Sunday, April 4, 2010

Santouka - So much hype. Worth it or Not?


Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

1690 Robson St, Vancouver

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair + 

There are tons of Ramen places in downtown Vancouver, so what's with the hype surrounding this new place that opened right beside Guu with Garlic. The restaurant just opened in March, and already it has been blogged about by 10 different bloggers, with most of them in favor of the place. The funny thing is that I heard from one Japanese that "it's the closest thing to real Japanese ramen", and at the same time, another Japanese said "It's crappy, and no where near the real thing as people claim it to be." With such controversial opinion from 2 Japanese, I had to go check it out for myself.

I arrived at around 12:30 to be greeted by a lineup outside, which was expected. R and I waited about 20 minutes before we were finally seated at a round communal dining table.R went for the Kara Miso Ramen combo with Ikura Gohan for $11.90 . The miso pork bone broth was very rich and creamy, at time it almost seems a bit oily. It really wasn't that spicy, so you can still drink the soup. The best part of this ramen has to be the Chasu pork. The pork had very even layers of fat and lean portion. Also it was very soft that it melts in your mouth. The Ikura Gohan was average, nothing to shout about. The only problem I had with this dish was the noodle, it was too chewy and not smooth enough, but I think it's all about personal preference, because R liked it.

I came here for the limited quantity Pork Jowl (Pork Cheek), and end up order the Toroniku Miso Ramen($12.95) to complemented it. Honestly the pork jowl was rather disappointing for me. It was nothing special. In fact I thought the meat was a bit chewy, not at all melt in your mouth. In fact, if I had to choose again, I would definitely order regular ramen with the Chasu over the Pork Jowl. The broth of my miso ramen was also very rich and flavorful. However the top appears to be oily at first, but thank goodness the soup was not. The noodle here is the same, thus too chewy for my liking.

Overall, I personally think the buzz surrounding this place is a little over hyped. I admit their soup base is one of the best I've tried, but a lot of the other component do fall short of my expectations. Also the price is just a bit too much compare to what you can get at other places, such as Benkei. In conclusion, I don't think I will specifically walk all the way down Robson just for this ramen. However if I am in the area, I will go back for more.


Ben and Suanne April 4, 2010 at 5:15 PM

I do think that Santouka was kind of over-hyped too. Frankly, it is good but saying that it is the best and head and shoulders above the other ramen places, well ... I don't know. It is expensive for sure. BTW when did you go try the ramen? I heard that they were closed sometime recently unannounced but am not sure what it was due to.

Jenny April 4, 2010 at 9:28 PM

oh really? I did not know that, but I actually went 2 weeks go.

Hum, I hear the majority of restaurant closing is because they fail health check. From what I hear, the restaurant will usually get 7 day closure as 'punishment', but who knows why.

Mike H April 5, 2010 at 3:34 PM

You should try the shio next time. I hear that's the famous broth.

I had the shio with the pork jowl and I fell in love. In my opinion, I find it the best ramen place in Vancouver. The soup base was so flavorful and the pork jowl was soooooooo tender and it just melted in my mouth

Jenny April 6, 2010 at 2:32 PM

I agree, the broth is certainly the best I've tried so far. However, I didn't find the pork jowl that tender, maybe it's just me :P

Anonymous April 20, 2010 at 9:30 PM

i just walked by today and they're still closed. I wonder what happened.

timetochow April 24, 2010 at 1:28 PM

nice review. great site!

they should be open next week.

i think their broth is the best without any additions. the shio is their specialty.
whilst i agree the price is expensive, at benkei i normally add to the base soup and it come up to be the same if not more.

i think shantouka is comparable to a decent to good ramen shop in japan. it is definitely in the top end in vancouver for now. ramen does have a regional influence. so depends where you grow up. you may have a tendency to prefer certain flavors over other...

i thought the noodles could be better too.

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