I've been hearing about this place for a while now, but only recently found a chance to go. Up until now, it's been G-Men Ramen, Menya, and Benkei for me. They all have their own great qualities and I can't say that I have a favourite that I've sworn my undying loyalty to.....not like Jun Ramen in Japan. I've flown to Japan just for a bowl of Jun Ramen, I $hit you not. So here comes Santouka, the newest addition to Vancouver ramen shops. It just keeps getting better and better because the more ramen shops open, the more competition there will be for better quality. I just hope that there will be enough competition to quell some of the lineups. One thing I'm getting really tired of is standing in line for food. The best ramen in the world - that's right - Jun Ramen, never has lineups.
We orederd gyoza, half-expecting the standard run-of-the-mill Hon's special, or wherever most places get their frozen gyoza, but Santouka's had a different ring to it. More pork, a bit more garlic and less vegetation. Pretty damn good, but at a dollar a pop, I won't order it again. My parents would have a fit if they found out I paid $5 for a measly 5 potstickers.
The Shio ramen was pretty mild, and therefore not for me. Yeah, it tasted good, but I'm glad I stuck with my standard miso ramen.
The bamboo shoots were uniformly cut, the naruto however was really, really thick. Look at the chashu though....not too bad at all. The broth was nice and rich, though I was told that Hokkaido style wasn't supposed to be. Whatever, I liked it.
The ikura was fresh as fresh can be, but it wasn't really seasoned. I still have no idea why I ordered the combo. I never have rice with ramen (although some people do, I've even seen it in Japan), and I should have known better than to order ikura-don at a ramen shop.
Tamago was cooked a bit longer than I prefer - half cooked liquidy gooey goodness that some other shops have.
So, here's a shot of my "set". It sure looks pretty doesn't it? The ramen bowls are smaller than most places and I found myself satisfied after eating everything, which would have been impossible at any other place. I would have been very uncomfortable at any other place if I ordered a rice bowl along with my ramen. Which made me think....I probably would have been hungry still if I orderd just the ramen at this place.
Let's have another look at the chashu. Look at the nice layering of fat and lean meat. This is the way chashu should be, fat, easy to break apart when you chew...none of that lean crap that health-conscious folks prefer.
I know it's important to have fun at work, enjoy it, but I think these fellas were probably working holiday types and not pros. Most ingredients were already cut to size, except for the naruto which they had to cut themselves....hence my oversized slice of naruto.
Plastic food displaed in the windows always draws me in. I know, I'm a sucker that way. I'll find myself helpessly lured in to the first restaurant in Narita airport or train station by the plastic food in the window - like a fly drawn to light.
Santouka's got some great atmosphere going, a hectic little place that had long lineups before and after we got there. The servers are friendly and the food comes pretty quick. Not a fan of the line-ups, and the prices aren't the cheapest in town. The working holiday chefs didn't instill much confidence in their cooking skills, but overall, they managed to pull off a decent bowl of ramen for me that day. Would I go back? Only if I was in the area, craving ramen, and there were no line-ups.