Kintaro Ramen

Restaurant: Kintaro Ramen
Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen/Noodle Shop
Last visited: September 1, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End)
Address: 788 Denman Street
Price Range: $10 or less (End up $10-15/person)

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

Food: 2.5
Service: 3.5
Ambiance: 2.5
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Japanese owned and operated
  • One of Vancouver’s 1st ramen noodle shops
  • Specializes in ramen (soup noodle) bowls
  • Traditional Japanese comfort food
  • Made upon order
  • Minimum charge $7/person
  • Very popular to locals/tourists
  • Long lines/busy at peak hours
  • All soup made from pork bone stock
  • Good for individual dining
  • Quick/casual
  • Budget friendly/Cheap eats
  • Lunch/dinner
  • No vegetarian ramen
  • No take-out
  • Cash/Debit only

**Recommendations: Miso Ramen with medium broth and fatty BBQ pork and boiled egg, Cheese Ramen with medium broth and fatty BBQ pork and boiled egg (for lighter fare light broth and lean BBQ pork, but won’t be as “good”)

Kintaro Ramen is one of the first ramen shops introducing Japanese soup noodles to Vancouver, BC. It’s located on the end of Denman Street in downtown Vancouver and was the biggest hit for a few years in a row. However, since then the ramen hype has exploded and just like bunnies out came Ajisen Ramen, Benkei Ramen, G-Men Ramen Shop, Menya Ramen, and my ultimate favourite, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (Ramen Santouka).

Kintaro Ramen offers a small menu of ramen varieties and all of them are made with homemade pork bone stock. It’s quick, casual and attracts locals and tourists, however the hype has died down since Ramen Santouka opened up the street. What sets them apart from other ramen places is that they allow you to select light, medium, or rich soup broth and fatty or lean BBQ pork. Toppings are charged additionally and it’s about $10 a bowl after the work is done. However I do love that they include most toppings in your ramen, unlike other places that charge $2 for every item and you end up with a $17 bowl of ramen – *ahem* Ramen Santouka.

It’s interesting because if I had written then post before Ramen Santouka opened, I would have probably given Kintaro a 4.5/6, but now that I’ve had the real deal… I simply can’t go back. It now tastes like instant ramen noodles compared to Ramen Santouka… okay maybe not instant ramen noodles, but it’s definitely a butchered version of authentic Japanese ramen. If you ask any Japanese person what they think of Kintaro Ramen (that doesn’t work at Kintaro), they will most likely make a disgusted face. I’ve sampled it 6 times now on separate occasions and it’s never failed all 6 times! I also tried a bowl of ramen in Japan (mind you it was in the airport) and it was still better than Kintaro. Kintaro isn’t inedible, but it just doesn’t do justice for Japanese ramen at all.

On the table:


**BBQ Pork Miso Ramen (Rich & Fatty) – 3/6

  • Bean sprout, onion, menma (bamboo shoots), green onion, corn & BBQ pork. Kintaro’s BEST!! Ramen noodle and soup flavoured with a blend of soy bean pastes from four different Japanese regions and twelve spices $10.65 + egg = $11.95
  • The BBQ Pork Ramen is the same as the standard Miso Ramen, but with extra pork.
  • This was rich soup with fatty BBQ pork.
  • 2/6 for me because it’s just way too greasy, too rich and too fatty for my tastes, but if you like this sort of this it’ll probably be a 4/6.
  • The rich soup is a creamy rich pork broth made from pork bone and lots of pork fat, and there’s little bits of white fat floating all over the top. The rich is just too rich in my opinion so I would go for the medium as it’s more flavourful than the light, but not as heavy as the rich.
  • It tastes like a savoury creamy milk with a salty taste of miso, but the broth isn’t as intensely flavoured as Ramen Santouka. I’m also not a fan of fatty bits floating in my soup, but people argue it’s the “authentic Japanese” way – even so, I prefer the “authentic” way at Ramen Santouka.

  • The noodles are alright, but not even how it’s authentically supposed to be made.
  • They were inconsistent and although they’re fresh it really tastes like instant ramen to me… maybe because I had Ramen Santouka just the week before as well.
  • The noodles are a significant part to ramen noodles and in Japan they’re super strict with how they’re prepared and getting it to the right texture is a skill to master.


BBQ Pork Plate Slice (Fatty) – 1.5/6

  • You can select from fatty or lean $3.75
  • I’m super biased because I just don’t like really tendenous super fatty cuts of meat where I can see the clear gelatinous fat. I don’t mind if the fat is so tender that it melts in your mouth, like the pork jowl at Ramen Santouka, but this one isn’t even close.
  • It doesn’t have tendons, but it’s just super fatty slices of pork and the fat is almost creamy, thick and buttery in texture, but it’s not all that flavourful. The BBQ pork slices offered at Benkei Ramen are even more tenderer, leaner and even more flavourful as well.
  • For me it’s a 1.5/6, but for people that like this it’s probably still very good – 4/6.


**BBQ Pork Miso Ramen (Medium & Lean) – 2.5/6

  • Bean sprout, onion, menma (bamboo shoots), green onion, corn & BBQ pork. Kintaro’s BEST!! Ramen noodle and soup flavoured with a blend of soy bean pastes from four different Japanese regions and twelve spices $10.65 + egg = $11.95
  • The BBQ Pork Ramen is the same as the standard Miso Ramen, but with tons of extra pork (you get more pieces if you order lean too).
  • This was medium soup with lean BBQ pork.
  • This is what I would normally order. I’ve tried the light soup stock before and it’s just not that flavourful and more like the colour and texture of Miso soup. The medium soup base is a good balance of flavour and richness and the pork taste isn’t overpowered by the Miso paste and vise versa.

  • The lean BBQ pork slices are just really dry and tough you gnaw on it for ages and they’re not flavouful at all. I used to be able to eat it, but again maybe it was because I had Ramen Santouka just the week before that I could barely eat the pork slices here, it was such a waste because I had so many too.
  • I’ve had delicious cuts of lean meat before so I know it can be done. Even the lean parts of the pork jowl at Ramen Santouka are super juicy!

  • The egg is overcooked and this is a major no no. It should look like the hard boiled eggs with a bright orange runny centre from Ramen Santouka – see here.
  • Okay, basically my entire post raves about how Ramen Santouka is better – so in a nutshell… just go there instead. It’s just around the corner and you’ll be paying about $5 more for a smaller bowl, but it’s worth it.

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Kintaro Ramen on Urbanspoon

17 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    Wow, you were quite harsh with Kintaro! But, then again, as you pointed out, it is partially likes and dislikes. Oh, when I walk by, I still see queues once in a while but, indeed, after Santouka, those queues aren’t as long as it used to be. I wonder what you would say when you to to Motomachi Shokudo…

  • Elaine says:

    I am very interested in trying the cheese ramen! I love cheese!

    It’s true what you said about the Japanese people’s reaction. A lot of Japanese I know thinks Santouka is the most authentic ramen joint out of all the ones here in Vancouver…

  • Bow says:

    Never ate at Kintaro because too long of line-ups but I ate at Motomachi( just down the street and owned by the same person). Read a magazine article which stated that the best ramen, as good as anything in Tokyo, was to found at Motomachi . Ate there and wondered what the fuss was about? All ramen I’ve eaten at various places has overly strong tasting pork broth and slim toppings. I guess I balk at paying $8 plus for a bowl of noodles in a so so broth when there’s so much good noodle soup out there…tremendous Tan Tan noodles with pork(Chongqin on Robson and Jervis); pho tai(Pho Linh on Broadway opposite Kingsgate mall) ; beef brisket noodles (at many Chinese wonton houses)…etc.,etc.

  • Mijune says:

    Bow – I know what you mean by the price.. but Japanese food ramen/izakaya tends to be pricier so I expect it. Sushi can be cheap, but not necessarily good. While all the $8 noodle bowls you names are delicious… I think it’s comparing apples to oranges a bit. But I can see your point! Try Ramen Santouka… however with all the toppings your looking at $17… I would pay it though because I like it that much.

  • Mijune says:

    Elaine – the cheese ramen is too much for me… the cheese kind of just solidifes at the top in the end… only the beginning down it get all stringy and mix with the ramen… kind of. At the end your left with solidified cheese sitting on top of greasy pork soup.

    KimHo – I just think Kintaro is too greasy and TOO many fat floaties… I’m curious to try Motomachi becuase I heard it’s not as greasy as Kintaro although same owners.

  • Victoria says:

    It’s good to see that you sort of felt the same way about this place as me, Mijune! I kept hearing all sorts of amazing things, and then I was disappointed – fair enough though, it could’ve been that I just ordered the wrong thing at the time.

    Watch out for ordering the fatty broth and fatty pork in a single serving!

  • Mijune says:

    Victoria – The first pic IS the fatty broth AND fatty pork! I almost puked… it’s just wwwaaayyy too greasy!!! I think we’re the only 2 that feel this way b/c everyone loves it….although I did like it a lot more before the new kid on the black (Ramen Santouka) moved in!

  • jer says:

    It’s too bad you didn’t enjoy Kintaro. It’s still my favorite (although Santouka is really making it hard for me to choose between the two!) among all the other Ramen restaurants in the “Ramen warzone”. Possibly because it was my first experience ever with Ramen so it has some nostalgic qualities to it. I use to have Kintaro addiction in which I’d go every single week (since I’d be in downtown at least every week) and order the exact same unhealthy thing…Fatty Chashu, Rich Miso Ramen with a side of hanpanyaro pork. It was possibly a heart-attack waiting to happen every time but did the job. I still believe they serve up the best Chashu out of all the Ramen restaurants as well. I’m a Kintaro purist so don’t mind me if I come off as a little bias haha.

    I think comparing Santouka and Kintaro is a bit of a oranges and apples kind of debate. They are both good in their own respects and I guess the make it or break it factor here is the soup base and the Chashu. After hearing your thoughts on Kintaro’s “fat floaties”, I think Motomachi Shokudo might fit your taste a lot better. The chicken based broth is a lot lighter and more likely suitable to those with taste pallets that can’t handle the greasy nature of Kintaro.

  • Mijune says:

    Jer – Really?! I can’t go back to Kintaro with the same enthusiasm after having Ramen Santouka. I know you mentioned the apples and oranges thing, but I really think they fall under the same category of Japanese Ramen. I think I need to try Motomachi as well and thank you for that suggestion. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts too!

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