Kintaro Ramen on Denman Street.
The thought of ramen shouldn’t stir up memories of dried packets of noodles and boiling water from a kettle. It should be long noodles served in savoury broth with chunks of meat and real vegetables. Kintaro does just that and like a traditional Japanese noodle-house, specializing in tonkotsu, or pork-bone broth ramen.
Situated just off the corner of Robson and Denman Streets in Vancouver’s West End, Kintaro is as close to a traditional ramen shop without having to cross the Pacific. It’s small and almost always busy; a good sign. On some days it’s not surprising to see line-ups outside, occasionally stretching up to the Robson Street intersection. If there’s a line, the ever-attentive waitresses are out with menus and taking orders, so as soon as you’re seated there’s no additional waiting for the food.
The menu may seem limited, but its because it keeps the kitchen focused on providing a consistent and delicious product. The soups themselves are are all made with pork-bone stock and customizable with a rich, medium or light broth and fatty or lean pork cutlets. There’s four main bowls available: shoyu made with soy sauce, shio made with pork stocks and sea salt, miso with a combination of soybean pastes from around Japan and twelve different spices, and spicy garlic with a hot miso broth and ground garlic. Specialty soups are available, with a cold ramen available in summer (June-September), and a ramen with two kinds of cheese.
A bowl of fresh shoyu ramen.
I usually order the shoyu ramen in medium broth and fat barbecue pork; the fat has all the flavour. Garnished with a heaping pile of bean sprouts and bamboo shoots, diced green onion, a paper-thin square of dried seaweed and a tender slice of pork. The noodles themselves are thin and soft, but not mushy; the sprouts counter this with a bit of a crunch. With the soy sauce mixed in, the broth is a little salty yet not overpowering. The pork can be a little chewy, but that delicious flavour brought out by the barbecue makes up for it. The bowls are big and I’m left with a sea of broth that will slosh around inside me after all the noodles, meat and vegetables are gone. It’s not a bad feeling, it just leaves me full, satisfied and slow-moving.
In addition to ramen and should still be hungry, Kintaro also serves up gyoza (dumplings), hanpayaro (small pieces of barbecue pork), slices of pork meat, kimchi (spicy Korean-style vegetables) and rice.
Prices are relatively cheap – $8.95 for most bowls, increasing to $10.45 for specialty soups. Additional toppings are a dollar extra, with pop at $1.85, local beer at $4.75 and imported beer at $5.75.
Kintaro is located at 788 Denman Street in Vancouver, is open 11:30 am – 11:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday and closed Mondays. Methods of payment accepted are limited to cash and debit; no credit cards. Dine-in only.