Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Restaurant: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen/Noodle shop
Last visited: March 6, 2010
Location: Vancvouer, BC (West End/Robson/Downtown)
Address: 1690 Robson Street
Price Range: $10-20

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 6
Service: 4.5
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 6
Additional comments:

  • Multiple locations (In US, Canada, Japan etc.)
  • Closest thing to authentic Japanese ramen
  • Best ramen in Vancouver – according to Japanese ppl too!
  • Deceivingly big portions
  • Specializes in ramen noodles
  • Famous for signature Shio broth
  • Famous for Toroniku Ramen bowls – limited quantity
  • Authentically ramen is eaten with rice bowl
  • Appetizers “coming soon”
  • Long lines/busy
  • Quick eat
  • Cash only
  • Clean & contemporary atmosphere
  • Limited menu, but lots of options for customization
  • A couple dollars more expensive than most
  • Extra for green tea
  • Minimum charge $7.95/person

Recommendations: Toroniku aka “cha-shu”, Toroniku Shio Ramen, Toroniku Miso Ramen, hard boiled egg… ANY Toroniku ramen bowl, but especially Shio w/all the fixings… the Toroniku bowls have more pork and toppings served on the side.

This place is hands down the best ramen I have had in Vancouver thus far. I was recommended by a friend who got the inside from his Japanese friend. Through word of mouth I also heard that this place is the closest thing to authentic ramen noodles you would get in Japan. My expectations were set high and I was extremely excited.

I do like Benkei Ramen and G-Men Ramen and I’ve never had ramen noodles in Japan (well at the Japan airport once) so I don’t know what authentic Japanese Ramen is. However I do trust Japanese people when they say “Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is the closest thing to authentic Japanese ramen in Vancouver.” Some even said Kintaro is “crap”… I don’t think it’s crap, but after Hokkaido Ramen Santouka … it’s definitely not as good and not authentic if this is the real deal. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is the BEST in Japan, but it is still a good option there. It’s actually a chain restaurant that exists in Japan as well so I’m very happy that it has made its way to Vancouver.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka just opened so the line-up was a 30 min. wait and it didn’t stop for 3 hours. To be honest I’d wait in line again. It was worth it. It’s a bit more expensive then most ramen places and the portions looks small, but they’re deceivingly filling. Also go early because they almost ran out of egg when I was there and their house special “Toroniku” ramen bowls are a limited quantity. A lot of their appetizers like gyoza, salad and 2 sushi rolls are “coming soon” – I will definitely go back… soon too.

On the table:

Toroniku Shio Ramen6/6

  • Simmered pork jowl (pork cheeks) and salt seasoned ramen $12.95
  • + Egg $1.25 + Tokibi (corn) $2.00 + Yaki nori $1.45

  • This is the signature, “claim to fame”, authentic and most popular ramen bowl offered.
  • It’s limited quantity and first come first serve. Get it with all the fixings.
  • The broth is a “pearl-coloured Tonkotsu soup” that is made with pork bones and other ingredients such as vegetables, dried fish and kelp.

  • The broth is rich, creamy and so flavourful like a savoury milk. It has a salty flavour that is so much more than just salt. It’s so complex and delicious. The saltiness is developed with layers of ingredients, it’s slow cooked and the pork flavour is distinct, and the pork bones are incredibly well infused.
  • This is one of the first times I have enjoyed Shio broth more than Miso broth.
  • Unlike Kintaro and Benkei there’s not as many “floaties” aka pork fat bits floating on the top.
  • Apparently some people think the broth is not hot enough, I thought it was hot enough… but they have a standard temperature they serve it at for optimal flavour.

  • The noodles are delicious! But at times not always al dente – a little harder (how they should be) but they do have a great chewy texture. Apparently Santouka is famous for cooking their noodles perfectly though.
  • It’s a deceivingly large bowl. Don’t be fooled… it looks small, but the bowls are deep!

Toroniku Miso Ramen 5.5/6

  • Simmered pork jowl and miso (fermented soy bean paste) flavoured ramen $12.95
  • + Egg $1.25 + Tokibi (corn) $2.00 + Yaki nori $1.45
  • This menu item is also part of their “limited quantity” list.

  • This was delicious as well! It was a bit more flavourful and richer than the Shio Ramen. I almost thought it was a bit indulgent. The Shio is such a masterpiece already that the miso almost takes away from it. It was still really good though with complex and layered flavours.
  • It was creamier than the Shio and it tastes like there’s sesame sauce in it. It even almost tasted like peanut butter. It’s less salty then the Shio but also richer, heavier and nuttier in flavour.

  • The side plate of toppings that come with every Toroniku ramen bowl: Toroniku (cha-shu), black wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onions and that fake “lobster/crab” thing made of mixed fish.

**Toroniku (BBQ Pork) or “Cha-Shu”6/6

  • Simmered pork jowl meat ($5.45 if ordered separately)
  • This is THE BEST pork I’ve had served with a ramen bowl yet.
  • The little strip of fat around the meat is seriously soooo soft it comes off as the texture of cheese. It was so tender, flavourful and juicy. There’s only one type, unlike Kintaro where they have lean or fatty.
  • I want to give this an 11/6… I don’t even know why 11… it’s just so damn good.
  • Even a toothless person could eat this. My grandma could eat this, that’s how tender it is. That’s only the texture for the fatty and thin parts though. The meat part is actually snappy and elastic like, as pork cheek should be. It also has great savoury juicy pork flavour.
  • Besides the layer of melt in your mouth fat around the edges, the meat itself is not fatty. It’s the kind of fat that you don’t really see or notice. I really don’t like fatty meats and this one didn’t bother me.
  • It’s just a bit oily, but so juicy and flavourful and it’s infused with an additional salty flavour. I still get the pork taste that I want and the saltiness isn’t overpowering so it’s perfect.

  • The side plate also comes with black ear wood mushrooms, green onions and bamboo shoots. Even the mushrooms and bamboo shoots are delicious. They’re both very fresh and the perfect texture, tender yet still crunchy. Most places offer them too crunchy, which I liked and got used too, but now I’ve had this, I prefer this.


  • $1.25
  • I must give a special shout out for the egg. It’s perfect. It’s as perfect if not better than G-Men Ramen.
  • They almost ran out and I almost cried; but the server came back and said they were able to make more… I was ecstatic.

  • The middle was a dark orange and it was ultra creamy. I freaking love these soft boiled eggs. They do a great job with them here.

Ikura Gohan2.5/6

  • A bowl of rice topped with ikura (salmon roe) $5.45 Small size only.
  • I prefer G-Men Ramen mini dons over this.
  • Ramen noodles are authentically eaten with a side of rice – they have combination trays (ramen + rice bowl) but only the regular ramen bowls apply, not the Toroniku ramen bowls. I had to order them separately.

  • Ikura Gohan rice bowl is the most authentic one. Japanese people order it and it was recommended by the server even though it’s not most popular.
  • I thought it was okay.
  • The rice is sticky steamed rice, it’s not flavourful like sushi rice is though – not supposed to be either.
  • It has slices omelette on top that was very dry and came off as dried tofu skin.
  • Overall it was too plain and simple for me. The only flavour came from the salmon roe. I actually ended up eating it with some of my miso soup broth… that was good!

Shake Gohan2/6

  • A bowl of hot rice topped with pieces of grilled salmon $3.95 Small size only.
  • I didn’t get the first part of the name for this dish. (My camera flash got in the way 🙁 )
  • The salmon is very salty and dry and it comes off as salmon jerky. It almost tastes preserved, not quite pickled, but very salted. It was a decent amount but I wouldn’t order it again.
  • I liked the toasted sesame seeds on it though for additional flavour.
  • Overall the dish was too plain for me again and I still prefer and highly recommend the mini don’s at G-Men Ramen.
  • Again – The rice is sticky steamed rice, it’s not flavourful like sushi rice is though – not supposed to be either.


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  • Ed Lau says:

    Oh man, that pork looks so juicy.

    By no means expensive but the prices look like they're a bit more than everywhere else.

    Either way, I'll probably give this place a try in the coming week or two. I just heard about it as well.

  • Follow Me Foodie says:

    Yup! Not expensive, but pricier then most. However with all the fixings I just realized it's $17 for a bowl of ramen…I didn't even realize that! Now that can be considered expensive….$2 for corn…didn't realize it was that much..but I love corn. But I guess you do get lots of peices of juicy pork…only if you order the Toroniku ramen bowls though…the regular ones won't have as much pork.

    I'd still go back…glad you're giving it a try!

  • Brian says:

    Your next vid series should be Ramen related!

    Benkei, G-men, Kintaro, Motomachi Shokudo, Menya, and Hokkaido battling it out. Would be great to see!

  • donchichi says:

    Hokkaido ramen Santouka…one word that best describes this place…DELICIOUS!!! I had the pleasure of eating with this dedicated foodie and it was literally my best ramen experience in Vancouver. The best ramen in Japan are in Hokkaido and Kyushu (southern island). Whoever said that was not kidding!! I'm glad they brought it to Vancouver. I'll definitely be back and soon too!! 🙂

  • Follow Me Foodie says:

    Brian – you totally read my mind!! I have a couple more to upload, and then I'm seriously determined to attack the ramen category…but Asian places aren't as "welcoming" to these ideas if you know what I mean. It'll be a challenge with the owners!

    And Motomachi Shokudo?…Haven't heard of that one yet! Thanks!

    Donchichi – Hi DON! hahahahha It was awesome eating with you! We gotta place another one! Thanks for all the insider tips btw! It's awesome!

  • Sherman says:

    Gawd that was a great Shio Ramen. Went for another bowl today, 2 days in a row! Tried other things there and they're alright. I'd stick with the Shio Ramen with pork cheek. Best broth in town as of right now.

  • crystal says:

    They DO have soft boiled egg now! One more reason to wait in line! You'll have to try out Motomatchi's to compare too. (They're my current favourite)

  • Follow Me Foodie says:

    Sherman – isn't it?!? I can't wait to try their rolls when they're out! Best pork cheek in town too!

    Crystal – Yes I had the soft egg too, but they almost ran out!! I was so scared I almost didn't get one! Motomatchi over Santouka? You're first to say! But apparently Santouka is most authentic to what you would find in Japan. Well I guess I'll have to try! Thanks for the rec!

  • Anonymous says:

    you are right the pork jowl was mouth watering amazing. The meat just melts in your mouth. Definitely the best ramen meat so far. Motomatchi is a must try…my favorite there is their charcoal bamboo ramen (the broth is black). See what you think

  • Follow Me Foodie says:

    Oohhhh ok you just got me really excited! Charcoal bamboo ramen…something I've never tried and it sounds super exotic!

    I'll definitely try this! Thank you! Too bad my lunch/dinners are booked this weekend or I would go THIS weekend! I want to go now!

  • Catherine says:

    I laughed so hard when I read “… that fake “lobster/crab” thing made of mixed fish”. It’s actually called naruto! I’ve passed this place a few times but I’ve yet to try it. Have you gone back to try the rolls yet?

    I really need to stop reading all these food blogs… Always makes me so hungry!

  • Mijune says:

    Catherine – lol ahh Naruto! So not fake lobster/crab… but still made of mixed fish! 🙂 Yay! I’m so happy I made you hungry! You have to try this place… it’s the best ramen in Vancouver, although a bit expensive. Haven’t tried their rolls yet, but not sure how they’ll be since they specialize in ramen. I guess I have to try!

  • Gary says:

    Okay, just had the pork cheek ramen today for lunch with a buddy of mine, and OMFG was that amazing pork! Like you said, it just melted in your mouth and was so flavourful. I couldn’t stop smiling after the first bite!

    I’m not typically a huge ramen fan, but this experience at Hokkaido has really changed my tune. Previously, I’ve tried Benkei (sp?) which was okay, and Kintaro a long time ago (it was WAY too fatty and overrated). This place definitely takes the cake. Nice interior, decent service, and amazing food.

    There was a tiny line up at lunch today, I think we got there just in time for the first rush to leave so we only had to wait about 5 minutes!

    $12.95 for the pork cheek shrio ramen may seem steep, but given the quality of the meal…it is definitely worth it. I was very full afterwards too!

  • Mijune says:

    Gary – OMG I know!!! I’m so glad you liked it!! Seriously this place is so freaking addicting!!! I feel the same way about everything you said. Kintaro TOTALLY overrated and too greasy. The pork cheek…. drooling as we speak!! I should have attempted to make that for the Maple Leaf contest! But I highly doubt one of their products are pork cheeks… and too bad!

  • Marianne says:

    After I read your post, I decided to drive down to Robson to try this place out. I was a little surprised that it was first come first serve basis, but then realized that it would be the exact same in Japan so I didnt mind so much. I had the combo noodle & ikura gohan and LOVED IT! Ive been craving the ikura gohan ever since and now want to try out G-Men Ramen (I think thats what it’s called) in Richmond…great little place. Loved how it was authentic Japanese..somewhere I can take my Japanese mother without being embarassed!

  • Mijune says:

    Marianne – Fabulous!!! I’m am SO pleased you liked it!! Wasn’t the pork jowl to die for?! Your comment makes me so happy!! :)) Thanks!!

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