Friday, February 1, 2013

Oodles of Noodles at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka


It's usually a sure bet that a restaurant is worth the wait based on a consistent line-up of patrons waiting for a delicious meal. This is the case at Robson's Hakkaido Ramen Santouka. I went with my older brother, a reliable source for all things Asian cuisine. He highly recommended that we eat at Santouka because it's known to serve the closest thing to authentic ramen noodles you can find outside of Japan. 
Who wouldn't want to try authentic ramen, a Japanese dish made with wheat noodles served in broth? Especially on a rainy Vancouver day, cozying up to a steamy bowl of noodle soup seemed like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 

Opened in 2010, Robson's Santouka is a chain restaurant with locations around the world. They're internationally known for their broth recipe because they incorporate the same cooking methods used in Hakkaido, Japan. When making traditional Hakkaido broth, pork bones are slowly simmered for 48 hours and the soup should never come to a boil.
Santouka's delicious window display
While we were waiting for our seats, I spent my time wisely examining, and drooling over, what to order from the window display, showcasing replica wax dishes from the menu. 
Busy Santouka!
When our seats were ready, entering the restaurant was like walking into a hive with friendly but efficient workers buzzing through tight spaces to quickly clean tables, take orders and serve food. We were then seated at an oval communal dining table, rubbing elbows with hungry strangers as we were all united with the singular mission to feast on a satisfying bowl of ramen.
Pan Fried Gyozas
We started with the pan fried gyozas. The crispy gyoza crust against the succulent saltiness of the pork filing was delectable! For those heat seekers, dip the little dumplings in the chili oil and soy sauce supplied at the table for a spicy kick. 

As for the main ramen dishes, you choose your seasoned pork broth from four flavour options: *Shio* with salt; *Shoyu* with soy sauce; *Miso* with fermented soy bean paste and *Kara Miso* with hot spices and fermented soy bean paste.
Simmered Pork Bowl Combo
I selected the Shio Ramen simmered pork bowl combo which came with two side dishes: Japanese pickled plums with an egg and chashu rice bowl. The Shio Ramen was surprisingly creamy but light and rich in flavour.  While the melt-in-your-mouth slices of braised pork and crunch of the salty seaweed added texture and decadence to the soup. 
Shio Ramen
The star was the ramen. Gently wading in a hot pool of pork essence, these chewy, bright yellow noodles were cooked to perfection! Trying to savour every bite, I made sure I fished, pulled-out and slurped (acceptable eating practice in Japan) every single piece of ramen out of the bowl. 

Chashu Rice Bowl
The sour Japanese pickles side dish balanced the richness from the broth and I enjoyed the chashu rice bowl for the sweet and tender pieces of cubed pork. 
Lovin' the ramen!
From the raving reviews, food awards and regular lineups, Santouka's ramen seems to be the real thing. For someone like me who has yet to visit Japan, Santouka is the perfect place to indulge in a delicious, hot and tasty bowl of ramen. 

For more food photos and restaurant recommendations, visit Candice's Cusina at www.candicescusina.blogspot.com.

Candice's Recommendations 
Simmered Pork Bowl Combo (choice of ramen with Japanese pickles, egg & chasu rice bowl) $14.50; Shio Ramen Bowl $9.95; Gyoza $5.50; Toroniku (simmered pork meat) $6.25
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka 山頭火 on Urbanspoon

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