By Tana Kosiyabong
For years, my go-to Japanese Ramen was Kintaro on Denman street because I used to work in the Coal Harbour area. But now that I’ve become a freelancer, I haven’t had a chance to visit to Kintaro in the past six months. It’s about time to find a new Ramen shop to fill my craving belly.
Menya Japanese Noodle wasn’t just a convenient choice; the restaurant also had a nod of approval from Nancy, my food-loving co-worker who told me about the $5 lunch box at New India. So I headed to Menya on a Cheap Appetite mission during my lunch break last week.
The restaurant is located at the Northwest corner of West Broadway and Yukon, a few blocks away from my office. When I walked inside, Menya was already filled with patrons. Fortunately a couple of window bar seats were still available. All the seats were made of logs which were comfortable enough to sit on while enjoying the ramen. However they weren’t designed for a long stay.
I quickly glanced at the menu and decided to go with the Nagahama Ramen ($6.95) because it was on the top of the list and it was one of the cheapest.
According to rameniac.com, the top three ramen styles in Japan are Tokyo, Sapporo and Hakata. However, the ramen from Nagahama, the district near Hakata (which, in case you go looking for them, are both in the city of Fukuoka), has a mellower flavor, bleach white soup, and topped with nori (roasted seaweed). Both Hakata and Nagahama soup are made with pork bones boiled over high heat for extended periods. In this way, the essence of the bone and bone marrow will be infused into the soup; hence the rich, cloudy, porky broth. Hakata and Nagahama ramen are mostly served without added shoyu-tare (soy sauce soup base), but it is often available on the table for those who need seasoning.
Anyway, back to my Nagahama Ramen at Menya: at first glance, the ramen broth was pale brown instead of bleach white. But this didn’t catch me off guard. The menu mentioned shoyu in the description. Menya caters to many non-Japanese patrons. It’s probably best for the restaurant to season the soup rather than leaving it in the hands of no-clue foreigners like myself.
Before stirred in all the toppings, I first sipped the soup as it was. It was like some kind of drinkable pork bone, which is a pretty appealing thing for carnivores like me. The delicate soup was mildly salted and creamy, yet not greasy at all. There was no oil floating around in the bowl, and the bone marrow made the broth nice and smooth. I felt as if I were floating through flavorful clouds, savoring every bit of the delicate taste in my mouth. This collagen-rich soup is, in my humble opinion, probably better for your skin than freakin’ botox injections. Although I’m sure many six-figured salary plastic surgeons would argue otherwise.
The toppings of Menya’s Nagahama ramen include two thick pieces of cha-shu, Japanese roast pork. The meat was deliciously marinated and each bite was quite tender. The julienned wood ear mushrooms and thin-sliced bamboo shoots added fun textures to the dish. Green onion flavor complemented the mild, mellow soup very well. The magenta pickled ginger brightened up the overall flavor profile and gave a little kick to this tasty drinkable pork bone.
The noodles were thin, somewhat curly and well-cooked. Along with the creamy soup, they went down smoothly. I was full once the noodles had all disappeared into my gluttonous belly. Regrettably, some delicious broth was still left in the bowl.
For those who eat like sumo wrestlers, Menya has an option called Kaedama ($1.50 each portion) which allows you to order extra portions of cooked noodles to eat with the left over broth. Theoretically, as long as you still have some broth left in the bowl, you can order as many extra noodles portions as you’d like. However, if you’re going to go for the Kaedama, please don’t ask for it at the same time you order the noodle soup; otherwise the extra noodles will be overcooked by the time you get to them. You’ll be better off to wait until you’re almost finished with the noodles in your bowl before you exercise your option. Timing is the key here. Oh, btw, I believe you’re not allowed to order Kaedama to take home with your leftover soup. Hey, I know how you cheapos operate — after all, I am King of the cheapos.
Menya’s Nagahama Ramen: ©©© 3/4
Menya Japanese Noodle is located at 401 W. Broadway Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada. (T) 604.725.9432
Remaining Budget: $101.72
Budget Spent: -$6.95 (not included HST)
Budget Available: $94.77
MENYA JAPANESE NOODLE MENU (as of September 2010)
©2010 Tana Kosiyabong and CheapAppetite.com™. All rights reserved.