Benkei Ramen (East 5th)
43 East 5th Avenue, Vancouver
** There is a Giveaway in this post, remember to read to the end :)
There are currently 2 locations for Benkei Ramen, one on Robson, and the other on Thurlow, but soon 2 more will join the scene. The one that will open tomorrow (Apr. 15) with be on 5th avenue by Main street. Shortly after, another one will open on West Broadway.
Over the past weekend, Minako (service manager) of Benkei contacted me, and asked if I would like to come to a pre-opening event. Since I enjoyed the food at Benkei on Thurlow (see post here), so I thought why not.
Due to some unforeseen traffic, we arrived 15 minutes late. We were greeted and then ushered into the back kitchen to join others for a tour of the place. Here is what we came face to face with: simmering soups in huge stainless steel pots. We learned that ever since beginning of March, Benkei has been using this location as the central kitchen that create the soup base, and distributed to the different locations. By doing this, they ensure that the quality remain consistent. Although Benkei has several locations, they are currently all corporate controlled, because of this, they want the taste to remain the same at each restaurant.While we were standing there taking it all in, the head chef (one of 2) took out a slick gadget that looked like a kaleidoscope, but in fact it's called a refractometer. This is where R was impressed, because this little gadget measures the solubility of the soup, meaning the 'thickness' of the soup. By measuring their soup, they can keep the 'richness' and 'thickness' relatively constant. We were told that we can order anything on the menu, and they even encouraged us to order all of it. Because they wanted us to try many different types, thus all the pictures you see here shows only half portions. The two soup base R ordered are Shoyu and Miso. I almost never order shoyu soup, because I think it mostly tastes like water + soy sauce. Boy was I wrong, their shoyu soup is a combination of chicken-pork soup combined with their special soy sauce. I have to say, it was one delicious soup, there was the meatiness from the pork, and the sweet flavor from the chicken. There is no doubt in my mind, this will be a favorite for the summer season, as it is light and delicious. The miso soup was equally good, because it's essentially the Akaoni (my favorite) without the spicy element. This soup is very rich and flavorful.
Since I already know I love their Akaoni soup base, I thought I try two different ones. The first one I chose was the Shio soup, which is a pork bone broth (hence the whitish appearance). Although it looked very rich, but in fact it was rather light compare to R's miso base. This is a simple broth with just sea salt. Personally, if I wanted rich soup, I would go for the miso over this one. R had the Shiro when we went to Benkei on previous visit, but I didn't. The Shiro soup base smells like creamy garlic pasta sauce, it's a heavenly smell, but it does not fully translate into the soup. I mean it's rich and buttery, but the garlic flavor is lacking despite the strong smell.When we were touring the kitchen, the head chef also demonstrated his gyoza making skills. We were told that their stuffing is unique and created by the owner himself. We were also given gyoza (pork and pork with shrimp) to try while we were eating. Sadly, I did not like their gyoza, because it had a really strong garlic taste. That being said, if you like garlic, you will love these.At each Benkei location, there is a paper art wall lamp. Each one is different and unique, because they are all hand made by the owner. I never really paid any attention to any of them, but now that I know each one is hand made, I think I will take a closer look the next time I am at one of their locations.This location have something none of the other one have, it's pretty obvious by this picture. They have a nice big flat screen hanging on the wall, which would be a good thing for any sports lover, because it was on TSN the whole time we were there.
We also had the privilege to meet the man behind the restaurant. He was very nice and very ambitious, because his plan is to expand Benkei all across Canada first, and then branch out to the US. By doing so, he will establish Benkei as a Canadian Brand. We took a picture with him, maybe I will share that in my facebook page, so you can see the man behind this successful chain.
As we were leaving, they handed each person a certificate for a complimentary ramen bowl at this location, but since I already had the privilege to attend this pre-opening party, I thought I share this benefit with my readers. I have a total of 2 certificates valid until Dec. 31st, 2010, and here is how it's going to work:
1. It's open to everyone world wide, just make sure you will be able to use it by end of this year. (I will be mailing the certificate to you)
2. The winner of the first certificate will be picked from comments on this post, so don't forget to leave a comment with your name (no Anonymous post please)
3. The winner for the 2nd certificate will be picked from comments left on the "Giveaway" feed on My Secret Eden Facebook page.
Therefore if you leave a comment here and on facebook, you have 2 chances to win both certificates. The certificate is only valid at this location. The giveaway will end on Friday (Apr. 16) at midnight, and the winner will be picked by Random.org. Good Luck :)