For the ramen aficionados, Santouka needs no introduction. For the unfortunate ones not in the know, you will be curious to see the perpetual line of people waiting outside this restaurant in downtown Vancouver regardless of the time of day. Japanese international students, as you will see, make up most of the crowd seeking the quality of ramen at Santouka. This name is nothing new. In fact, it is a ramen chain that originated in Japan with locations in different parts of the world. It is, however, not your run-off-the-mill chain. Santouka has friggin' excellent ramen and the Japanese know it.
|Bonito+scallions+seaweed on rice, shoyu-flavored tonkatsu ramen|
|Miso-flavored tonkatsu ramen|
The resulting process of simmering the pork bones for 20 hours is an excellently silky and robust tasting broth. The complexity of the smooth flavor shines through at every spoonful. The highlight of Santouka's broth was that the final taste of the simmered broth from various ingredients did not end up like a whole bunch of ingredients were just boiled together resulting in a homogenous flavor. Instead, the parts of the sum (I'm attempting to do a wordplay on sum of the parts!) were competing to shine through.
At other ramen restaurants, you choose among the flavors of shio, shoyu, miso, or tonkatsu. At Santouka, one of things that make them unique is that all the ramen selections have tonkatsu as their base broth and you get to choose how you would like your tonkatsu broth to be further flavored: shio, shoyu, or miso. We loved this take on serving ramen with a 20-hour broth and then further enhancing it with the various individual flavors that would otherwise be a standalone flavor in itself at other ramen restaurants.
Santouka is also well known for their tokusen toriniku ramen (which we unfortunately did not get a chance to try this time round) with the toppings served separately on a side plate. The meat for this ramen is pork cheek.
The texture of the noodles at Santouka are cooked to medium hard by default. We thought it was perfect to our liking with a nice balance between soft and hard, but trending more than medium. They do state on the menu that if you prefer your noodles to be softer or harder, then inform your server as they will be more than happy to cater to that since noodle texture is very much an individual matter of preference.
Order a side of rice bowl to complement your ramen. As if the ramen is not already very satisfying, the Japanese rice bowls add a great touch to your ramen pilgrimage. Among the choices are the bonito, scallions, and seaweed rice bowl and the salmon roe rice bowl.
When the bowl of ramen arrives at the table, pick up your chopsticks, and start slurping. As loud as you can.
1690 Robson St
Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7