be one of the best in Asahikawa. The waitress at Aoba spoke some english and when we asked for recommendation she told us to order the shoyu ramen. She said that Sapporo is where you should go to have good miso ramen.

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Ramen shops in Asahikawa although being a city in Hokkaido are more famous for their shoyu ramen.

Well, you know what you are going to make me do now...

Go back to Santouka to try their shoyu ramen!

Googling Ramen Aoba (ラーメン青葉) does show it specializes in shoyu ramen and that it, along with Hachi-ya (蜂屋), is the quintessential ramen-ya of Asahikawa (旭川). But it would also seem that Santouka breaks with the tradition a little by making a name in shio tonkotsu (とんこつ塩らーめん) instead.

It's getting complicated...! :blink:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Of the 3 types of broth (shio, shoyu and miso), we had the shio ("salt") type, which is essentially milky pork-bone broth. It's thick without being oily and over-bearing. Very calming and soothing indeed.

I totally agree with your assessment of Santouka's broth nondual1. I really enjoyed their miso ramen broth. I wasn't as enamoured with their noodles - though I went on the first day they opened, so maybe they were still working out the kinks a bit.

Word seems to be spreading - their was a line-up of about 15 people last night when I walked by. Is Vancouver becoming like Tokyo, where the best places ALWAYS have a line-up (like this place in Tokyo station)? I think it's that we still don't have enough ramen places in town and there's lots of pent-up demand.

健啖家(kentan-ka):A hearty eater

He was a wise man who invented beer." - Plato

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Ramen shops in Asahikawa although being a city in Hokkaido are more famous for their shoyu ramen.

Well, you know what you are going to make me do now...

Go back to Santouka to try their shoyu ramen!

Based on Kuwegg57's suggestion, I went back to Santouka to try their shoyu ramen. Although, as I mentioned in my previous post, Santouka really did not make its name by excelling in the shoyu broth, I was very pleasantly surprised. Whereas in most places, you definitely are tasting the soy in this broth, Santouka's shoyu broth is really more a tonkontsu (thick creamy pork broth) dotted or highlighted with shoyu. Going easy on the shoyu not only lessens the saltiness of the broth, it actually hones and purifies the underlying pork flavour. Santouka's shoyu broth is easily the best of its three broths and most likely one of the best of its kind in Vancouver.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Benkei Ramen seems like it's preparing to dominate the Vancouver ramen market! In addition to the new Thurlow St. location, they have two more underway. Fmed mentioned the Ontario/Main and 5th (43 East 5th) spot previously, and there's also one going in at 3235 W Broadway between Silk n Spice and Andale's. That will be three new locations in the span of only a few months.

You wonder why Kintaro doesn't try creating at least one other location. My guess is that they wouldn't be able to maintain the same quality.

健啖家(kentan-ka):A hearty eater

He was a wise man who invented beer." - Plato

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You wonder why Kintaro doesn't try creating at least one other location. My guess is that they wouldn't be able to maintain the same quality.

Or...they are waiting for how it pans out for Benkei. Let them take the risk.

FWIW, I find the Main St location choice to be quite odd. Will they really see that much traffic there? (Who am I to second guess?)

fmed

de gustibus non est disputandum

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FWIW, I find the Main St location choice to be quite odd. Will they really see that much traffic there? (Who am I to second guess?)

I think we're going to see a whole wack of development in that area in the next 5-10 years - Benkei's anticipating that. And they probably get a good deal getting a lease now. That whole SE False Creek Dev't is a potential market, plus all the condos that are going in nearby just to the south. Lots of new shops/services in Mt. Pleasant as well in the blocks close to Main St.

健啖家(kentan-ka):A hearty eater

He was a wise man who invented beer." - Plato

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ramen Santouka reopens this Wednesday (28th). They seem to have had some mechanical problems - ventilation perhaps?

健啖家(kentan-ka):A hearty eater

He was a wise man who invented beer." - Plato

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 6 months later...

Ramen Sanpachi (ラーメンさんぱち), aka Ramen 38, has opened a franchise on Bute just off Robson, taking over the old Royal Thai location. Sanpachi originates from Sapporo and the ramen it serves seems to be quite true to the Sapporo style. Based on my first visit -- photos to follow -- I like it a lot and will likely consider it my favorite ramen shop in Vancouver.

The miso ramen, supposedly Sanpachi's signature bowl, is all right. What really shined for me are the shio and yatai (屋台, or food stall) ramens: the former is rich, smooth and delicately seasoned, whereas the latter is simpler, more traditional and does bring back memories of slurping ramen at food stalls. All the noodles are cooked just right, although their "hang time" seems to be toward the shorter end -- so slurp quickly! But best of all is that the noodles do not have the off taste of soda, which is quite pervalent in other ramen shops that serve this type of noodles! The portion is reasonable for its price ($8.95 and up for a standard bowl, and I think $6.95 for small), which is on par with the price in Japan, but probably higher than the average for Vancouver.

Sanpachi apparently is only "soft-open", for most of the items on the menu are still not available. But, among the side-offerings that are, the cha-shu rice and mayo (with cha-shu bits) nori rolls are quite interesting. Service is very friendly, fast and almost too personable (for a ramen-ya). One hopes that's not just because the corporate team (which apparently includes the president 中秀世 himself) from Japan is on site looking over their shoulders. All in all, one of my most satisfying ramen experiences in Vancouver.

Although both are based in Hokkaido, the ramen at Sanpachi and Santouka are vastly different in style. I look forward to reading comments from tasters who have tried both. Ramen-hopping, any one?

The God of Ramen must be smiling on me, for my dream of a Vancouver Ramen Yokocho (ラーメン横丁) is surely taking shape in the Robson/Denman area!

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I would love to do a ramen hop if it wasn't so filling! Looking forward to trying Ramen Sanpachi. Good to see the Japanese chains having trust in the Vancouverites' palate for ramen. Could Ippudo and Sategaya be far behind?

fmed

de gustibus non est disputandum

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