Throughout my travels, I’ve always found my way back to Vancouver. I love this city. Whether you’re passing through to Whistler, or ambling down the Granville promenade, Vancouver certainly has something for everyone.
The Ramen Adventure
Vancouver has a reputation for legendary Japanese food; the type worthy of a layover stop.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean on the west, and the Rocky mountains on the east, Vancouver is positioned in the heartland of Canada’s natural and cultural diversity. Considering it’s Canada’s most ethnically diverse city, it’s natural to expect Vancouver to have a vibrant food scene.
And you would not be wrong.
Vancouver has a reputation for legendary Japanese food, the type worthy of a layover stop.
Traveling through downtown, especially the West-End, you’ll immediately notice the presence of numerous Japanese restaurants. These aren’t your typical sushi-and-everything-else type fare, these restaurants are distinct in their art, specializing in izakaya, yakiniku and even ramen.
Don’t be mistaken though; these are not the instant, in-a-cup, hangover type ramen. But, in fact, these dishes are a true reflection of the artistic abilities of the chef; ramen has become a craft. Ramenya, or noodle shops as they are more colloquially known, have experienced a revival where you can now customize details from soup base to even the thickness of the noodles. In some cases, the toppings themselves warrant their own blog.
It’s not quite the famed Sapporo Ramen Alley in Hokkaido, Japan, but it’s certainly on it’s way:
Now for my top 10 best Vancouver ramen shops:
1. Marutama Ra-men
Address: 780 Bidwell Street, Vancouver
Located on the north side of West-End, just off Robson St. Marutama is a hidden gem amongst a sea of noodle shops. Generally not as busy as it’s competitors, Marutama deserves special mention. Unlike other noodles shops, this Ramanya uses exclusively chicken broth for it’s soups, and has a soft-boiled Ajituske Tamago (egg) that is literally to die for. They also compliment their dishes with thin noodles so as not to overpower the flavor of their creations.
2. Hida Takayama Ramen
Address: 203-1610 Robson Street, Vancouver
Although located along Robson st, in the West-End, Hida Takayama Ramen is often overlooked as it’s located inside a food court without a street side entrance. However, location seems less of an issue, and more of an advantage to those in the know. Sparse on their toppings, Hida’s claim to fame are their homemade noodles and broth that has been prepared for 3-4 days. Worth also noting, you can choose any noodle-size portion at no extra cost. Be sure to try their White Sesame Ramen.
3. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Address: 1690 Robson Street, Vancouver
A global Ramenya chain, I first came across them in San Diego and was salivating to see a location in Vancouver. Befitting West-end’s ramen alley, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka has quickly established itself as a must-eat Vancouver staple. With their signature toroniku over a Shoyu, Miso, or Shio broth, any choice you go with will be the correct one.
4. Motomachi Shokudo Ramen
Address: 740 Denman St, Vancouver
For those on the prowl for some late night eats, you can’t go wrong with Motomachi Shokudo Ramen. Motomachi Shokudo Ramen has a very unique Bamboo-charcoal Miso Ramen that looks eerily reminiscent of Squid ink based dishes. Looks aside, this bowl of noodles is anything but classic, and still incredibly satisfying. A dish definitely worthy of the Ramen aficionado.
Address: 788 Denman Street, Vancouver
Right up the street from Motomachi Shokudo Ramen, Kintaro, at first glance appears to be a no nonsense, slurp-your-noodles establishment. But its longevity certainly speaks for itself. One of the oldest ramenyas in the city, this is a must for anyone serious about the art of the noodle. With a salty, rich and thick, cloudy broth complimented by fatty chasu, Kintaro is in high demand. Arrive early for dinner, or plan on a late lunch, as these tables fill up quickly. Oh, did I mention they also have a ramen with mozzarella cheese?
6. Ramen Jinya
Address: 270 Robson St., Vancouver
Originally a Southern California chain, Ramen Jinya offers a fresh non-traditional perspective on ramen. Don’t be fooled by it’s heritage though, Ramen Jinya has some amazing selections. The pork broth Tonkotsu ramen is aromatic, full bodied and leaves an after-taste you’ll remember long after. This may be due to the charred garlic oil, but make no mistake their creations are delicious. Try their Tonkotsu Black Ramen.
7. Taishoken Ramen
Address: 515 Abbott Street, Vancouver
Located closer to Vancouver Chinatown and a brisk walk south from the other noodle shops, Taishoken Ramen is worth the detour. Tsuke-men, also known as “dipping ramen” is masterfully prepared by Taishoken Ramen, where a plate of cold noodles is paired with a soup to dip it in. This may seem off-putting at first, but once you grace your taste buds with the first strand of coated noodles, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t been eating ramen like this sooner.
8. Gyoza Bar
Address: 622 West Pender Street, Vancouver,
Kaisen Tomato Ramen. Japanese ramen prepared with French style cooking. Nuff said!
9. Benkei Noodle Shop
Address: 545 West Broadway, Vancouver
Located far off from Vancouver’s Ramen Alley, Benkei Noodle Shop is more a neighborhood favorite, serving consistently satisfying classic ramen dishes. With the overall ramen inflation affecting the city, Benkei Noodle shop has managed to maintain it’s cheep-and-cheerful status. Try their generously portioned curry ramen.
10. Harvest Community Foods
Address: 243 Union St. Vancouver
Certainly not your traditional Japanese ramen shop, Harvest Community Foods sources their ingredients locally, creating a menu that changes depending on the season. They unabashedly marry western styles to the more traditional Japanese methods, artfully crafting ramen soup with ingredients like bacon. Like the name suggests, Harvest Community Foods is committed to sourcing from local farmers. Make no mistake, the flavor of their soup, is only rivaled by their largess to the community.
What do you think? What are your favorite Ramen shops?
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