Motomachi Shokudo 元町食堂

Restaurant: Motomachi Shokudo 元町食堂
Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen/Noodle Shop
Last visited: December 4, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End)
Address: 740 Denman Street
Bus: EB w Georgia St FS Denman St
Price Range: $10-20

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

Food: 4.5-5 (based on what I tried)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Authentic Japanese ramen
  • Sister to Kintaro
  • Small/tight seating
  • Limited menu
  • Busy at peak hours
  • Local favourite
  • Healthier ramen
  • Casual/quick
  • Cheap eats
  • Interac accepted
  • Mon-Sun 12pm-11pm
  • Closed Wednesdays

**Recommendations: Bamboo-Charcoal Dark Miso Ramen

I haven’t had ramen since Momofuku Noodle Bar and the delicious Ippudo in New York, but I’m happy to say Vancouver’s ramen scene is pretty good! My go-to ramen place is always Ramen Santouka just a couple blocks away, so Motomachi Shokudo always slips my mind. I consider it the “hidden gem” and dark horse of ramen in downtown Vancouver, BC.

I just finished watching the Santa Claus parade… okay no, that’s a lie. I just finished watching the parade for about 10 minutes before I got too cold and hungry. Okay, no that’s another lie. I got too cold and I wasn’t necessarily hungry, but a hot bowl of ramen was more appetizing than a hot coffee or tea, so off I was for some ramen.

Motomachi Shokudo is pretty much neighbours with Kintaro Ramen, which already had a line up. Actually not only are they neighbours, but they’re also related… by broth not blood. Motomachi Shokudo came after, but it is sister to Kintaro Ramen which is one of the first ramen shops in Vancouver. Comparing them is really apples and oranges though. They both specialize in ramen, but the styles are very different.

Kintaro Ramen is more casual, has more options, and is much richer and greasier, unless you get the light broth, which I don’t think is that great. Motomachi Shokudo on the other hand is more refined, lighter and healthier, and almost has its own style. I’m a fan of rich foods, but Kintaro Ramen is overkill for me and I find the quality isn’t as great as when it first opened. Everyone has their own tastes, but personally I prefer the style, ambiance, food and value of Motomachi Shokudo. It’s probably my second favourite ramen place in the city after Ramen Santouka so far.

In a way I can’t really compare it to Ramen Santouka either though because even these two have different ramen styles. Ramen Santouka is more representable of the Southern style ramen in Japan where they roast the pork bones. Motomachi Shokudo is more representable of the Northern styles where they don’t roast the pork bones and it’s even chicken-based too. There’s no right or wrong or more authentic etc., it’s just different regions and styles. Therefore Ramen Santouka, Motomachi Shokudo, and Kintaro Ramen may be walking distance apart, but when it comes to their ramen, they’re styles and/or regions apart.

On the table:

**Shio Ramen4.5/6

  • Angel-haired Japanese leek, Menma (bamboo shoots), green onions, soft-boiled local organic egg, white pepper, BBQ pork, seasonal green vegetable, thinly sliced chili pepper $8.95
  • Ramen with light clear soup using all-natural salt imported from either the Himalayas or Mongolia. Best of the best! – Motomachi Shokudo
  • Shio is basically the staple ramen, or the “test” for ramen and the chef will pride himself on this broth.
  • If this is good, the rest should be too because it’s the purest broth and flavour.
  • The broth was served hot, but not piping hot and traditional Japanese ramen isn’t served piping hot.
  • The broth here is intentionally lighter and healthier than most places and it’s chicken based not pork. I prefer pork, but this is still great!
  • It was clear and noticeably lighter than most Shio Ramen, but it wasn’t bland and there was depth in flavour.
  • It wasn’t as rich and milky as Ramen Santouka and not as greasy as Kintaro Ramen.
  • I actually liked that it didn’t have fatty floating white bits on top, even though this can be traditional in some Japanese ramen.
  • The broth was naturally oily and although it was chicken based, I still felt like it had some pork flavour in it.
  • It wasn’t a strong chicken or pork flavour and there’s no roasting of chicken or pork bones either, so it’s a Northern style ramen.
  • It wasn’t too salty (not dying for water after) and I could actually taste the white pepper and a gentle heat in it, but it’s not spicy.
  • I have a feeling they use either bonito flakes (fish flakes) or some sort of fish in the broth because there’s a slight fishy aftertaste.
  • It’s not a fish broth, but there is a subtle fish flavour that is noticeable if you pay attention.

  • I liked that it came with some toppings (although not much) because I hate when you have to add everything and at the end your $9 ramen is $17 (happens at Ramen Santouka).
  • It came with a couple crunchy strips of bamboo shoots and half an egg.
  • The organic egg was pretty good with a creamy soft middle and it was really well marinated and almost sweet.
  • It was reminiscent of a soy sauce egg which is rare, but I liked it.
  • It came with a big slice of pork that was medium fatty.
  • The pork was very tender, soft and moist and well infused with savoury soy sauce flavours.
  • The fatty parts were on the whole tender with maybe a couple bites being a bit chewy.
  • I really enjoyed the pork and it had its own flavour apart from the broth, but I couldn’t tell it was barbequed or grilled.

  • The noodles were nice and chewy and not overcooked.
  • I prefer a thinner noodle with Shio ramen and this was a bit thicker, but I still enjoyed it.

**Bamboo-Charcoal Dark Miso Ramen5/6

  • Angel-haired Japanese leek, Menma (bamboo shoots), soft-boiled local organic egg, green onion, BBQ pork, thinly sliced chili pepper, white pepper, seasonal green vegetable, chili pepper powder $9.75
  • Our blackened soup is a happy meeting of powdered bamboo charcoal and our rich miso soup, a healthy blend with greater depth of flavour. – Motomachi Shokudo
  • This is what I really came for and it’s their specialty.
  • So far, it’s the only place offering this Bamboo-Charcoal Ramen that is from Japan.
  • The broth doesn’t look great, but it’s delicious and the bamboo-charcoal powder is very healthy for you, so this is their “health-conscious” option.
  • It was thicker, richer and fuller in flavour than the Shio broth and back to back you could notice the fishiness in the Shio broth even more.
  • I could taste the somewhat mild chicken broth, and again no roasting of bones, and it seemed a tad more oily than the Shio broth.
  • I could taste the miso, but it also had an infused tang of menma (bamboo shoot) to it, but it’s not tart.
  • It wasn’t as strong as a miso broth in a miso ramen.
  • If you like menma you would probably like this because it had a sweet and pickled flavour of menma in the broth. It was light, but it was there.
  • It didn’t taste burnt, bitter, or even really smoky, and it didn’t have a powdery mouth feel.
  • It didn’t have a nuttiness of black sesame or anything, but it was almost more like a mild Chinese black bean flavour.
  • This broth is a bit spicier than the shio broth, but I wouldn’t say it’s spicy. It just has a mild spice.
  • All the ingredients in the soup are used rather minimally, but it developed a well layered depth of flavours.

  • The noodles were nice and chewy and not overcooked, but a bit softer than they were in the Shio Ramen.
  • I’m not sure how consistent their noodles are, so I need to try it again.

  • Again, I liked that it came with a selection of toppings and they were the same as the Shio broth.
  • For more about the egg and pork, see the “toppings” section in the Shio Ramen description above.

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16 Comments

  • Vivian says:

    You finally made it here!! This is definitely one of my favorite ramen shops. It’s weird that most people still havent heard of it. So many times I would walk past the line up at kintaro and happily go to M to enjoy a hot bowl of charcoal ramen:)

  • Linda says:

    i’m actually not really a fan of motomachi probably because the broth is healthier here lol i just LOVE that fatty pork flavour, i can’t help it! the other reason being that when we went here, the noodles were overcooked… it may have been because we were one of the first in the shop but i’m not too sure i’d come back.. it’s definitely a great option for ppl who like ramen but are a bit more health concious 🙂

  • Bow says:

    Yeah, finally ate here, huh ? Did they turn on the heat, or was your coat on ? It’s definitely a “hole in the wall” and I’m always bemused looking at Kintaro’s lineups,
    ‘cos the diners don’t realize that Motomachi and Kinataro’s are owned by the same person…however people may WANT the cruder, greasier, more unrefined product at Kintaro’s. Did you know that Motomachi also makes a special vegetarian Ramen?

  • Mijune says:

    @Vivian – and I thought of you when I did!!!! Motomachi < Kintaro… the bonus of no line ups is sweet! I actually walked by the line up at Kintaro and told them to use go to Motomachi lol..I think it’s ignored because it’s located in the dead part of Denman. It’s like the outskirts of Yaletown that have high turnover.

  • Mijune says:

    @linda – I think you should try it again 🙂 You know I like rich foods too, but this one is light without being bland. That’s the key. Also next time you go… you have to say to chef “katane de onegai shimesu” and now your head.. it’s means “I prefer my noodles on the firmer side”… my friend taught me. It’ll change your life 😉

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – I would say it’s “nice” hole in the wall though lol. It’s not really a dive, but I did leave my coat on 🙂 YES! I noticed the vegetarian one! So unique! I don’t get Kintaro either… but I guess it’s down to style.

  • john says:

    Really? this was your 1st time going to Motomachi Shokudo? hmmm hard to believe as u eat lots haha jk!
    I like this place! And yes, it better than Kintaro. I feel after eating at Kintaro I get pretty lethargic. Or maybe its just me 🙂
    Motomachi Shokudo is a very good choice if Ramen Santouka is full!

  • Mijune says:

    @john – gimme a break!! l only have one of me and I pots on one restaurant a day lol… I know it’s kinda embarrassing I’m late.. but at least I blogged about it! 🙂 I always knew about it, but it falls off my radar and as soon as Santouka opened I haven’t considered anything else.

  • Vincent N says:

    After going to L.A. I was a little disappointed from the Ramen scene there and realized that Vancouver does have it pretty good. You’re right on the ball with these things, for people that like a bit of a heavy pork flavoured soup base (which I imagine bacon people love) then Kintaro is really good. But I remember trying out Motomachi the first time and saw their charcoal ramen I couldn’t resist ordering it. And it was great. A lighter cleaner broth. Both serve a very different flavour profile, so I thought it was a smart business model.

  • Mijune says:

    @vincent N – woohoo!!! I agree with you! I went to NYC and found our ramen scene is solid even compared to theirs. We’re lucky! Yeah Kintaro is way to heavy for me and I think it’s kind of gone downhill, but they still have line ups so maybe it’s just my tastes.

  • Philip says:

    I love motomachi shokudo! Same owner as Kintaro but it seems healthier.

    Kintaro is hit and miss depending on who’s cooking that day. Motomachi is very consistent, i always get their gyoza and side of bbq pork plate with hot sauce. Its a huge dish for sharing!

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