Ah, Vancouver. How I missed your naturally sweet tap water, your cooling seaside breeze, and your obsession with recycling! How on earth did I survive without a Tim Hortons Ice Capp for two whole months? In any case, returning to Vancouver after two months in Europe was bliss for me, and resulted in gorging myself on my mother’s Korean home cooking, sushi, and other (mostly Asian) cuisines. Still, you can’t eat Asian food all the time. During my first week back in Vancouver, SB and I visited the downtown location of The Keg. Laugh at us if you will for visiting a chain restaurant, but I’ve yet to have a bad experience with The Keg!
Still, I’d never been to the downtown location before, although I’ve walked by it countless times. Directly across the street from Joe Fortes, The Keg offers a more frugal (although more limited) option for steak and seafood. Despite offering the same menu as other locations, the downtown location does feel and look swankier. We were seated promptly by our hostess and proceeded to order off the same old familiar menu.
As always, we received our complimentary Bread first. It arrived promptly after we put in our order, which was nice. I hate just sitting around waiting for the bread to come. Anyways, it was sourdough, which I don’t prefer, but ah well. Served with whipped butter, it was quite warm and chewy, as bread should be. However, it felt a bit tough and hard on my throat–although that may have just been me being extra sensitive, as I had a bad cough the whole week.
We wanted to share an appetizer, and the Mushrooms Neptune ($9.95) sounded like the most intriguing option available. They were simply wine simmered mushrooms caps topped with crab meat and cheese, served with some sourdough. We were disappointed by this, as the mushrooms caps were very small and therefore an afterthought in the dish. Instead of the mushrooms being stuffed with the other ingredients, it felt like the mushrooms were simply another ingredient in the dish, if that makes any sense. The taste of cheese was so strong that nothing else was really apparent, although the bread once again was warm and chewy. We didn’t think that this dish was anything special, and we probably wouldn’t order it again.
Despite what you might think, I’m not much of a big eater, so I decided on the Grilled Top Sirloin (8 oz) ($22.95) with a twice baked potato. This was more than enough for me–I finished roughly half of it. As for the veggies, they were nothing special–I thought the asparagus should have been cooked longer, as it was too hard for me. I asked for the steak medium rare, and it arrived perfectly cooked, and it was both chewy and tender. I did find it a bit bland, though, and thought it could have benefitted from more freshly ground pepper. The potato contained bacon bits, which is always a plus, and the smooth, mashed potato-like texture was nicely broken up by intermittent chunky bacon bits.
Now, I only finished about half of my steak, but SB managed to finish the rest of it for me, as well as his Prime Rib (16 oz) ($30.95), which arrived with horseradish, red wine herb au jus, onion strings, and the same twice baked potato. I’ve always had a soft spot for prime rib, and this one was quite tender and arrived medium rare, just the way we’d asked for it. The meat itself had a bit too much fat, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle to remove it. The onion strings were rather soggy–perhaps we waited too long to eat them? Anyways, the potato was again the same creamy, bacon-y goodness. I’m not a huge fan of bacon (blasphemous, I know), but there’s something about those salty tiny bacon bits inside a baked potato that is just so sinfully delicious.
I’ve always enjoyed The Keg for their solid eats. It’s a good option for special occasion family dinners (graduations, birthdays, and whatnot). I’ve always visited the Burnaby location with my family and had stellar, friendly service there, so I was surprised at the strange, awkward service we received here. Our waitress was friendly, but there were a couple of things I found odd about her behaviour. We were seated by a sort of low wall, and she would lean over this to talk to us Home Improvement-style, which I found patronizing. There was plenty of room on the other side of our table for her to stand without disturbing the other table of diners. I suppose that she was probably trained to behave this way, though, and I had the feeling she was relatively new at her job. It didn’t make my dining experience unenjoyable, but it was troubling, to say the least.
To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed by my experience at The Keg. In comparison to the stellar experiences I’ve had at the Burnaby location, my experience here was less than stellar, although I found the food satisfying and well worth the money. As with any location, though, the menu is less than imaginative, but it does what it’s designed for. Sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned steak, and for that, I’d highly recommend The Keg–maybe just not this location.
Keg Steakhouse and Bar
742 Thurlow Street
Funnily enough, the last day SB and I saw each other before my Europe trip happened to coincide with Canada Day. Despite my aversion to crowds, we decided to head downtown to enjoy some of the festivities. Sure enough, there were crowds upon crowds of people, and the day was swelteringly hot. We decided to go see a movie to escape the sun, and by the time we ventured back out into the world, it had cooled down considerably. Since it was my last time dining in Vancouver for a while, we decided to munch on my favourite cuisine: Japanese–izakayas, to be more specific, and Guu Garlic to be even more specific.
I’d been to Guu Garlic several times, but never blogged about the experience before. Guu Garlic is right beside Santouka, which even on this blisteringly hot day had a line out the door and down the street. In comparison, our restaurant of choice was not incredibly busy, and although they had no air conditioning, it was still mildly cool inside. The restaurant itself is divided into an area with a bar and tables, and a sort of upper level where you sit on cushions on the floor. I’ve sat on those cushions before, and it was very uncomfortable, so we opted to sit at the bar, which was nice because we got to observe the chefs at work.
For our first dish, SB chose the Grilled Squid ($7.80). I generally avoid ordering squid at restaurants (other than calamari), because it tends to be too tough. However, the squid here was very tender while still retaining chewiness and a tad of rubberiness. It was also not too oily and was firm on the outside, but soft on the inside. I also liked that it was sliced into nice, bite-size portions for us, and served with garlic mayo on the side. The mayo was flavourful and provided a slightly spicy and rich aftertaste, which was lovely. We were both pleasantly surprised by this deceptively simple dish.
Next, we found the Salt, Pepper, and Sesame Oil Marinated Tuna Sashimi ($6.80) on the daily specials sheet. Here, we could clearly taste the salt, pepper, and sesame oil present in the dish. The sashimi was served alongside some veggies, garlic chips, and onions, which both soaked up the sesame oil and ended up being nice and flavourful. The fish itself tasted quite fresh and was a little chewy, but also soft, with an almost toro-like texture. We were quite happy with that since we’re huge fans of toro.
And to deviate from the seafood theme, we also had the Beef Tenderloin Steak Rice Bowl ($9.80). This was so incredibly satisfying. The beef was cooked medium rare and was nicely tender, while oozing with red juices. Meanwhile, the bowl was hot enough that the rice formed a nice crust, and the garlic chips added a nice punch of flavour. There was also some soy sauce included that kept the mixture from getting too bland, and the egg added moisture without making the mixture too wet. I found that the ingredients really balanced each other out, making for quite a yummy meal.
Being who he is, SB was still hungry after all this, so we also shared the Assorted Sashimi ($16) off of the specials sheet. For that price point, we were expecting nothing but the best. What we got was very fresh scallop and salmon sashimi, along with some tuna tataki. First off, the scallops tasted a bit too fishy, but were very smooth and buttery. Personally, scallops are my favourite type of seafood (when cooked), but I enjoyed the tataki the most here. It had formed a nice crust that added a bit of flavour, while the inner layer of sashimi was smooth and naturally sweet. Similarly, the salmon retained its natural sweetness and texture. Overall, all of the sashimi was quite satisfying.
And that’s the word I would use to describe our dinner here: satisfying. All of the dishes were well-prepared and tasty. I think I’m probably a bit biased because izakayas are my favourite places to eat, but then again, I’ve often had not-so-great experiences with the Guu franchise, especially the Thurlow location. Based on this experience, though, I would highly recommend stopping by Guu Garlic for a bite to eat!
1698 Robson Street
Spaghetei recently opened near Robson and Denman, taking over a space previously occupied by Benkei Ramen. SB, Dolph, Justin and I decided to try out this new restaurant and its somewhat unfamiliar specialty, Japanese-style pasta. When we visited, the restaurant was still in its soft opening phase. This meant that our food was discounted by 30%, but that they were also only accepting cash as payment.
We started off with some complimentary Pesto-Garlic Bread, with one piece being brought out for each person at the table. At first, we we were somewhat disconcerted by the vibrant green colour of the bread, but it simply tasted like regular garlic bread. It was well-toasted, crisp, and warm. This was accompanied by some kind of Soup or broth that looked like water with a few lettuce shreds floating around. We couldn’t really identify what this was, except that it tasted vaguely salty. Well, I’m not going to complain about free food, so whatever.
SB decided on the Meat Sauce ($11) pasta, which was spaghetti with minced beef and vegetables topped with a Japanese Bolognese sauce, sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese. He thought that this dish lacked a clear Japanese element. The tomato flavour was quite mild, while the meat sauce itself was a little bit thin. I found the dish to be a bit bland overall, and would have appreciated some pepper, which wasn’t provided at the tables. The noodles were also done a bit past al dente, although SB found that this didn’t hinder his enjoyment of his meal.
I opted for the Mentaiko ($13), spaghetti tossed in spicy cod roe with button mushrooms and dried seaweed. I’ve always been partial to the mentaiko udon at Sushi Garden, so I thought this would be right up my alley. Sadly, though, I preferred the version at Sushi Garden, which has enoki mushrooms and tastes a lot cheesier. I found the portion size to be a bit small for $13 (although we only paid 70% of this price because of their promotion). Overall, this dish was quite average. It was a tad spicy, but overall quite mild, which I suppose is characteristic of most Japanese food. The four of us thought that it tasted the most Japanese out of the four dishes we ordered–possibly due to the cod roe and the seaweed. The mushrooms included in the dishes had a strange spiciness to them that reminded me of wasabi for some reason. While I enjoyed my lunch, I didn’t think that it was worth $13.
Justin had the Neapolitan ($12), which to my disappointment wasn’t spaghetti with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, but instead spaghetti in a mild ketchup sauce and served with chicken, bacon, sausages, and vegetables. Described on the menu as a “Japanese all-time classic”, it was again quite mild. There was nothing wrong with the dish itself, with all the meats being cooked correctly, but it failed to draw us in. The noodles themselves were again quite chewy and had good bite.
Lastly, Dolph, our resident noodle aficionado, had the Butter and Soy Sauce ($13), which included shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach. She commented that the sauce tasted exactly like what she expected–simply butter and soy sauce mixed together. Like the rest of us, she failed to see anything extraordinary about the dish, commenting that it tasted like something that could easily be made at home. I suppose that the homey quality of the food could also be seen as a positive aspect of the restaurant, though.
I think that overall, the four of us enjoyed our lunch at Spaghetei, although that might be due to the excellent company we had in each other rather than the food. We were curious about the restaurant itself, since the concept of Japanese pasta isn’t a widespread one in Vancouver, despite the prevalence of other types of Japanese food available to us. The food was decent, but bordered on bland, and in general I felt that my mom could whip up many of the dishes on the menu. I also wasn’t sure about the Japanese influence on the dishes that we sampled. Still, the service is attentive, and there is a certain charming quality to the homeyness of the dishes that we sampled, so I would recommend that you give Spaghetei a try.
1741 Robson Street
On rainy days, I tend to feel an intense craving for soup, especially noodles in soup. Luckily enough for me, Vancouver has a variety of different options to satisfy this craving, including Taiwanese beef noodles, pho, and, of course, ramen. Of those options, ramen is my favourite. I love the chewy noodles, slices of fatty pork, crunchy bamboo shoots, and the rich, salty broth. Perfect for a wet Vancouver day.
On one of those wet Vancouver days, I indeed had a craving for ramen, but didn’t want to revisit Kintaro or Santouka. So SB and I took the bus down to Motomachi Shokudo, which a friend had recommended to me a while ago. Once inside, it reminded me more of Santouka than Kintaro (which is a positive thing for me). It was very clean and modern, with the requisite cramped tables, but I was happy to be tucked in away from the rain.
I was extra hungry, so we started off with a BBQ Pork Rice Bowl ($3.30) to share. It contained a small amount of white rice, julienned carrots, lotus root, BBQ pork, and Japanese mayo. I enjoyed the pork, which was in small, moist pieces, but I wish that there had been a smaller amount of carrots. I love carrots, but there was simply too much. The dish tasted mostly of mayo, and I also wished that we’d been given some kind of spoon, as all the ingredients were incredibly difficult to pick up with the chopsticks. Other than that, for the price, I wasn’t expecting much, so I was satisfied with what we received.
SB ordered even more BBQ pork in the form of Extra BBQ Pork Ramen ($12). He chose to have it with shoyu broth, with the other available options being shio and miso. Each broth was also a different price. He enjoyed the broth, which was rich, but not overpoweringly so. The shoyu flavour was mild and not too salty, but still had that quintessential taste of soy sauce. The pork included shoulder and sparerib, which were both flavourful but on the leaner side. SB commented that the other toppings, including the green onions, bean sprouts, and nori, all tasted sufficiently fresh, while the soft-boiled organic egg was creamy, with the yolk still being a bit runny. Overall, he was quite satisfied with his bowl of noodles.
Meanwhile, I opted for the Miso Ramen ($10). I loved the attention to detail in the plating, with the cute little flower included on the serving tray. It was a nice touch. In any case, the broth was rich with a lot of depth, and tasted somewhat smoky, with the miso flavour being intense but enjoyably so. I would have preferred more corn, however. Most times when I eat ramen, I spend a lot of time trying to scoop up every last kernel of corn, but this time, I felt that there wasn’t as much corn included as I get at Kintaro or Benkei. In addition to the pork, there were loads of bean sprouts and green onions included to provide that extra textural crunch, which I love. There were also some bamboo shoots, which tasted exactly the way I expected them to, being somewhat rubbery and crunchy at the same time. The noodles, meanwhile, had good bite, but weren’t overdone. Like SB, I quite enjoyed my bowl of noodles, as the ingredients all worked together, and the pork wasn’t too fatty, which is always the problem I have at Kintaro.
To conclude, we had a decent time at Motomachi Shokudo, although the prices are a bit higher than what you’d find at other ramen places in town. The broths and pork are both on the less fatty side, which I personally prefer. Despite this, I would probably prefer to eat at Santouka. I felt quite bloated later that night and for the majority of the next day, which isn’t something I have to deal with when I eat at Santouka. Still, though, I would recommend Motomachi if you’re in the mood for ramen on Robson Street, but not keen to wait in line like you usually have to at the more popular places, including Kintaro and Santouka. Although we didn’t try it this time, apparently the charcoal ramen is their specialty–I guess I’ll have it the next time I visit!
Motomachi Shokudo 元町食堂
740 Denman Street
Siobhan was leaving for Iceland in the new year (yes, this visit was a while ago), and so the task fell on me to choose a restaurant for our last dinner date of the term! I had scoped out Adesso Bistro as a possible location for my birthday dinner (we went with Catch-122 instead), but the restaurant and menu still stood out to me, even a few months after I visited their website. So, despite the rain and cold, we made our way to Haro Street (Haro! Love the name) for an early night out.
I tried to make reservations for a later time, but since the restaurant was flooded with Christmas party reservations made eons ahead of time, we had to settle for dinner at the really early hour of 5:30. We were the first table at the restaurant, so we did get quite a bit of attention throughout our night there.
After some fresh-baked focaccia bread accompanied by the expected olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip came up, we looked over the menu to see what was being offered. At the time, they had a winter prix fixe menu which also doubled as their features sheet– each item had its own price, and could be ordered a la carte or as part of the three course meal ($32, plus $15 for wine pairing). We ended up getting an appetizer off their specials, and a pasta each.
I didn’t record the name of the appetizer, but let’s say that it’s called the Poached Pear and Proscuitto Salad ($8). This was a more deconstructed form than what I had imagined, with three little bundles of red lettuce enveloping bocconcini cheese, warm poached pear, and topped with slices of buttery proscuitto. This was all presented beautifully on a long plate, accented by a brush of balsamic vinegar dressing that we could sweep the lettuce over. I don’t know if you’re meant to eat this all together (like a lettuce wrap/taco), but I ended up taking mine apart, and just forked up a little bit of each ingredient. The pears were quite sweet, which balanced out the lightly salted bocconcini, and the proscuitto was just perfect– the amount that was served wasn’t bad either, considering each bundle had 2 slices each.
Siobhan is lactose intolerant, and she wasn’t quite sure what to get, so we asked the server to give us a recommendation. He was very knowledgable about all the ingredients in each of the dishes, and as well, gave us options for things that could be added or omitted. In the end, Siobhan decided on the Trofie ($17), a Ligurian specialty pasta (I’m not sure what this shape of pasta would be classified as) that came in a thick and chunky tomato sauce. This pasta dish also came with slices of smoked chicken and pieces of eggplant. She really liked her meal, saying the pasta was al dente and that the ingredients were prepared well– the eggplant wasn’t overcooked, and the chicken was juicy and flavourful.
As for myself, I have a habit of looking up menus online before going to a restaurant so that I won’t take quite as long to decide on a meal (unless the features list sounds especially delicious and distracting), so I already decided on the Risotto Funghi ($16). I do apologize for the gucky picture of the risotto– I had recently received a new Canon t3i as a Christmas present, and I was still getting the hang of lighting and shutter speed and all that jazz, so some pictures definitely aren’t the best. Despite the brownish-grey appearance (due to the porcini puree) of the dish that would normally seem unappetizing, this dish was really stellar– probably some of the best risotto I’ve had in a while. Each grain was uniformly prepared, with no bites being too hard or too mushy, and this was bursting with the woodsy flavour of the various roasted mushrooms. The grana padano provided a lightly salty garnish, and the arugula helped to break up the texture a bit. This was a huge portion, and I ended up taking some home for lunch the next day (and it was just as good then).
We were both too full for dessert (actually, that’s a lie, we went to Thierry afterwards, but that was following a long walk up Robson), so we decided to end our night at Adesso Bistro. We had a very nice time at the restaurant, even as it started to fill up as our night went on. The food we ordered was carefully and expertly prepared, so that nothing was amiss; as well, the several servers who came by to welcome us were well-versed in the menu and preparation of the meal, something you don’t always see at restaurants nowadays. I wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant, nestled in a residential neighbourhood off Denman, for its romantic and intimate feel, as well as for their stellar service and food.
1906 Haro St
Ah, Reading Week. That beautiful week in the middle of February where we can enjoy sleeping in and not having to lug ourselves to class. For me, Reading Week means going for eats and catching up with friends, among other relaxing activities. My first Reading Week adventure consisted of trooping down Robson Street with my friend Gawa to check out Forage. I’m glad I finally got to try Forage, as it had originally been my first choice during Dine Out Vancouver, but I’d had to reschedule to Catch 122.
Housed in the Listel Hotel, Forage is a clean, modern dining space, and the service is impeccable. Our server, Eduardo? Edvardo? was amazingly attentive. He spoke with an accent, which although it hindered my understanding a bit, was charming. He made sure to tell us the specials and offer his recommendations, and when he saw us snapping photos of each other, he offered to take one of the two of us together as well. He was great without being overbearing, which in my mind is the perfect waiter.
The menu is mainly designed to share, composed of tapa dishes. Tapas aren’t usually my thing, as I find it difficult to get full and end up ordering too much. There were a couple dishes that Eduardo indicated would be an entree-sized portion, as well, so don’t be scared off if you’re not a fan of tapas.
The one dish I had on my mind was the BC Spot Prawn and Seafood Chowder ($12), with a soft-poached egg, chicharron, and pork hock. This chowder was voted the best chowder in Vancouver, so naturally I was curious. I’m usually skeptical about these things, but oh my God. This chowder was amazing. It tasted homey, and was definitely comfort food. I find that many chowders are too watered down, and that the ingredients aren’t in chunks substantial enough to taste them, if that makes sense. Here, I could taste each piece of prawn and pork individually, which was great. The pork itself was smokey and juicy, and the chowder itself was so creamy, rich, and savoury. The soft-poached egg was runny and just added to the richness. The chicharron (fried pork rinds) reminded me of Asian shrimp crackers for some reason, and were nicely crunchy, but also crispy and light and complemented the chowder well. I know every other food blogger has said this, but seriously. You must try this chowder.
I’m not much of an oyster person, but Gawa is, so she had two of their Fresh Shucked Oysters ($2.50 each). They apparently have different kinds of oysters available each night, but I wasn’t able to catch what kind this was. Anyways, Gawa found the oysters themselves to be quite fresh. They were served with horseradish and some kind of vinaigrette. She thought that the horseradish wasn’t strong enough, possibly because it was too ground up, and she would have appreciated more flavour in that department.
Moving onwards to the entrees, I decided on that night’s vegetarian special, the Mushroom Risotto ($16), with some butternut squash puree on the side. It arrived looking somewhat like a mess, but this dish was a winner. The mushrooms were clearly fresh and added great texture. Although I wasn’t able to discern all the different kinds of mushrooms used, I liked how the smaller mushrooms were served whole. I thought that this dish really highlighted the concept of the whole restaurant, which focuses on sustainability, green tourism, and locally sourced foods. The dish as a whole was quite earthy and savoury. There was a hint of sweetness also–maybe it was pineapple?–as well as a nice amount of goat cheese that brought out all the flavours present. The butternut squash puree was quite sweet, and a nice complement to the risotto. I ended up comparing the puree to the one I had at Catch 122 alongside my rabbit, and this version was definitely preferable.
For Gawa’s main, she opted for the Pacific Provider Salmon ($16), which was served with Pemberton potatoes, “bread n butter” sea asparagus, and pickled huckleberries. Gawa was disappointed with the fish, which was overly fishy and not sufficiently moist. The fish was fine if eaten with the other ingredients, mainly the sea asparagus, the lemony sauce, and the huckleberries, which cancelled out the fishiness. The huckleberries were also a pleasant and unexpected touch. The potatoes were standard potatoes, but a welcome addition to the dish.
Lastly, to share, we chose the Squash Pierogies ($12), which arrived in a birch syrup vinegar reduction, with some smokey potatoes and scallion creme fraiche. We were both surprised by these, as they were incredibly doughy. They reminded me of the consistency of this Korean street food called hodduk. I love hodduk, but these pierogies simply didn’t cut it for me. They were quite oily but not at all crispy, leaving us unsure as to how they had been cooked. We both thought that there could have been more filling. Still, we thought that the scallion creme fraiche complemented the pierogies nicely. The potatoes were crisp, light, but not greasy, which was nice.
Overall, we had a pleasant dining experience at Forage, although looking back, the dishes were hit-or-miss. I personally thought the chowder and the risotto were excellent, so I suppose it’s just a matter of choosing the right items. The service and atmosphere are both top-notch, while the menu itself reminded me of Fable, my favourite restaurant in Vancouver. Compared to Fable, the prices here are a bit higher and the atmosphere more formal, but I would recommend you give Forage a try–even if you’re just going to have the chowder.
1300 Robson Street
The best thing about food is that it is such a universal topic. Everyone has a favourite restaurant, and I love to be given recommendations that I can add to my list. Sometime after September, I ran into my friend Justin on the bus, and inevitably we talked about food, with Justin suggesting that I try out Santouka, since I’d never been. Well, a few days before Christmas, we ended up going for dinner there, with SB and Dolph in tow, to have a goodbye meal of sorts before Justin left town.
Regarded as one of Vancouver’s best ramen shops, Santouka sits right beside Guu Garlic on the western end of Robson Street. I’d been looking for a new favourite ramen place to replace Kintaro, where I’d noticed a declining quality of ingredients despite the huge portion sizes. Eating a bowl of ramen at Kintaro always left me feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Upon being seated at Santouka, I immediately took a lining to the ambiance, which is much more polished and modern in comparison to Kintaro. The restaurant still feels very crowded and bustling, but I personally enjoyed the atmosphere. Now, onto the food!
Justin ordered one of the more interesting items on the menu, being the Tokusen Toroniku Ramen. This is Santouka’s signature ramen, where the toppings are served separately from the noodles and broth. Justin chose to have his ramen with the Shio broth, which is a mild and creamy broth seasoned with salt. The included toppings were pork, seaweed, a fish cake, bamboo shoots, green onions, and a Japanese pickled plum. Dolph ordered a regular Shio Ramen and received the same bowl of noodles, albeit with the toppings on top.
The difference between the regular ramen and the above is that the above is served with pork cheek rather than regular chashu, which is usually pork belly. Pork cheek is, obviously, a much rarer portion of pork, and considered more tender and juicy than regular chashu. Justin and Dolph both enjoyed their noodles, and they were quite satisfied. The noodles had great bite, and the pork was tender and fatty. The bamboo shoots were fragrant as usual, being more crunchy than soft. This was a solid bowl of noodles, and I could understand why people stand in line for Santouka even in the cold.
SB ordered the Ramen Ikura Combo (~$18), which is simply a bowl of your choice of broth (he chose Miso) and a small ikura don. First, his ramen. The broth was very fatty, and had an intense, concentrated miso flavour, which I quite liked. Like the broth, the chashu was quite fatty. SB’s bowl included the same toppings as above, but without the pickled plum. The noodles weren’t extraordinary, but definitely didn’t pale in comparison to other similar ramen joints.
But for SB, the real highlight of his meal was the ikura don. It sounds simple: a bowl of white rice, some egg, alfalfa sprouts, with salmon roe sitting on top. But sometimes, simple is the most satisfying. The ikura itself was fresh, tangy and quite fishy, with the egg slices adding a refreshing element to the bowl. SB also found the rice the perfect consistency–having been steamed well, it was neither too chewy nor too soggy. He liked the addition of the alfalfa sprouts as they were quite fresh. Overall, it was great to see that they excelled in something other than just ramen, even if it was just a small dish.
As for me, I opted for the Shoyu Ramen ($9.95). The broth was primarily salty, but that’s to be expected from shoyu, which is a mixture of pork broth and soy sauce. As a result, the broth tasted both deep and rich, and my chashu was a good balance of fatty and non-fatty portions. The noodles also had good bite, as did the bamboo shoots. Only the shoyu ramen is served with dried seaweed, which Santouka claims brings out the flavours in the broth. Where the dried seaweed really adds to that, I’m not sure, but it was tasty.
Overall, we were all quite impressed by our experience at Santouka. Kintaro and Santouka are often described as the top two places for ramen in Vancouver, but in my mind, Santouka is the clear winner. While the portions at Santouka are noticeably smaller, each bowl of ramen we had was simply perfect. The waitresses were friendly and efficient, and the ambiance was clearly superior to that of Kintaro as well. Although seating was crowded (as with most ramen shops), it was overall a cozy and inviting place. I’m so glad Justin recommended Santouka, as it ended up being my to-go place for ramen.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka 山頭火
1690 Robson Street