First impressions of Ramen Santouka
2 Comments Karen HamiltonMarch 7, 2010
Whenever I want to go adventuring in the land of Japanese cuisine, I ask my brother. His inner circle is populated with so many Japanese students and ex-pats that he’s practically foresworn our Filipino culture for theirs. When it comes to the food, he’s one of the biggest snobs and best scouts that I know, having introduced our family to Kingyo, Alpha, Kaide, and Motomachi long before ramen and izakaya entered Vancouver’s mainstream vernacular. It should therefore come as no surprise that it was he who made me curious about Ramen Santouka.
My brother haunts the non-touristy end of Robson Street for its array of Japanese and Korean dining options. A week and a half ago, he happened across the soft open of Ramen Santouka, the newest of the chain of ramen shops originally based out of Hokkaido and starting to make its conquest of North America.
Even if he hadn’t already eaten at Ramen Santouka during his last trip to Hokkaido, the place still would have captured his attention. The storefront, while modest in signage and obscured by a bus stop, has an arresting display in the front window of what one could eat inside its doors. It would have been enough for this curious diner to try it without further recommendation; I imagine the descriptions and visuals would interest a ramen neophyte as well.
My brother stepped inside for his first Vancouver taste of Santouka’s shio ramen. One slurp was enough to sell him on a second visit in the same week – another positive experience which led him to suggest Santouka for lunch the next time he and I hung out. He tried the shoyu ramen and the cha-su don while I wasted no time in ordering the most unusual items on the menu: the kara miso ramen and ikura don. Our picks were conveniently available as ramen/don combos for $11 and $13. Gotta love a place that makes sampling this easy.
Yum, yum, yum! Easily the best tonkotsu I’ve had in Vancouver. The regular pork in our ramen was already so superb in tenderness, marble, and rich flavour that it’s gotten me drooling in anticipation for the premium pork jowl of the toroniku ramen that I will no doubt order upon my return.
A few observations: 1 slice of pork in my bowl and the default portion size were not enough to appease my normally peckish appetite, and certain items on the menu were not yet available for order. I recommend immediately upgrading your bowl to the large portion and requesting extra pork when you visit. Don’t let the limitations in the current menu stop you from coming down to eat there, as food lovers in the know and Santouka fans happy to see its presence in Vancouver are already causing a formidable line-up during service peak times. Oh, and don’t forget your cash – no debit or credit cards accepted yet.
This is a promising ramen find for me. As for my brother – who isn’t wild about Kintaro and who prefers the likes of Motomachi – he has found a new favourite in Santouka. He’s even posted photos and rave one-line reviews of his Santouka meals on his Facebook profile without telling his friends where to find the place. Tease.
Chow Times and La Petite Vancouver can give you more detailed accounts of this newcomer to Vancouver’s ramen scene, so read about their dining experiences if you aren’t already en route to Ramen Santouka.