First Look: Brave New Ramen at The Ramenman in the West End

There is scant information about this brand-new ramen place, The Ramenman, that opened up just a block away from Ramen Santouka. They’re now in their soft-opening phase. They opened quietly on Sunday, October 18 and I visited then on their third day of operation to check them out. Much thanks to Sean (Sean’s Adventures in Flavor Town) for the early intel — which you can view here, here, and here.

As with all of my “First Look” posts, take all these details with a grain of salt. Menus, prices, food, everything may change in the coming days, weeks, and months!

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The Ramenman haven’t even done their awning yet. Ramen Santouka is just down the block to the right on Robson St.

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The fonts, colour palette, and line art remind me of Mosquito in Gastown.

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Instead of a origami crane, it’s an origami chicken! They do chicken-based ramen here, sorta like Marutama (also located on Bidwell, just on the other side of Robson). THREE ramen places, all within spitting distance of each other!

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They’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and only open for dinner. Cash-only for now…

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Prices are not bad! In the era of $10-15 ramen, it’s nice to see their bowls all hovering around the $10 mark.

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During their soft-opening phase, they’re offering three kinds of ramen. Their regular soup-based chicken ramen, a version that includes clams, and a strange variation that they call “stew”. More on that later…

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I believe this is the first ramen place in Vancouver to put clams in their ramen (aside from Gyoza Bar’s Kaisen Tomato Ramen).

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The Chicken x Stew ramen jumped out at me because I like “stew” and I also like burdock root. They also use burdock oil (!?). So I went with this one. You also get your choice of chashu: either pork, chicken or one of each. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen chicken chashu!

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Their cheapest and most straight-ahead bowl. It even includes truffle oil. Normally I’d be totally turned off by truffle oil (read this, “Rant: Enough With The Truffle Oil Already“), but I’m open to trying it once. Next time…

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Some of their ramen toppings are available in a mixed Appetizer Plate.

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That’s it for food right now. I really respect a tight, focused menu.

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Now this is a coup! Craft beer (well, one craft beer at least) in a ramen restaurant! Strange Fellows Talisman Pale Ale is a really easy-drinking, light, and just interesting enough pale ale. Good choice for craft beer points but also isn’t too “weird” or “bitter”. I’ve never touched a Fernie Brewing beer in my life. I’m not sure if I should start.

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Mango juice is an interesting choice. Does mango go with chicken?

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Strange Fellows Talisman Pale Ale. 9 oz serving in a slightly dirty glass. But I wasn’t going to start complaining cuz this is the best beer I’ve had in a ramen place (aside from Central City ISA at Gyoza Bar and the great beer list at Goro + Gun in Calgary).

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Comically large spoons here! Bordering on ridiculous! But I love it.

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Their counter covered with congratulatory bouquets.

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The place is basically one long table with maybe a couple tables at the back. Tiny. Which means this place will get full fast, with inevitable line-ups.

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Under-table hooks! And in another first, the hooks are placed in the centre of the table so that your bag straps aren’t always hitting your legs when you sit down.

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Chicken x Stew ramen. The bowl shape reminds me of Gyoza Bar. Seems like I’m referring to Gyoza Bar a lot in this post. Same thing I said about Gyoza Bar’s bowls applies here too: they look deceptively small but actually hold more than you think.

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Ummm…what is that?! That doesn’t look like soup.

Toppings (l-r): bamboo shoots, two burdock root pieces, spinach, pork chashu, and a triangle-shaped slice of chicken chashu.

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The meat looks pink, almost ham-like in appearance (thanks Sean), but the taste isn’t ham-like at all. I think the meats are cooked sous-vide. The chicken chashu was so tender! It looks to be a mixture of white and dark meat (white meat remaining white while the dark meat went pink) cooked sous vide to produce that moist, juicy texture. Pork was good too but I actually thought the chicken was more flavourful and delicious. Perhaps the pork could’ve used more seasoning.

There were no tableside condiments or seasonings. The chili flakes came with the bowl.

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This is the weird thing about this ramen. It’s not soup. It’s not “stew” either. It’s more like a really thick tantanmen sauce except instead of sesame paste, it’s chicken paste! It tastes like noodles covered in chicken mousse. Imagine cooking some chicken meat then sending it into a food processor. Then take your processed chicken meat and pass it through a drum sieve. I was blown away…maybe not in a 100% good way though. I was grasping for reference points. It’s more akin to mazemen (broth-less ramen), or sesame paste-style tantan noodles, or Korean jajangmyeon.

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This is what it looks like when you mix the noodles with the “stew” aka chicken mousse. Really looks like a sesame paste tantan noodle. The noodles themselves are the classic curly kind with a good not-too-firm, not-too-soft texture with a bit of bounce. I’d love to come back to try these noodles in one of their other two soup-based noodles.

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I was gaping at the waitress about how I’ve never had this kind of ramen before…ramen with a thick paste. I think maybe cuz I looked dumbfounded by the thickness, she brought me this portion of soup to mix into my noodles. I tried a bit on its own and it was actually what I craved all along. The stew ramen was good to try (once) and is still doing my brain in trying to figure it out, but I think the regular style chicken ramen is where they’ll hit the target.

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Chicken Stew ramen with a bit of regular soup mixed in.

Remember how I said the bowls held a deceptively large serving of noodles? Towards the end it got a bit effortful for me to finish. Thankfully the little serving of soup made things interesting enough for me to finish the bowl. This is DEFINITELY a NEW STYLE OF RAMEN to hit Vancouver. I didn’t expect my prayers to be answered, and they got answered in the weirdest way possible. I was getting tired of all the tonkotsu style ramen in town and wanted something new and different, but never would’ve predicted chicken mousse ramen.

I still really, really, really want to come back and try their chicken soup ramen. And I still recommend you try it, even though I was ultimately lukewarm yet intrigued about the chicken stew ramen.

The Ramenman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Afterword: during the walk home after eating the ramen, I thought the chicken stew ramen reminded me a bit of the Alkaline Noodles I’ve had a long time ago at Burdock & Co. Except again, instead of an almond sauce, it’s chicken mousse…

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