Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
Official website: santouka.co.jp
Yelp reviews: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ramen-santouka-vancouver
I know what you guys are probably thinking – there are already several Santouka’s in LA, why did I go try the one in Vancouver? Shouldn’t I try foods that I can’t get in LA? I know, I was kind of thinking that myself. However, according to all the reviews that I’ve read, the Vancouver location more closely resemble the ones in Japan. So I had to go try it. My verdict: it IS better than the ones in LA!
The Vancouver shop is literally a shop. It is very small — seats about 30 people. It’s operated on a first come first served basis. Since the restaurant is small, you might very likely be sharing tables with other parties, so prepare to rub elbows with your neighbors! The restaurant opens at 11am, so getting there relatively early is the key to avoiding a long line. We got there about 11:30am and had a ~20 minute wait. When we left around 1pm, the line had grown very long. So, do the math!
The store front, with the usual display of the menu. The Vancouver Santouka has received quite a few accolades! There are 4 types of soup broths: shio (salt), shoyu (soy-sauce base), miso and kara-miso (spicy miso). You could pair it with the different rice bowls for a combo: negi meshi (dried bonito with green onions), cha-shu (braised pork), ikura (salmon roe) and grilled salmon. All of the combos also come with pickled radish and half of a braised egg.
Interior of the restaurant. There’s also a communal table, where we sat. But like I mentioned, it’s a really small restaurant.
The shio ramen (salt-based broth ramen) combo with the ikura rice (aka salmon roe) and braised egg. The ikura rice bowl in LA doesn’t have the shredded egg, so that was a nice touch. Portions are comparable to the ones in LA. However, the broth is much more flavorful and less salty/greasy than the LA ones. The noodles were also more chewy/al dente. Yum yum yum…. CAD $15.90 for the combo
Almost every review I read raved about the toroniku ramen (pork jowl). Basically, a bowl of the standard shio ramen comes with a plate of the pork jowl meat, and fixins (scallions, bamboo, wood ear and fish cake) on the side. The toroniku was melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness, without being too fatty! Let it warm up in the ramen broth for a few minutes for it to get more umami! There’s enough meat for 2 to share. Highly recommend! CAD $14.50 for the Toroniku ramen.