Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Restaurant: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen/Noodle Shop
Last visited: March 6, 2010
Area: Vancouver, BC (West End/Robson/Downtown)
1690 Robson Street
Price Range
: $10-20

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 6
Service: 4.5

Ambiance: 4.5

Overall: 6

Additional comments:

  • Multiple locations (In US, Canada, Japan etc.)
  • Closest thing to authentic Japanese ramen
  • Best ramen in Vancouver – according to Japanese ppl too!
  • Deceivingly big portions
  • Specializes in ramen noodles
  • Famous for signature Shio broth
  • Famous for Toroniku Ramen bowls – limited quantity
  • Famous for perfectly cooked noodles
  • Authentically ramen is eaten with rice bowl
  • Appetizers “coming soon”
  • Long lines/busy
  • Quick eat
  • Cash only
  • Clean & contemporary atmosphere
  • Limited menu, but lots of options for customization
  • A couple dollars more expensive than most
  • Extra for green tea
  • Minimum charge $7.95/person

**Recommendation: Toroniku aka “cha-shu”, Toroniku Shio Ramen, Toroniku Miso Ramen, hard boiled egg…ANY Toroniku ramen bowl, but especially Shio w/all the fixings…the Toroniku bowls have more pork and toppings served on the side.

This place is hands down the best ramen I have had in Vancouver thus far. I was recommended by a friend who got the inside from his Japanese friend. Through word of mouth I also heard that this place is the closest thing to authentic ramen noodles you would get in Japan. My expectations were set high and I was extremely excited.

I do like Kintaro, Benkei Ramen and G-Men Ramen and I’ve never had ramen noodles in Japan so I don’t know what authentic is…however I do trust Japanese people when they say “Hokkaido Ramen Santouka” is the closest thing to it in Vancouver. Some even said Kintaro is “crap”…I don’t think it’s crap, but after Hokkaido Ramen Santouka …it’s definitely not as good and not authentic if this is the real deal. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is the BEST in Japan, but it is still good there. It’s actually a chain restaurant that exists in Japan as well so I’m very happy that it has made its way to Vancouver.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka just opened so the line-up was a 30 min. wait and it’s didn’t stop for 3 hours. To be honest I’d wait in line again…it was worth it. It’s a bit more expensive then most ramen places and the portions looks small, but they’re deceivingly filling. Also go early because they almost ran out of egg when I was there and their house special “Toroniku” ramen bowls are a limited quantity. A lot of their appetizers like gyoza, salad and 2 sushi rolls are “coming soon” – I will definitely go back…soon too.

On the table:

**Toroniku Shio Ramen 6/6

  • Smmered pork jowl (pork cheeks) and salt seasoned ramen $12.95
  • + Egg $1.25 + Tokibi (corn) $2.00 + Yaki nori $1.45
  • This is the signature, “claim to fame”, authentic and most popular ramen bowl offered.
  • It’s limited quantity and first come first serve. Get it with all the fixings.
  • The broth is a “pearl-coloured Tonkotsu soup” that is made with pork bones and other ingredients such as vegetables, dried fish and kelp.
  • The broth is rich and creamy and so flavourful. It’s got a salty flavour that is so much more than just salt…it’s so complex and delicious. The saltiness is developed with layers of ingredients, it’s slow cooked and the pork flavour is distinct. This is one of the first times I have enjoyed Shio broth more than Miso broth.
  • Unlike Kintaro and Benkei there’s not as many “floaties” aka pork fat bits floating on the top.
  • Apparently some people think the broth is not hot enough, I thought it was hot enough…but they have a standard temperature they serve it at for optimal flavour.
  • The noodles are delicious! They're al dente - a little harder (how they should be) and they have a great chewy texture. Apparently Santouka is famous for cooking their noodles perfectly too.
  • It's a deceivingly large bowl...don't be looks small, but the bowls are deep!

**Toroniku Miso Ramen 5.5/6

  • Simmered pork jowl and miso (fermented soy bean paste) flavoured ramen $12.95
  • + Egg $1.25 + Tokibi (corn) $2.00 + Yaki nori $1.45
  • This is almost part of their “limited quantity” list.
  • This was delicious as well! It was a bit more flavourful and richer than the Shio Ramen…but I almost thought it was a bit indulgent. The Shio is such a masterpiece already that the miso almost took away from it…it was still really good though. Still complex and layered flavours.
  • It was creamier than the Shio and it tastes like there’s sesame sauce in it. It even almost tasted like peanut butter…it’s less salty then the Shio but also richer, heavier and nuttier in flavour.

The side plate of toppings that come with every Toroniku ramen bowl: Toroniku (cha-shu), black wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onions and that fake "lobster/crab" thing made of mixed fish.

**Toroniku (BBQ Pork) or “cha-shu” 6/6

  • Simmered pork jowl meat ($5.45 if ordered separately)
  • This is THE BEST pork I’ve had served with a ramen bowl yet.
  • It’s seriously soooo soft it comes off as the texture of cheese. It was so tender, flavourful and juicy. There’s only one type, not like Kintaro where they have lean or fatty.
  • I want to give this an 11/6…I don’t even know why 11…it’s just so damn good.
  • Even a toothless person could eat this…my grandma could eat this...that’s how tender it is.
  • It’s not really fatty, but there is a layer of fat around the edges. It’s not thick or chewy so it’s not obvious and it doesn’t even taste fatty. It’s the kind of fat that you don’t really see or notice…I really don’t like fatty meats and this one didn’t bother me. It's just a bit oily...but so juicy and flavourful. There's an additional salty flavour to it.
  • The side plate also comes with black ear wood mushrooms, green onions and bamboo shoots. Even the mushrooms and bamboo shoots are delicious. They’re both very fresh and the perfect texture of crunchiness and tenderness. Most places they’re too crunchy....which I like and got used too…but now I’ve had this, I prefer this.

**Egg 6/6

  • $1.25
  • I must give a special shout out for the egg. It’s perfect. As perfect if not better than G-Men Ramen.
  • They almost ran out and I almost cried…but she came back and said they were able to make more…I was ecstatic.
  • The middle was a dark orange and it was ultra creamy. Freaking love these soft boiled eggs…they do a great job with them here.

Ikura Gohan 2.5/6

  • A bowl of rice topped with ikura (salmon roe) $5.45 Small size only.
  • I prefer G-Men Ramen mini dons over this.
  • Ramen noodles are authentically eaten with a side of rice – they have combination trays (ramen + rice bowl) but only the regular ramen bowls apply, not the Toroniku ramen bowls. I had to order them separately.
  • Ikura Gohan rice bowl is the most authentic one. Japanese people order it and it was recommended by the server even though it’s not most popular.
  • I thought it was ok.
  • The rice is sticky steamed rice, it’s not flavourful like sushi rice is though – not supposed to be either.
  • It has slices omelette on top that was very dry and came off as dried tofu skin.
  • Overall it was too plain and simple for me. The only flavour came from the salmon roe. I actually ended up eating it with some of my miso soup broth…that was good!

______Shake Gohan 2/6

  • A bowl of hot rice topped with pieces of grilled salmon $3.95 Small size only.
  • I didn’t get the first part of the name for this camera flash got in the way :(
  • The salmon is very salty and dry…it comes off as salmon jerky. It almost tastes preserved…not quite pickled, but very salted. It was a decent amount but I wouldn’t order it again.
  • I liked the toasted sesame seeds on it though…added a little flavour.
  • Overall the dish was too plain for me again and I still prefer and highly recommend the mini don’s at G-Men Ramen.
  • Again – The rice is sticky steamed rice, it’s not flavourful like sushi rice is though – not supposed to be either.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka on Urbanspoon


  1. Oh man, that pork looks so juicy.

    By no means expensive but the prices look like they're a bit more than everywhere else.

    Either way, I'll probably give this place a try in the coming week or two. I just heard about it as well.

  2. Yup! Not expensive, but pricier then most. However with all the fixings I just realized it's $17 for a bowl of ramen...I didn't even realize that! Now that can be considered expensive....$2 for corn...didn't realize it was that much..but I love corn. But I guess you do get lots of peices of juicy pork...only if you order the Toroniku ramen bowls though...the regular ones won't have as much pork.

    I'd still go back...glad you're giving it a try!

  3. Your next vid series should be Ramen related!

    Benkei, G-men, Kintaro, Motomachi Shokudo, Menya, and Hokkaido battling it out. Would be great to see!

  4. Hokkaido ramen word that best describes this place...DELICIOUS!!! I had the pleasure of eating with this dedicated foodie and it was literally my best ramen experience in Vancouver. The best ramen in Japan are in Hokkaido and Kyushu (southern island). Whoever said that was not kidding!! I'm glad they brought it to Vancouver. I'll definitely be back and soon too!! :)

  5. Brian - you totally read my mind!! I have a couple more to upload, and then I'm seriously determined to attack the ramen category...but Asian places aren't as "welcoming" to these ideas if you know what I mean. It'll be a challenge with the owners!

    And Motomachi Shokudo?...Haven't heard of that one yet! Thanks!

    Donchichi - Hi DON! hahahahha It was awesome eating with you! We gotta place another one! Thanks for all the insider tips btw! It's awesome!

  6. Gawd that was a great Shio Ramen. Went for another bowl today, 2 days in a row! Tried other things there and they're alright. I'd stick with the Shio Ramen with pork cheek. Best broth in town as of right now.

  7. They DO have soft boiled egg now! One more reason to wait in line! You'll have to try out Motomatchi's to compare too. (They're my current favourite)

  8. Sherman - isn't it?!? I can't wait to try their rolls when they're out! Best pork cheek in town too!

    Crystal - Yes I had the soft egg too, but they almost ran out!! I was so scared I almost didn't get one! Motomatchi over Santouka? You're first to say! But apparently Santouka is most authentic to what you would find in Japan. Well I guess I'll have to try! Thanks for the rec!

  9. you are right the pork jowl was mouth watering amazing. The meat just melts in your mouth. Definitely the best ramen meat so far. Motomatchi is a must favorite there is their charcoal bamboo ramen (the broth is black). See what you think

  10. Oohhhh ok you just got me really excited! Charcoal bamboo ramen...something I've never tried and it sounds super exotic!

    I'll definitely try this! Thank you! Too bad my lunch/dinners are booked this weekend or I would go THIS weekend! I want to go now!

  11. motomachi, same owner as Kintaro. much lighter and healthier, imho. one of my fav ramen too. cant wait for the next contender after santouka, the reigning ramen champion.
    a ramen battle sounds fun.
    great blog, happy eating!