Even after four years, Marutama Ramen (moldy oldy review here) is still considered one of the top ramen places in the city. Definitely Top 5, if not Top 3. Their chicken paitan (cloudy chicken broth) ramen is still unique and well-executed. That slippery aosa seaweed (sea lettuce) has me all [insert sweaty feverish emoji here]. AND their ramen egg is still the most delicious and consistent around.
Their new third location on Main and 13th is called Marutama Gaiden and offers a different take on their chicken paitan ramen. Don’t come here expecting more of the same. Almost everything is different. Here’s my personal take on this place that we tried at the tail end of their two-week soft opening phase.
This odd space used to be Thyme to Indulge Catering and Bistro. In fact, the Thyme to Indulge van was still being put to good use (as shown in the photo above), so I guess it was part of the sale when Marutama took over. Unlike a lot of ramen places, the kitchen is hidden from the main dining area. You won’t see cooks doing the “move” when they strain the ramen noodles and slide them into the bowl.
Soft opening hours. Check their Instagram for their regular hours, if and when they post them.
I love the look of the exterior. The interior you’ll just have to see in person cuz it was difficult for me to take a photo of the whole place. It only seats about 21 people, so you’ll be needing this:
It’s the typical ramen/Japanese restaurant rules.
Menu porn (you better be a fast climaxer cuz it’s a really short menu):
I’ll always think of Ninja Gaiden (arcade version only!).
Shoyu Ramen. AFAIK they’ve taken their chicken paitan broth and added bonito, for a different flavour from their original ramen.
Miso Ramen. It comes with a pile of stir fried veggies on top, so it’s a bit like champon and a bit like the Jiro-style ramen they serve at Gojiro (review here).
Vegi Paitan Ramen for the vegetarians.
Veggie Japanese Curry and “Mega” Chicken Karaage. Weird pricing on the chicken. If you buy one piece (it’s a whole leg & thigh) it’s $7.50. If you buy two it’s $13. Your third piece and any additional pieces are $6.50 each. But if you buy two pieces for $13, that already works out to $6.50 each! IMHO one piece alone is easily shareable if you’re also eating a bowl of ramen.
The most interesting thing on the menu, Gaiden Hot Pot. But it’s a bit of a shocker at $30 per person (minimum two people). I do not get why it’s so expensive. Do you? It’s a shame because this type of Japanese nabe/hot pot isn’t very common in Vancouver at all, and the price is scaring me a bit.
That’s it for the menu! I like a tight, focussed menu…but…is this enough to keep people coming back once this restaurant grinds through the local pool of customers who are willing to try this once?
We didn’t ask what the daily tapas were, and the servers didn’t mention anything about them, so I assumed that since it was the soft-opening phase that they didn’t have any to offer. But let’s be real, a side of eggplant or green beans isn’t gonna be a make-or-break factor.
Tableside condiments of fine red pepper flakes and black pepper. None of their famous garlic chips or sesame seeds.
You can rest easy that the spoon here is a regular-sized spoon and not the crazy Alice in Wonderland huge spoon that The Ramenman uses.
Shoyu Ramen ($10.75) minus the green and red onions (cuz Wicca doesn’t do raw onions). Comes with two slices of pork belly chashu.
I’m 99% sure they make their own noodles, since they’re famous for making their own noodles at their West End location. These are completely different from the thin straight noodles they usually use. They’re thicker, curly, and have an excellent chew to them. Another clue that I think they’re housemade:
They tend to clump a bit. In fact, I saw a guy at another table pull out a huge clump of stuck-together noodles. But my own bowl had minimal clumpage, and even so it wasn’t a deal breaker. The broth had a similar flavour to their other locations except it was a bit richer, and with a seafoody otherness to it. I’ll have to try the original location again to get a truer sense of how it differs. Rich, plenty of saltiness…but not too salty.
Miso Ramen ($12.50) comes with stir fried bean sprouts and cabbage, ground chicken, and black sesame seeds. We nixed the green onions but added a Soft Boiled Egg ($1.50) and 3pc Pork Belly Chashu ($3.50). The pork belly is served cold but is super tender and well seasoned. Quite enjoyable for tender meat and fat lovers. If you’re afraid of fat…why? Maybe look in the mirror and reassess your life up to this point?
The egg is almost as good as their other locations. Difference here is that it’s not marinated, and they didn’t quite hit the gooey gelatinous stage on the yolk. But this might be a consistency thing…but maybe not cuz the menu shows an egg that looks exactly the same. Well, in any case, it’s more good than not good. But the non-marination moves this place further away from what you might know and love about the original Marutama.
I really do love the firm chew of these noodles! Too bad I realized while eating this bowl that I DO NOT like Jiro-style ramen noodles with tons of bean sprouts and veggies on top. I felt like it really detracts from the noodles and gets in the way of me simply enjoying the noodles and broth. Next time I’ll go with the Shoyu. (This is absolutely personal preference. You might love it.)
The broth had moderate miso flavour, but as with this style, the water from the bean sprouts and cabbage make their way into the broth, so I gotta say it’s not my kind of ramen experience. There was plenty of well-seasoned ground chicken meat though.
Mega Karaage Chicken ($7.50). It’s a whole drumstick and thigh attached. It was crispy but too oily. They give you a knife and fork to eat this with, but I found it hella awkward to eat fried bone-in chicken with a knife and fork while the chicken is sitting on a rack that slides around.
Underseasoned. Could be more gingery and punchier. If you resort to using your hands, you’ll realize how oily it is. This issue may be rectified as they find their groove. But that still doesn’t overcome the fact that it’s hard to eat.
I’m not a fan of bean sprout and cabbage-laden ramen since it’s totally the opposite of my taste for simplicity and purity. But that’s just me — you might love it. The shoyu is a tentative good. The chicken karaage needs a rethink. I’d love to try the hot pot but it’ll cost minimum $60 for anyone to take the chance. Are you game?
I think you’re intelligent enough to figure out in my review what’s due to soft opening jitters, what could be improved on with time, and what’s due to my own picky preferences. I think I’ve given this place a fair overview. What do you think? I’m always open for a civil discussion on Instagram or Facebook!