Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – Review 2

Restaurant: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – Review 2
Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen/Noodle shop
Last visited: December 24, 2010
Location: Vancouver, 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
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 6
Additional comments:

  • Multiple locations (In US, Canada, Japan etc.)
  • Closest thing to authentic Japanese ramen
  • “Best ramen in Vancouver”
  • Specializes in ramen noodles
  • Famous for signature Shio broth
  • Famous for Toroniku Ramen bowls – limited quantity
  • Long lines/busy
  • Casual/Quick eat
  • Cash only
  • Clean & contemporary atmosphere
  • Limited menu, but lots of options for customization
  • A bit pricey
  • Extra for green tea
  • Minimum charge $7.95/person
  • Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – Visit 1

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.

I had just finished Christmas Eve dinner at Le Gavroche and I couldn’t resist from hitting up Ramen Santouka afterward since it was just around the corner. I went to Ramen Santouka when it first opened see here, and I’ve been back a couple times since then, however I wouldn’t call myself a regular.

Hokkaido is a small city in Northern Japan and it’s famous for the best ramen. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is actually a chain restaurant, but it’s one of the good ones even in Japan. It’s still my favourite Japanese ramen noodle shop in Vancouver out of Kintaro, Benkei Ramen, Motomachi Shokudo, and Q-Go Ramen, but there’s still a lot more I haven’t tried. However according to lots of Japanese people it’s their favourite as well, although not the best compared to some in Japan. I’ve only tried a bowl at the airport in Japan so I can’t say that really counts, but it was still quite delicious. Nonetheless the Japanese ramen noodle trend is here to stay and I would consider it a staple food in Vancouver now.

Ramen Santouka is supposed to specialize in Northern style ramen, but what they make is actually closer to Southern style ramen. Comparing Northern and Southern styles of ramen is as drastic as comparing deep dish Chicago style pizza to authentic thin crust Italian style pizza… or something to that degree. Anyways, for Southern style ramen bowls they often roast the pork bones for the broth, but they don’t use this technique for Northern style ones. Therefore the broth isn’t as smoky or robust as Southern ones, but it’s still very flavorful if made well. Authentic Northern style ramen also uses seafood, fish and chicken based stocks more often than pork, and they do not offer corn as toppings, but I can overlook this offering. I actually learned some of these facts from noodle experts at my noodle mania tour I did in Richmond – see here.

I intended to order just the Toroniku Shio Ramen, but then I saw this!

It was an immediate change of plans, so I decided to do the logical thing and order both! I mean it’s a “Chef’s Special” AND only available in the winter, so I couldn’t say no. Well I could have, but what’s the point of being a “foodie” then… ?

On the table:

Toroniku Shio Ramen – 6/6

  • Simmered pork jowl (pork cheeks) and salt seasoned ramen $12.95
  • + Egg $1.25
  • It was still as delicious as I remember it being.
  • The “Toroniku” is the only way to go because it offers more of the pork jowl (cheeks). It’s their claim to fame and there’s only a limited quantity available for the day.
  • It also comes with a side of toppings such as black wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots and chives.
  • I should note that authentic ramen noodles aren’t supposed to come in big massive bowls either, which this one doesn’t, but it’s still a deceivingly big portion.

  • The soup is delicious! It’s a creamy savoury milky broth made of simmered pork bones. The Shio is a salt broth so it has a distinct salty flavour that’s delicately balanced. Quite often I will always go for the Miso broth, but at Ramen Santouka their Shio is even better in my opinion.
  • Shio is also the broth you get if you want to see what a ramen place can really do.
  • If you want a Southern style Japanese ramen bowl with roasted pork bones and a smoky rich pork flavour stock/soup than I recommend G-Men Ramen in Richmond.
  • The noodles can be a bit inconsistent here. Ramen Santouka is supposed to be known for the perfect noodles, but I find sometimes they’re a little overcooked and missing that al dente bite. I had a great experience this time though and thought they were chewy and delicious.

  • This is my favourite part – the Toroniku pork jowl or pork cheeks. However I’ll admit that this time around my pieces weren’t a good as I’ve had them. You can even tell just by my photos, see my first visit here.
  • There’s usually a thin layer of melt in your mouth, soft and buttery, tender fat along the edges, which isn’t chewy and tough at all! The middle part of the meat is lean and it’s a bit snappy and bouncy when you chew it, but still extremely flavourful and tender.

‘The egg was pretty perfect this time around, although I think G-Men Ramen does an even better egg that’s even less cooked – see here.

Tan Tan Men – 3.5/6

  • Enjoy the perfect harmony between the aromatic flavour of sesame seeds and the mild spiciness of chili oil in our new full bodied soup. Regular size only. Available in the winter only $10.95.
  • The description sounds like they’re describing wine…
  • This is a Japanese version of the traditional Szechuan Tan Tan Noodle Soup, which is also commonly associated with Shanghainese food.
  • I can’t say I loved this version of it, it was still very good, but I do prefer the Shanghainese versions at Shanghai River, or Shanghai House Restaurant more. Not comparing them to authentic versions, this is still good, but from what I can recall the Japanese Tan Tan noodle at Kingyo was better.
  • I recommend mixing it very well before you start because the creamy nutty sauce sits at the bottom and all the chili oil floats on the top. I didn’t realized how much creamy sesame sauce there was until I got to the bottom.

  • I know it looks a bit oily, but it actually wasn’t after mixing everything together.
  • It was quite spicy, savoury and predominantly nutty. They used a lot of freshly grounded sesame seeds which would usually make me very happy, but it was to the point of being a bit bitter rather than aromatic. The creamy nuttiness makes it not as spicy so it’s a good balance.
  • I usually prefer mine to have a combination of sesame and peanut sauce and some crunchy peanuts on top as well, but I don’t think they used peanuts at all in this one. The addition of peanuts and/or sesame sauce is actually a Westernized thing though.
  • The tan tan men is still a great addition for the winter, but I prefer their standard Japanese ramen noodle bowls.

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