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!
The Ramenman haven’t even done their awning yet. Ramen Santouka is just down the block to the right on Robson St.
The fonts, colour palette, and line art remind me of Mosquito in Gastown.
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!
They’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and only open for dinner. Cash-only for now…
Prices are not bad! In the era of $10-15 ramen, it’s nice to see their bowls all hovering around the $10 mark.
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…
I believe this is the first ramen place in Vancouver to put clams in their ramen (aside from Gyoza Bar’s Kaisen Tomato Ramen).
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!
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…
Some of their ramen toppings are available in a mixed Appetizer Plate.
That’s it for food right now. I really respect a tight, focused menu.
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.
Mango juice is an interesting choice. Does mango go with chicken?
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).
Comically large spoons here! Bordering on ridiculous! But I love it.
Their counter covered with congratulatory bouquets.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…