Best Ramen Restaurant in Vancouver? You make the call!

Photo credit: Apricot Cafe | Flickr

For much of my life, I knew ramen only as the instant noodles you mixed with boiling water.  For less than 50 cents a pack, you could have a filling, flavourful meal – the perfect late-night snack for, say, a university student on a budget.

Turns out, however, that ramen is a whole lot more than instant noodles.  Real ramen, of course, comes from Japan, where it has been a staple of the diet from time immemorial.  It usually consists of handmade wheat noodles served in a rich, fish- or meat-based broth, flavoured with soy or miso.  Fresh toppings are critical – ranging from the standard sliced pork to seaweed, green onions, corn, bamboo shoots and pretty much anything you can think of.

I know all of this now because Vancouver happens to be one of North America’s top cities for authentic ramen.  Do a Google Map search for ramen and literally dozens of restaurants turn up, all specializing in the addictive noodle soup.   The majority are clustered near the intersection of Denman and Robson Streets, in an area favoured by visiting English-language students from Korea and Japan.

In fact, there are so many options that it can be hard to decide where to sit down for a steaming bowl.  Maybe you can help:

Do you have a favourite ramen restaurant in Vancouver?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.  

I’ll start things off with a ramen noodle joint I visited over the weekend.  Now, I have to confess that this is the only ramen restaurant in Vancouver I’ve been to – so I’m hardly an expert.  On Saturday night, I stopped by Motomachi Shokudo on Denman Street.  Motomachi is just a block down from the famous Kintaro Ramen – which is perhaps Vancouver’s oldest and best-known ramen house and has a line down the block and an hour-long lineup most nights of the week.  I was a little too hungry to wait, so I poked my head into Motomachi.

Photo credit: Pabo76 | Flickr

The restaurant itself is tiny.  Diners cluster elbow to elbow at a few small tables and one counter in the centre of the room.  The menu is pretty much 100-percent ramen.  A variety of different styles are available, including shio (yellow broth), shoyu (brown broth) and miso.  I opted for the miso ramen, with the standard toppings, including sliced barbecued pork, green onions and corn.

Needless to say, Motomachi’s ramen blew away the packaged variety I was used to eating.  The broth is much more complex, the noodles have a rich, nutty flavour and the fresh toppings are a critical addition.  I don’t think that Motomachi’s noodles are homemade, however.  Nonetheless, I don’t think I can ever go back to instant ramen now.

Do you have a favourite ramen restaurant in Vancouver?  Share your favourite below. 

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond?  Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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13 Responses to Best Ramen Restaurant in Vancouver? You make the call!

  1. Joyce Lo

    Kintaro does a fabulous job with a very rich pork stock that packs a punch. I also like Motomachi with its charcoal and cold ramen varieties. I haven’t seen them at other shops around town.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Joyce. Can’t wait to try Kintaro.

  2. Summer

    Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, 1690 Robson, close to Deman St. Also the only ramen restaurant I’ve been to in Vancouver.

    I had the Miso Pork Belly Ramen. Very rich pork stock (according to their menu cooked for 2 days) and very tasty pork belly meat. The ramen itself is similar like you’ve described about the other restaurant. The topping is a bit different, including marinated bamboo shoot (yum!) and wood ear (black fungus).

    Friend of mine has tried the pork cheek ramen and highly recommends that one.

    Their menu has more items than simply ramen. Only cash and debit card, no credit card accepted.

  3. Cristina

    Sanpachi Ramen at Bute and Robson. The food and the service are amazing. When you do take out they even separate noodles from broth so nothing is soggy when you get to it.

  4. Daniel

    I’m a big Spicy ramen fan, and I found that my favourites are Shinpachi (robson/bute) & Benkei (now down by Kintaro around denman /robson).

    Sanpachi — Best Broth. I wasn’t a wild fan of the place since it doesn’t have a good spicy ramen, but even the more bland shoiu varieties were very tasty

    Kintaro — I’ve only been once for years and that was a couple months ago. The ‘spicy’ ramen was soo loaded with garlic that I stunk for a day and a half. Not impressed. The rest of the meal was interesting though. Decent meat for sure.

    • Matt

      I personally prefer Santouka – I’ve had a few misses, where the pork belly is sliced a little too thickly and doesn’t cook all the way through, but the broth is usually amazing.

      Another favourite of ours is Jinya (Robson, between Hamilton and Cambie.) The fried onions they give with their ramen are pretty awesome, and since Benkei on Thurlow closed down, there aren’t really any other great ramen places between the Denman/Robson area and the core of downtown.

  5. anonymous

    Motomachi Shokudo is the best place downtown with Jinya coming in a close second. If you haven’t tried either, do yourself a favour and try them asap!!!

    Explore beyond Santouka and Kintaro. Both seem to be favourites in Vancouver, but are far inferior to the former options I mentioned.

    The spicy broth at both Motomachi is ridiculously complex and the chicken wantons at Jinya are a great option!!! Have them throw the wontons in the spicy broth and call it a day.

    • anonymous

      excuse my spelling and grammar… I was a little excited and didn’t proof read.

  6. jd

    1) Santouka. stronger/heavier roast pork bone broth. it’s not a perennial vancouver food bloggers’ favorite for no reason.

    2) Motomachi. lighter broth using organic chicken/pork and bonito. sister shop to Kintaro.

    3) Kintaro. sentimental favorite. heavier/oilier broth. at least partially (if not mostly) responsible for the current ramen boom.

    Benkei is fast food quality (but not much cheaper…) and Jinya is one-note and no better than Benkei in broth – but noodles are superior.

    • Thanks, JD – Most definitive post yet on Vancouver ramen. Appreciate the input.

  7. CK

    Motomachi is the best!

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  9. J

    I would have to agree that Santouka’s shio ramen is by far the best I have ever tasted. The broth is rich creamy and tasty till the very last sip. I have been there at least a dozen times (probably more) and have never been dissapointed – they are so consistent. Even the famous Ippudo Ramen joint in NYC doesn’t compare to this treasure we have on Robson street.

    If I had to rank the ramen joints in Vancouver (I have been to quite a few of them!) I would have to say:

    #1) Hokkaido Santouka
    #2) Motomachi Shokudo
    #3) Q-Go Ramen (Alibeit they are inconsistent.. I have had some really good experiences here and some not so good ones)

    I have been to Kintaro a handful of times and always end up dissapointed. Though their noodles may be top notch, but it’s really the broth that makes it for me in ramen. Kintaro’s broth is always too greasy (even the lean broth) and just doesn’t have the same satisfying tastiness as Santouka’s. Sorry Kintaro fans, but I’d vouch for Santouka over Kintaro anyday :)