Noodle Up! Exploring Noodles in Richmond, BC
If you just joined in, this is part 2 of my noodle tour in Richmond, BC hosted by Tourism Richmond. In a nutshell, I was invited to sip and slurp my way through the Asian noodle scene in Richmond. After visiting Spicy Stage Cafe for some Szechuan/Chinese style soup noodle bowls we were taken to noodle destination #2: G-Men Ramen Noodle House. So what was to follow after Chinese soup noodle bowls and Japanese ramen noodle bowls? Come back for tomorrow’s post! (For the introduction and part 1 of the Noodlemania event please see here.)
I have eaten at G-Men Ramen (sister restaurant to Gyo-O across the street and Gyoza King in Vancouver) several times before in the past and have already written on it 3 times. I kept trying a new item, so there was always something to write. However it has been a while and I’m pleased to say that the quality has more or less remained the same.
G-Men Ramen was actually one of the first ever Follow Me Foodie posts see here, and since then a lot has changed including my entire blog template and writing style. If I can say so myself (well I can, because it’s my blog lol), but I’d like to think I’ve become a better “foodie” since I started Follow Me Foodie, which is a year and a half ago. That’s probably a given considering I’ve tried a decent amount of restaurants since starting this blog, and also written about each one in detail. It just means I have more to compare to than before and I’m constantly learning along the way.
Anyways, back to the ramen. I would say Kintaro Ramen was first to really start the ramen trend in Vancouver, with places like Benkei Ramen quickly popping up afterward. I’ll admit that the Japanese ramen scene in Richmond isn’t as developed as it is in Vancouver, but thankfully there’s at least G-Men Ramen to represent. It doesn’t do a perfect job, but I’d say it’s very good whether it’s authentic or not, and the best in Richmond from what I’ve tried. The only other Japanese ramen restaurant in Richmond I know of is Ajisen Ramen, which is barely, if even at all, a portrayal of authentic Japanese ramen. Nonetheless I wasn’t even exposed to what I’ll call the closest thing to traditional Japanese ramen found in Japan until Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, which opened up earlier this year (Feb. – Mar. 2010). Ramen Santouka is definitely my favourite in Vancouver. Apparently it even gets better in Japan… I don’t know how though, maybe they serve it with a side of diamonds?
I never claimed to be a “ramen connoisseur”, and as a foodie I’m learning from other foodies/chefs/blogs/media/people etc. everyday. On this special occasion at G-Men Ramen I had the honour of sitting across from origami master Joseph Wu who spent time living in Hokkaido, Japan. Seriously, he’s one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever dined with! During dinner he would randomly pull out a piece of paper and fold it into something intense like a butterfly (which Claudia Kwan took) or a dinosaur (which I took). I made him a chopstick holder… j/k. We did however exchange ramen experiences and I gained more knowledge about this beloved Japanese fast food staple.
Note: The restaurants selected this evening are members of Richmond Tourism, so the following shows only a limited selection of what is available in Richmond. Due to the nature of the event the dishes may not be a proper representation of a regular day, although in this case it was. I’ve eaten here before and it was just as I remembered.
Date attended: November 30, 2010
This is Noodlemania Part 2/3 – G-Men Ramen
On the table:
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Authentic thick “TONKOTSU” pork soup THICK noodle seasoned with housemade SHIO flavor, topped with BBQ pork, seaweed, black wood ear mushroom & green onion $8
- The shio ramen is supposed to say it all, just like a prawn dumpling is supposed to be the testament of how good a dim sum restaurant is. It allows you to taste the quality and pureness of the pork stock/broth/soup (I’ll use the term loosely) without any additional flavourings. I always start with the Shio and then move to the other stronger flavoured soups.
- G-Men Ramen actually closes Wed-Thurs. just to prepare their pork soup. They make enough to last the week because it’s a very time consuming process to cook such a rich and flavourful soup.
- The soup was very robust with pork flavour and you could really taste the roasting of the pork bones as well as a little bit of the gelatinous fat without the white floaties. Authentic Southern Japanese ramen does have some white fat bits floating around like Kintaro, but Kintaro has too many to the point of being too rich and greasy. I personally prefer mine without. It also had a very mild smokiness and a great salty flavour and it was generally very good, but should have been a bit hotter in temperature.
- If you compare it to Ramen Santouka, it’s not quite there, although Ramen Santouka is a Northern style ramen. I didn’t know, but according to Joseph Wu, the roasting of the bones is a technique for Southern style Japanese ramen bowls, but not Northern ones hence the slightly smoky flavour in this bowl.
- The pork or Japanese Char Siu was sliced well, not too thin or thick. It was nice and fatty and also moist, but not quite melt in your mouth tender.
- The noodles were pretty spot on, al dente, chewy and thick so that it holds onto the broth when eaten.
- I loved the included ingredients, but I prefer the shredded nori rather than the rectangular sheets. I remember G-Men used to serve it shredded, but they changed it October 2009. I also remember asking them about the switch as soon as they changed it and they said it was due to issues with the supplier… I don’t really buy it though because they serve the shredded ones on the Tonkatsu Ae Soba (below).
- Authentic thick “TONKOTSU” pork soup THICK noodle seasoned with housemade MISO flavor, topped with BBQ pork, seaweed, black wood ear mushroom & green onion $8.50
- Miso is usually my favourite, unless I’m at Ramen Santouka, in which case the Shio is the hit. I mean add Miso to almost anything and it will taste better.
- The miso tonkotsu pork soup at G-Men is better than the shio and it’s a bit sweeter in flavour as well. It’s a creamier texture, and I could still taste the roasting of the pork bones as much as I could taste the infusion of miso paste. It was a bit thicker and the soup was definitely rich and flavourful. I could taste the pork fat without it coming across as greasy, however it didn’t have as much pork taste as the shio. I just wish it had been served slightly hotter again. Not exactly comparable to Ramen Santouka for many reasons, but I’d still recommend it and come back for it.
- The pork was equally as fatty and well cut as the pieces in the shio.
- The noodles are again pretty perfect and al dente, but it probably helped that the soup wasn’t exactly hot enough so it prevented the noodles from overcooking in it. They held onto the Miso soup extremely well.
- Authentic light “TORIGARA” chicken soup THIN noodle seasoned with SHIO (salt) flavor, topped with BBQ pork, half ajitama, yuzu, seaweed, black wood ear mushroom & green onion $8.50
- I was actually very surprised that this was chicken based soup because it tasted pork based. I actually couldn’t taste much chicken in it at all.
- It was the lighter soup, but the smokiest in flavour, to the point of being a bit overpowering like charcoal. Joseph Wu pointed out that it was probably because they over roasted the pork bones, which could be true.
- It was served with some fresh yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that looks like a wrinkly month old mandarin. It added a nice citrus orange peel flavour to the soup, which helped to overcome the intense smokiness and freshen the overall dish.
- They did use the appropriate thin noodle for this particular soup, and it made it all very light considering chicken is supposed to be more mild than pork.
- Although the temperature of the soups aren’t served spot on, G-Men Ramen does play close attention to it, which is great. The soup in this one was served almost luke warm, probably to ensure that it wouldn’t overcook the thinner noodle used. On the other hand, it was served luke warm. It really should have been hotter, but not boiling. The intentions to serve it “right” were there, but it still wasn’t quite “right”.
- The ajitama egg was delicious! I always raved about the eggs here and nothing has changed. It has a creamy soft runny soft boiled centre, but I don’t think they’re organic because they’re more yellow than orange.
- Special soupless “TONKOTSU” pork soup THICK noodle seasoned with house made SHOYU flavor, topped with with BBQ pork, seaweed, black wood ear mushroom & green onion. Choice of Shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) or sesame dressing! $8.50
- I’ve had a couple versions of this dish in Vancouver, but I really don’t have much to compare to.
- I actually thoroughly enjoyed this soupless ramen though. It’s served luke warm and it’s not completely soupless as there is a little bit of liquid sitting at the bottom. It’s actually the sesame dressing which I think is mixed with some pork soup. It was savoury with an aromatic nuttiness with some toasted sesame seeds which I just wanted even more of.
- The flavour and texture of the liquid/soup was still incredibly flavourful despite it being MIA (supposedly). It was still very creamy, rich, and thick to the point of almost being a sticky paste or savoury syrup. It was incredibly gelatinous without being greasy again and it just coated each strand of ramen noodle perfectly with intense pork and sesame flavour.
- The noodles weren’t overcooked and they were still nice and chewy. None of them were dry or dried out either. Besides the soup/dressing to coat them, each noodle was also already pre-tossed with house made Shoyu (Japanese soy sauce). It was delicious and not under or overly seasoned at any point.
- There’s enough toppings on this dish to give every bite a nice contrast in soft and crunchy textures as well as unique flavours.
- As you can see, it’s served with the shredded nori, which is what I prefer… which also makes me think that the reason for changing to rectangular sheets of nori for their soup noodle bowls was for reasons I will always question.
- The Tonkatsu Ae Soba is nice and light, but still filling and can be enjoyed in the warmer weather. It’s actually good enough that you don’t even think about missing the soup, which makes it a success. In the summer G-Men Ramen also offers a cold ramen noodle which is also great.