1690 Robson St
I had to dig deep into my computer hard drive to make this an almost all-cellphone picture post.
The Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan) outlet of Santouka was the site of my first taste of this delicious tonkotsu-shio base ramen originating out of the northern island of Hokkaido. The distinct mini-ume that sits in the middle of the bowl will always remain in my mind, as the signature topping at Santouka.
As I’d already touched on the history and background of this popular Japanese ramen chain when I visited one of their non-Japan based outlets in Hong Kong, I’ll skip that here. Instead, I’ll mention that for this newly opened Vancouver location, I saw clear indications on the job posting boards in Vancouver for Japanese ex-pats mentioning Santouka coming here as far back as last summer. So I knew that they would eventually be here and I anxiously awaited where they might end up setting up shop.
Not surprisingly, they decided to jump right into the hot zone for ramen in Vancouver, on the far end of Robson street which also houses the stalwart Kintaro and the nearby Motomachi Shokudo and Benkei Ramen (honten). Setting up a ramen battlezone similar to those found in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro and Shinjuku neighborhoods, I reckon this won’t be the last ramen-ya that sprouts up in these parts. The more the merrier I say.
As in their other locations, the Tokusen Toroniku Ramen (dubbed in English as just the Toroniku Ramen) was featured here on Robson Street. Again, the toppings served separately to ensure that the sliced meat does not soften up too much in the hot broth until you are good and ready to eat, I appreciate this small touch. The both delicate and deep broth is rich tasting but not overly oily, I can see why Santouka is popular with female ramen fans in Japan, which tends to generally be more a cuisine enjoyed by men. With the small quantity of tender cheek meat available on each hog (Santouka’s marketing department will tell you 200~300 grams), it makes for a special topping to enjoy, and thus the bumped up price point asked for it. For me, its worth it.
The consistency of Santouka is spot on, and for a sometimes difficult to create menu item like ramen, it makes me all the more impressed. With their foreign operations now extending into Hong Kong, Singapore, the US and now Canada, I’m quite sure they have their logistical requirements sorted out very well and that enables the uniform taste and preparation (no doubt excellent training on their “manual” contributes as well) to come out in each bowl.
As it stands today, Santouka has become my favorite ramen-ya in the GVRD.