One chill day after church, Ari and I decided to go out for a bowl of ramen. ‘Twas then I realized that, having eaten at Kintaro a little while ago, I could now write a review pitting the two locations against each other.
Since Kintaro was really the first ramen place I’d stopped at in Vancouver, it only makes sense that I should review it first. I went with Ev and Joy to Kintaro only two months ago or so and had heard them rave about the food all the way up to the door. Upon arriving, we found that there was a bit of a line-up edging out from this tiny store. Steam billowed out from inside and the place smelled fantastic. The waitresses were pretty efficient; they kept moving people along the line and gave customers menus before they entered the place, taking orders as the customers neared the door.
As we entered I was pleasantly surprised to see that their menu offered three types of broth (rich, medium, and light) and two types of pork (fat or lean). Such choices. Much menu. Wow. I can’t believe that just came out from under my fingers.
The wait wasn’t too long (<15 minutes?) but the tantalizing aromas made everything feel much longer. Soon enough though the waitresses had cleared away three places right by the door and we found ourselves eating at the bar. I was actually really happy with the seating arrangement since we could watch the chefs prepare our food. They ran like a well-sesame-oiled machine, with puffs of broth-flavoured steam at every interval. You can see the massive pots they kept going to cook ramen and to boil broth, and the storage containers where food was kept for easy ramen-bowl-assemblage.
Like I said, with all that entertainment, our food seemed to come quickly enough. Ev ordered the cheese ramen (9.95) which, according to the menu, ladies love. Because ladies love cheese? > >
The broth was creamier than the other two bowls we ordered (probably because of the cheese) and a thick layer of grated mozzarella and another thicker slice of cheese on top. I’m tempted to call it Havarti but I didn’t actually eat that slice. I did, however, get to taste the broth and the ramen with some cheese. Cheese with ramen and pork is… strange. But it was tasty. Just strange.
Joy ordered a spicy garlic ramen (8.95) off of Kintaro’s special menu and… whoo. Again, I got to taste the broth as well as some of the noodles, and the broth was both spicy and extremely garlicky. I’m surprised the smell isn’t still on me, and I wasn’t even eating the dish. Joy really enjoyed the dish though, and I have to admit the soup was flavourful and tasty despite its extreme garlic flavour.
My dish finally came, being a shio ramen (7.95) with rich soup and lean pork. From what I could understand the richer your soup, the more oil there is in the soup the cooks pour into the bowl. Ohh, it was flavourful though, and totally worth eating. The noodles were cooked well, being chewy but not soggy, and the broth made me want to drink it. This in itself is pretty great, seeing as I normally shun the soup from the noodles (awful, aren’t I?). The pork was tasty and cooked just right, the bean sprouts were still refreshingly crunchy and hurray for whoever first thought of putting hard-boiled eggs into bowls of noodles.
As we ate, customers and waitresses bustled in and out. The crowds seemed to continue regardless of time and several parties sat together at a large table. The whole experience felt like I’d always imagine an actual ramen shop to be. One day I’ll get there, to Japan. One day.
Mind you, while Ev and Joy felt extremely full after their dish, I could have done with a bit more. I didn’t find that the noodle portion was extremely filling and this was after I had drunk a bit more soup than either of my two friends. Other than that though, my first ramen experience was quite delicious and I looked forward to trying the neighbouring contender, Santouka.
788 Denman St
Vancouver, BC V6G 2L5
Pros: Tasty, flavourful broth, springy noodles, tender slices of pork and a steamy atmosphere all contribute to a great experience at Kintaro.
Cons: Personally I didn’t find the portion super filling, but my friends did. Because of its small size the shop is bound to be crowded and waits for seats and food should be expected.
Dozens of blog posts have already voiced their opinion on Kintaro; it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I agree with them and say that Kintaro is a great noodle shop on its own. I already foresee a difference in opinion, however, in the review to Santouka and the ensuing comparisons between the two noodle shops. To be continued!