770 Bute Street
“If you build it, they will come”. Its as if the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson from the 1989 classic film Field of Dreams is whispering all the way across the Pacific Ocean into the ears of the leadership responsible for steering the business growth of established Japanese ramen chains. First of the known bigger players, Santouka, ventured forth and established a Canadian beachhead in the burgeoning ramen battle zone situated in the west end of Robson Street. It’s probably my favorite in town these days, but I’m I would be curious to hear what the likes of the man behind the original true ramen-ya in Vancouver, Matsubara-san of Kintaro fame, would have to say about the growing market and resulting competition for the dollars of Vancouver “rameniacs”. Hard to believe its been eleven years since this all began in our fair west coast city.
Delving into the history of Sanpachi is an interesting read. Starting in that ramen hotbed of Sapporo back in 1987, its stretched to now approximately 70 outlets throughout Japan and as well as overseas (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan). Progressive it seems in their business model as well, by offering “gift packs” of its popular miso and shoyu variants through an online store. The sole founder (and current CEO) is fiercely proud of the original and unique taste of their ramen, and has expanded this love of ramen and keen dedication into a motto that serves to remind their entire network of stores and staff of their purpose. Loosely translated, I would say in English this would be “Warmly Satisfied in Both your Stomach and Heart”. Yeah, that didn’t come out well, but I think you get the point.
Miki Japanese Ramen
My discovery of more and more places featuring ramen on their menu, or that alone as their offering to hungry customers, reminds me of how strong an influence that both an internationally-minded local populace and the success of a market leader in that genre (e.g. Kintaro) can have on drawing in more and more contenders (and some would say pretenders). While the Robson+Denman area of downtown Vancouver is gradually become its own ramen gekisenku (literally, you could translate this to something like “competitive ramen battle zone”), with sightings and rumors of Ramen Santouka setting up shop apparently near Guu with Garlic, and Benkei Ramen apparently set to open a second location on Robson. Other places are striking out on their own in other parts of the city or surrounding areas. Case in point, this new ramen joint discovered while on a drive through Kingsway, which is calling itself Miki Japanese Ramen.
Stepping inside during a weekday lunch hour, I was greeted by an oddly pronounced blast of the Japanese greeting for “welcome” by a young female server. There was a pair of older ladies already eating and having a deep conversation, but otherwise the place was empty. After perusing the menu booklet that was brought to my table, I settled on trying the Negi Shio Ramen, figuring it would give me the best insight into their basic broth. What came out was a very “cloudy” and oil-heavy soup. It felt like a large amount of canola oil or something had been poorly integrated into a very dense chicken broth. It simply tasted impure or artificially-created, that is the best way that I can describe it. The topping of finely sliced scallions were sweet but did little to drive my attention away from the soup.