Motomachi Shokudo – Vancouver, BC


Motomachi Shokudo
740 Denman Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 609-0310

Total visits over the years to this west end ramen-ya is about five for me personally.  I hadn’t taken the time to properly put up a post yet since foodosophy started, but recently  I had the opportunity to meet with a visiting out-of-town friend and he suggested that we go there for some ramen, so I was happy to oblige one more time.  With the sister flagship business of Kintaro closed for the day (though peaking into the windows there, the staff was busy prepping soup stock and I could see bundles of noodles laid out on plates on the main counter), there was no need to juggle our choice.  I am well aware both have their fans and detractors, and to each his/her own.  For yours truly, after double dipping in both outlets of Daiji Mastubara’s ramen empire over the years, I’ve come to prefer the newer sister for its lighter broths and flavor combinations.

Much has been said already about the more refined and visually appealing setup in this location compared to the one just down the street.  In an image conscious city like Vancouver, I find it somewhat fitting that the usually dour and bare bones design of a noodle shop has been upgraded at Motomachi Shokudo.  On a first time visit, the differences are really noticeable, despite it being a relatively small dining area, with a few tables (including a communal one) and a bar counter to eat at.  Clientele wise, I see more females and people apparently on dates here than one would normally associate with a ramen-ya.  Stretching this impression to Japan, where its almost unfathomable to see a single woman eating by herself in such a place due to societal and cultural taboos, its even all the more “odd” to see here.

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Namoo Sushi – Port Moody, BC


Namoo Sushi
3003 St Johns Street
Port Moody, BC
(604) 949-1017

In an attempt to bolster the registry of locations outside of the usual haunts in the GVRD, a quick lunch stopover in Port Moody while on the hunt for other sweet goodies took place that led me here, to Namoo Sushi.  Funny sounding name indeed, but namoo means tree in Korean (and is also the symbol I see on their business card).  The location is in a commercial building along the main thoroughfare of the old section of this quaint city.  Parking was available just outside.

My visit took place on a weekend, roughly after the 1pm time frame.  A few tables were occupied but it seemed they were known/friendly with the staff.  I saw a drop in customer come get some take away as well.  Service was polite and attentive before and during my meal, I just ran into a bit of lack of attention when I tried to pay (stood way too long at the register with her seated in discussion with the chefs just meters away).  I’m not sure how busy this place can get, and it was hard to judge how the wait staff would cope when it busier.

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Gyoza King – Vancouver, BC


Gyoza King
1508 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 669-8278

Again, as noted in yesterday’s update, my full attention was not paid to this dining experience, as I was there mainly re-hashing old times with a friend that I had not seen in over a decade. Hence this post will be brief. My other visits to this perpetual favorite of Robson Street’s eating scene were a while ago now, so my memories of even past meals are faded. Alas, I guess this means I need to make another trip to Gyoza King in the future and really flush out how I feel about this place.  Foodospher, you coming for a Vancouver visit anytime soon? 🙂

Some other dishes were ordered by the “third wheel” at our table as she was less inclined to want to listen to old stories of our drunken youth, but I only shot this solo shot (with my cell phone to boot) of a ten-plate of genso gyoza, just so I’d have something on the record.  Of course, the cold bottles of Asahi kept flowing.  I must say the thing that first and foremost stands out for me of Gyoza King’s gyoza is how tight the skins are and well packed the inside ingredients are but without bursting at the seams.

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Kanpachi Japanese Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


Kanpachi Japanese Restaurant
457 Broadway West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 879-8228

[prefectionist1] I had my eye on this newcomer to the Cambie Village Restaurant scene and I was happy to take up Shokutsu’s offer of grabbing a bite to eat.  With the recent opening of the Canada Line, Kanpachi is in an ideal visual location as it is one of the first restaurants you see upon exiting the the new Broadway/City Hall Station. It seemed like the the Russian cuisine restaurant Rasputin, was transplanted overnight with yet another Japanese restaurant.  I had walked past Rasputin on several occasions but with the dark interior, I was never tempted to sit down for a meal.  Kanpachi provides much improved street appeal and I also heard a few things about the new digs before we decided on it for dinner.  BBQ was on my mind but that’ll have to wait for another day…

Sushi Shoot ($3), essentially seared tuna.

[prefectionist1] It seems that whenever I get together with Shokutsu, we tend to have the same approach to menu selections…  Either we go for the most obscure, or the most traditional items.  My thought process is that if you are going to push the culinary boundaries, go to the extreme; if you go traditional, do it right and have respect for the original creation.

The menu at Kanpachi was straightforward with  everything on the menu being relatively inexpensive.  The first choice for dinner this evening was the Sushi Shoot which was just a fancy name for seared maguro (tuna) nigiri sushi.  On the palate, the ponzu infused diakon overpowered the delicate flavor of the maguro.

It may be my opinion, but searing raw tuna serves to add complexity to the generally light flavour profile of the fish.  With the heavy handed addition of the ponzu infused/soaked diakon, I wasn’t overly sold on the dish.  It wasn’t bad, nor exceptional so I would give it a <shrugging shoulders> “meh”…

[shokutsu] I’m all for light searing, especially when it involves quality maguro (tuna).  I think we were more intrigued by the name of the item more than anything else.  The fish itself was pretty good in terms of its texture and flavour.  On the topping, I’m with prefectionist1, it didn’t do much for me either.

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Ramen Ezogiku – Honolulu, HI


Ramen Ezogiku
2420 Koa Avenue
Honolulu, HI
Tel: (808) 922-2473‎

I admit, curiosity got to me when I saw the distinctive logo hanging from the banner outside this front entrance.  For our readers familiar with Vancouver, yes, this is the same chain that operates the two outlets in the Canadian city, both on Robson Street, going by the name of  Ezogiku Noodle Cafe.

Some more background…  The Tokyo honten (main branch) of Ezogiku is a tiny ten-person counter joint, located in the college-saturated station area of Takadanobaba, and competes with many ramen-ya and inexpensive eateries for the tight student wallet.  Offering a Sapporo-style miso ramen, Ezogiku has been around for over thirty-years and claims to be one of the first to bring true Sapporo miso ramen to the Kanto region.  Forgive me, but my first and only bowl there was way back in 1997, but I can faintly recall that it was pretty decent, a mid-thickness crinkly noodle and a miso soup that was on the heavier side on the fat meter.

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Ichiban Sushi – Toronto, ON


Ichiban Sushi
Front St. E & Wellington St. E
Toronto, ON
(416) 862-9191

Continuing my tour of downtown Toronto, I happened to find myself standing out the front door of Ichiban Sushi. Located across the street from the historical Godderham building (a.k.a. Flatiron Building), a couple blocks east of Yonge.

ichiban_sushibar

Ichiban – translating to ‘number one’ in english, is terribly overused in the naming of Japanese restaurants throughout North America.  This is one of my personal warning signs – usually preventing me from going to eat at a particular restaurant; however, my overwhelming hunger won.

I usually try to order at least one cooked dish at every Japanese restaurant to get a full picture of an establishment, and I’m a sucker for good gyoza.  These were served with a nice crisp base, and a flavourful filling.  It was a little off-putting to see them cooking these on a rickety stove just to the left of the sushi bar, but the outcome was just fine.

ichiban_gyoza

Next to arrive was the the green dragon maki.  The presentation is definitely non-traditional, but I did enjoy the playfulness of it.  On a side note (maybe this is just a mental thing) – but I much prefer the choice of naming this a dragon over a caterpillar (something I saw years ago at a different restaurant).

ichiban_maki

We also ordered the 20 piece chef’s choice nigiri combo.  This was rather disappointing.  I would have expected a higher quality and selection of fish, not to mention that the nigiri were ridiculously small.  Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that nigiri sushi needs to be big – but these were tiny ( I honestly could have slid my wedding ring over some of these).

ichiban_chef_sushi

The ebi were prepared poorly, as they were split right through (my guess is that they were using factory deveined shrimp), and the majority of the fish was dry and as already mentioned – the selection was weak.   From a presentation perspective – I’m not a fan of stacking sushi on top of another – and yet again with ridiculous garnishes of parsley, lemon, and baran.

I have since discovered that this restaurant is a franchise location (another of my personal warning signs).  Belonging to the Ichiban Sushi House organization, currently operating about 20 locations throughout the GTA.  It appears to be a Korean run organization – as their Ichiban sushi college website is entirely published in hangul.

I was a little perturbed with their claim that they are “one of the leading figures in Canada that developed the Sushi industry”, especially since they’ve only been in operation since 1983.   I know a few places even in Edmonton, which have been around years before this.

Ichiban Sushi on Urbanspoon

G-Men Ramen – Richmond, BC


G-Men Ramen
#1101-3778 Sexsmith Road
Richmond, BC
(778) 296-3779

December 2009 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Yes, another ramen post from yours truly.  I suppose its become my staple and fallback.  And if you have not guessed by now, my preferred comfort and post-drinking meal.  Old Tokyo habits never die…

G-Men Ramen opened in March of this year to some fanfare given its backing from the Gyoza King Group – operators of the famous Gyoza King joint in downtown Vancouver, as well as Nan Chu in Richmond and Gyoza King’s Robston Street neighbour, Chico Coffee & Dessert Bar.  Creating their latest enterprise as a ramen offering and in the heavily Asian population of Richmond sounded like a smart decision, given this demographic’s tastes for noodles.  I decided though to give it a few months leeway and smooth out its operations before visiting.

As noted on the operating hours sign posted at the front entrance, you will be in for a surprise if you come mid-week and find it closed.  Actually, my first visit on a weekend afternoon resulted in a seriously disappointing announcement by one of the servers that they had RUN OUT OF SOUP!  A serious violation of the ramen-ya‘s code of honour and no doubt a black mark on their record for true rameniacs.  Despite her plea to come in and try one of their non-soup noodle dishes or other items, I declined and pledged to come back.

On each of the three occasions that I’ve come here so far, there has been a lineup or active wait list to get in.  I’d say an average of about 15-20 minutes.  Even when its been brutally hot outside (plus 30), the string of people exists, much to my amazement.

Though not pictured above, on my last visit I noticed that there was a hand written mark next to the four ramen options now, noting that the Tonkotsu (in reality a Tonkotsu Shoyu) and the Miso (Tonkotsu broth) were only available in the evening, and the other two (chicken-based broths of Shoyu and Shio) could only be had for lunch.  I suppose that is their solution to minimizing their soup stock supply run outs.  I’m hoping they resolve that and allow for all four options at all times of day, and never run out.

As one would hope in a ramen-ya, there is a counter bar here (four stools), plus table seating for at least another 25 behinds.  Only with the bar, it doesn’t give you full viewing access to a food prep station behind the counter, like you get at say Kintaro.  Instead, the kitchen area is further back and behind a barrier wall, with only a small cut out window where you can see the master in the kitchen.

Design-wise, it’s clear the developers are going with a retro theme, of Showa-era Japan.  Much like what you see at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.  Overall, it has that outdoor stand-type of feel (yatai) that reflects the roots of ramen.  The hand picked driftwood adorning the windows are also apparently the manager’s personal design touch.  The from-a-previous-time Japanese motorcycles placed in the window and outside the front door, are also some nice aesthetic touches to complete the theme.

Once inside and seated, upon seeing the old school television program playing on the flatscreen above the counter bar, I made the connection as well as the play on words with the place’s name.  You see, G-Men, is derived from the G in Gyoza and the Japanese word for noodles (e.g. men).  And one of the most popular televisions shows of the mid ’70s in Japan was a cop drama called G-Men 75. The owner must clearly be a fan of that bit of pop culture and of that time in Japan’s modern history.

As some readers might have caught on, there’s been a rush of hiyashi chuka dishes in Vancouver this summer.  G-Men was not left out of this trend as they had a separate menu sheet displaying their version.  It was a bit unorthodox in terms of its toppings, and quite plentiful.

So much so that they overwhelmed the noodles that were completely hidden from view when the plate was brought out to the table.  The fried garlic chips were very much something I hadn’t seen before on this dish, but they added a nice crunch to the otherwise mainly soft textured toppings.  The flavored sauce was a soy/rice vinegar mixture, though for my tastes the soy sauce could have been stronger. All in all, I’m holding a favorable opinion of it, though wasn’t totally blown away.

Lastly, the Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen.  Off the top, I have to say this is my current ramen favorite in town, when it comes to the kotteri (heavy) type.  An even balance with the shoyu base cuts the heaviness of the pork broth, resulting in a more fluid soup.  The thin slices of chashu, of which there were too, nice and rich and fatty.  I’ve sampled it twice now and can guarantee I will be back for a third and more.

Sure, the other broths beckon, as well as the more izakaya-like donburi.

The thing I noticed at our table and scanning the bowls of nearby dinners, is that G-Men gets it right with the careful allocation of thicker noodles to the likes of the Tonkotsu Shoyu and Miso broths, and a thinner strand for the Shio and Hiyashi Chuka.

Finally, a look at the gyoza.  Being the backbone of the group company that runs the place, I was slightly taken back by the lack of oomph I got from these morsels.  They were so-so, nothing to write home about, and frankly I think my homemade ones taste better. 🙂  I wish they had come out in a more timely manner though, as they came out at virtually the end of the meal, when the noodle dishes were almost all gone.

Still a few things to work out is what I get from my multiple visits here.  The constant flow of customers probably doesn’t quite enable them to take it easy and re-group easily and the servers are doing their best.  Perhaps the kitchen could use some more help in cranking out the bowls as well.

On another note, I am still kind of amused by the way locals here take in their ramen.  I’ve never seen such a leisurely group of customers, taking their time well after a meal to sit around and chat even though they can see people clamoring at the front door.  You see, ramen to me is fast food.  Order, get it, eat it, leave.   And do it all quickly.  Say what you will about the danger of wolfing down a steaming bowl of soup, but to allow others to partake a solid ramen, is something you have to acknowledge.  I’m thinking a few times eating in really popular ramen-ya where waiting customers are literally standing right behind you waiting to get a seat, is what’s needed to entice the crowd to speed things up, especially when there is a lineup.   Oh well, rant over. 🙂

G-Men Ramen on Urbanspoon