Q Go Ramen
1443 West Broadway
This long weekend has been a poor one for me in terms of “cheating” with bad eating habits. Friday night was an extended dinner at an izakaya (albeit, I held back on the booze), which was followed up by a lunchtime of ramen – not exactly the most healthiest back-to-back eating to do. In actuality, this meal was a backup to another one that was sought out initially – which we’ll get to eventually I think – but the rain check turned out to be a nearby replacement. To expand, it was decent, just not outstanding. I’ll explain in more detail below.
Q Go Ramen in the Fairview neighborhood is just a short walk from the busy Granville x West Broadway intersection, and is a recent opening that I’d driven by and wanted to check out firsthand. The extreme popularity of Japanese ramen and the growth this genre has experienced in the greater Vancouver area is clearly noticeable, though I’m beginning to worry about some saturation in some areas and a lowering of the bar so to speak in terms of the quality of the offerings. Early thoughts discovered on the local Japanese language boards concerning this place were not strong (conversely, the English forums out there are overwhelmingly positive), so I entered with some subdued expectations and it turns out, matched what I was anticipating.
As with many new places, this one was notable for its cleanliness, simplicity of design and a fairly basic menu listing choices to be had. On this lunch hour, there were already a few occupied tables and even followed in a woman who asked to see the menu who then walked out. I guess there is that curiosity out there for anything new. Some of the writing on the handmade panels seemed to suggest a connection to a Japan-based ramen-ya, but I’ve got my doubts. The other panels gave descriptions of their three main soups. Even the English naming seems a bit funky to me, as if you really wanted to expand it out, a spelling of “kyugo” or “9-5” would seem to make more direct sense. Same could be said for the ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ written choices for the chashu – perhaps better to use ‘fatty’ or ‘lean’?
In order to capture and experience their ‘standard’ offering, I chose the shio over the shoyu and miso soup bases – that usual trifecta that abounds in many a ramen-ya. My reasoning for this is that without the ‘interference’ that comes from the other two, the shio should give one the best reflection of their base stock. How concentrated it is, the depth of flavor that has been incorporated over a long period of cooking down time through the use of various stock-building ingredients, etc.
My verdict here would be one that would say this was a fairly neutral, almost just a simple white-colored soup that didn’t really have that requisite “porkiness” that comes from extended cooking down of pork bones to infuse a rich soup base. I hate to say it but it tasted almost instant-like in its flavor profile, subdued to the point where one might call it watered down. With the ‘regular’ rated oiliness that was ordered, there were the flecks of fat floating on top of the soup but again, they did little to boost the taste of this rather large bowl of ramen. Now before anyone jumps on me, I am not one of those guys who is a huge fan of the intensely fatty variety one can get at say Kintaro. So its not that I have a deep preference for stronger tonkotsu broths, but I do enjoy those that have noticeable flavor in general. Something was just missing here.
Sadly, the noodles (a thicker type) followed suit, pretty average in their type and were cooked pretty much all the way through. Again, a preference here can be made by many on noodles, so won’t say much more than that.
Across the table, my lunch buddy ordered the same type of combo of chashu and soup fattiness, but got the miso instead. I neglected to even have a spoonful of the soup so can’t really say anything about it. In an amusing twist with both of having ordered a boiled egg as an extra item, strangely his only contained half of one. Much to his chagrin. It was the only comment I could pull from him. 🙂
So while the West Broadway scene continues to see the arrival of more outlets of the Benkei operation, these new players that are following suit seemingly have a ways to go to get on par with their more established rivals. At least for me anyways. For reference, check out what a really good tonkotsu shio ramen soup looks like, here.