Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya

Great news!  Suzuki Minoru of G-Men Ramen fame is now back in the saddle and making the lower mainland's finest ramen!  Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya will now be serving ramen!

Kintaro, Benkei, Santouka, Sampachi. Aji Sen, Menya and serveral others were available, but G-men's Miso ramen was by far the best ramen I've had outside of Japan.  It was rich, it was intense, it was exciting.  I got that eager feeling of anticipation before sitting down to a bowl of ramen there.  My friend and fellow foodie Eric once ordered two bowls in a row.  The atmosphere always mentally put me back in Japan and the service was always spot on.  It was my little ramen paradise on this side of the Pacific. 

When G-men ramen closed down, I was devastated.  I told everyone I would find out where G-Men's chef went, stalk him and get him to make me a bowl of ramen.  A few months later, through a strange turn of events, I found him!  I got a chance to taste some samples last night and to my surprise, discovered something that tasted even better than his miso ramen - his Shio Tonkotsu Ramen, but I'll get to that after.

The first thing we got to try was cabbage. Doesn't sound very exciting does it? But I was as surprised as anyone else that this simple looking cabbage dish was freakin' amazing. It was lightly dressed with sesame oil, salt, pepper and probably some other stuff, and a perfect way to start the night off.

We also got to try two slight variations of chicken karaage. The first had slightly more seasoning than the second, but don't get me wrong, both were delicious. The meat was incredibly tender, and you know it's the freshest of the fresh, the skin nice and crispy, and the coating had a reasonable amount of seasoning. Add a squirt of lemon or a dip of mayonaise, and you end up with a plate of happiness.

Ok, so maybe it isn't better than his Miso Ramen, but it is a damn fine substitute, and thinking back, I'd have a hard time deciding if one was actually better than the other because I love them both.  I could easily order the Shio Tonkotsu if Miso wasn't available.  Anyway, my ramen was AWESOME. The broth here is nice and rich, and seasoned to perfection.  Some may maon about it being too rich, or too salty, but this is exactly the way I like my ramen, and to be honest, I think ramen should be like this.  If you're not screaming for a cup of cold water when you're done, you didn't have good ramen.

The noodles were cooked perfectly - no soggy, fat noodles, or undercooked, clumped-together noodles here. I really couldn't find any flaw in the ramen that I had, and you're hearing this from a guy that lives primarily on Miso Ramen. The only thing I probably would have preferred was a fattier cut of chashu.  The only problem is, alot of people don't share my taste in fat and unhealthy cuts of meat, so looks like I lose to the world.  Anyway, the entire bowl tasted like pure guilty pleasure, and I greedily gulped down every last bit.   Minoru-san, you truly are the Ramen Master.

Other's had different types of ramen, including tan tan men, which could give my dad's tan tan mien a run for it's momey. The sesame paste was mixed in smoothly (no clumps of sesame paste) and there was just the right amount kick.

We finished off the food sampling with fried rice, which had the right amount of shine.  Although I was pretty full by that point, it still tasted really good. 
On to the drinks!  Nan Chuu is an izakaya afterall, haha!  We were given a variety of drink samples, mostly named after movies, and most of which I cannot remember the names for the life of me. 
This one tasted like Mr. Freeze ice bars, the ones you used to get for 50 cents at the corner store.  You know, the ones that turn your tongue whatever color the ice bar is?  Anyway, this one tasted really good.  I think it had calpis and some other stuff in it.
This one was calpiss, cassis and some other stuff....another really tasty drink.
Suzuki-san on the left, Hide sensei on the right.
This one apparently was minty, but I didn't try it.
The Godfather, haha, the only drink name I remembered.  I think it was basically a Black Russian, but I'll have to double check that.....or you could double check that for me and let me know, haha!

By the time this drink came around, I was pretty bagged, and I had to drive home eventually so I cut myself off and sucked back hot tea for the next few hours.  Great food, excellent service, awesome experience.  Would I go back?  Absolutely!  During this visit, I also heard that Nan Chuu wll be one of the few ramen shops open till the wee hours of the morning.  If I had my way, I'd have them open 24 hrs, haha! 

Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Richmond Night Market

Richmond Night Market (Or Summer Night Market as it's currently known on Urban Spoon) is basically a cheaper, portable vesion of any of the local Chinese shopping centres and their food courts, that operates in the summertime. It's some business person's attempt to capitalize on the polularity of places like loi yun gai (lady's market in HK), but with stalls that sell fewer useful items.

Unfortunately, I was pretty full by the time I made it to the Night Market, but this Butter Chicken Poutine really caught my eye and if I ever visit again, I think I'll give it a try.  How can you go wrong with Butter Chicken and Poutine, lol!

Another stall I wanted to try was one of the Viet Namese stands.  The prices didn't look too bad and the food looked really tasty, even though I wasn't hungry.

Of course, what festival would be proper without a takoyaki stand?  There are several of these located throughout the food stalls,a nd this particular shop returns ever year and so far, I haven't been disappointed. 

My friend's girlfriend actually worked for them before and I've tried them on numerous occasions.

I wasn't really in the mood for something salty as I stuffed my face earlier on shao long bao, so I ended up getting something sweet and settled on a "Japanese Luxury", haha!  It was funny watching the staff here belt out announcements like "Authentic JAPANESE crepes!", or "Crepes from JAPAN!" haha!  There was a Korean stall right next door so maybe they were competing?  Or maybe they were playing on the whole authenticity fiasco.  I really didn't care where the staff were from, but in the end, what I got tasted good so it didn't matter for me one way or another. 

I got a macha, mochi, anko, whipped cream crepe which turned out surprisingly good.  The crepe skin itself wasn't freshly formed (they had a small pile of skins made already) but it still tasted really good. 

Night Market is chock full of shops that sell toys, cell phone accessories and other useless little trinkets.  One of the biggest travesties of Richmond Night Market is this one shop that sells "Samurai Swords". Being a practitioner of iaido, I get cold shivers up my spine knowing that there are shops like this trying to pawn off these "authentic Japanese swords" which are really no more than sharpened wall-hanger decorations, to the wannabe bad-boy types that flock there.  That place, and a shop that sells $10 prescription contact lenses has "SKETCHY" written all over them, haha!  Buyer beware I guess.

The food here isn't too bad, it's inexpensive, and it's always kind of fun to eat something outside in an festival type environment.  It's got a TON of variety and certainly one-ups the standard hot dogs, corn dogs, popcorn and cotton candy.  And in typical Chinese food court fashion, the prices get slashed big-time near closing (not that anything is overly expensive to begin with) so if you're a cheapskate like me, hit the place late in the evening (and you won't have to fight over parking around this time!). 

Summer Night Market 夏日夜市 on Urbanspoon

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