Restaurant: Benkei Ramen – Thurlow
Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen Noodle Shop
Last visited: January 26, 2010
Area: Multiple – Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End/Downtown)
Address: 747 Thurlow Street
Price range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Japanese owned/operated
- Specializes in Ramen noodles
- Limited menu
- Few appetizers
- 2 locations in downtown
- Heard Thurlow location better than Robson
- Casual, quick
- Busy/line ups at peak hours
- Stamp card available
- Can’t select richness of broth, but can select flavour
- Add on’s/extra noodles available
- Free green tea (Matcha powder, not leaves)
- Lunch and dinner
- Open 7 days
- $5 minimum charge/person
- Small discount with valid Student ID
Recommendation: Miso Ramen, Spicy Ramen
Benkei Ramen specializes in ramen noodle soup bowls and just opened its newest location on Thurlow. According to my friend who has frequented the one on Robson, she claims that the charshu (bbq pork) is tenderer at the Thurlow location…and I trust her, she goes often! I haven’t been to the Robson one yet, but I think I’ll stick to Thurlow, although parking is more difficult at this location.
Benkei Ramen’s biggest competition was Kintaro Ramen Noodle Shop on Denman, but the one that slays them both is the newest ramen shop: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Kintaro allows you to select the fattiness of your pork and richness of your broth whereas Ramen Santouka and Benkei has standard pork and different flavours of homemade broth. Overall Benkei Ramen is still excellent, although the toppings were inconsistent – some of us had more toppings than others. Benkei beats G-Men Ramen broth, but G-Men Ramen still does the best soft boiled egg.
Surprisingly my group arrived at 6pm and we didn’t have to wait although I hear they are very busy during peak hours. They were a full house at around 6:30-7pm and there was a line-up out the door. This was another “must try” in Vancouver for my Austrian visitor who had never tried ramen noodles before. I already brought him to Sushi Garden, Japadog, Shanghai River, East is East, and La Belle Patate.
On the table
**Miso Ramen – 5/6
- Rich chicken and tonkatsu soup combined with our special Miso sauce with green onion, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and charshu (BBQ pork) $7.30
- Added hard boiled egg (+$.50) and corn (+$.50)
- I really enjoyed this! The broth was more flavourful than the Shiro Ramen. It tasted richer to me even though the Shiro is supposed to be richer. There was a slight kick and I think they put a splash of worchestershire sauce in it. The broth tastes like it was stewed for hours in ground pork.
- The noodles are chewy and cooked to al dente which means they have texture and are not melting in your mouth soft. I think they’re great.
- The charshu is slowly stewed and really tender, so tender the texture is almost like you’re eating luncheon meat…but tastes way better! The taste is a bit sweet and also salty, but not too salty. It’s relatively lean with a little bit of fat around the edges. They’re a bit on the small side – smaller than a hockey puck.
- I have to add an egg! The egg is still better at G-Men, but this one wasn’t bad…I prefer mind a bit more undercooked.
- 2 of us had only 2 bamboo shoots, but everyone else had at least 4 so it was a bit inconsistent with the toppings.
Shiro Ramen – 4/6
- We thicken the soup by stewing pork bones and meat, then adding sea salt to create a richer taste. Shiro Tonkatsu Ramen contains a lot of calcium and collagen, which is a source for beautiful skin and strong bones. This Ramen is especially popular with women. Served with green onion, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and charshu )BBQ pork) $7.80
- Added corn (+$.50)
- This one smells like whale’s pee…the Austrian noticed it first and I totally agree. I hate that he said it cause it almost ruined it…it doesn’t taste like it though! I could definitely taste the pork flavours in this one more than the Miso Ramen. However the Miso Ramen broth had a stronger flavour overall because of the Miso. This one is savoury, but after the Miso it tastes very “clear” although it is rich. If you just want to taste pork flavours then go for this one.
**Akaoni Spicy Ramen – 6/6
- Spicy Miso soup with ramen served with ground pork, charshu (BBQ pork), green onion, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts $7.80
- Added hard boiled egg (+$.50) and corn (+$.50)
- The picture makes this one look really spicy but it’s really not. I would say a medium on a spiciness level. It’s as spicy as those instant Kimchi noodle bowls you get at Costco. This was basically the Miso Tonkatsu broth with Kimchi oil/paste/sauce. It was excellent! Tres excellent!
- The ground pork is the added bonus to this ramen bowl, but it all sinks to the bottom (like the corn) so you need to fish around with your spoon.