Like many of the ramen places in Vancouver, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka got its start in Japan (in Hokkaido not surprisingly) decades ago when we were still eating nothing but chicken noodle soup here. If I have counted correctly, there seem to be 56 outlets of HRS now including 2 in Vancouver. In this space, I have mused that fried chicken may be the ultimate pandemic food but I would say that ramen gives it a run for its money (OK so macaroni and cheese, laksa, congee, kare-kare and a lot of other things qualify also). We found ourselves at their restaurant on Broadway near Cambie one rainy Saturday morning.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
We were seated right away and placed our order, going off the beaten shoyu/shia path for a change. But speaking of fried chicken...
Zangi is the version of Japanese fried chicken that actually originates in Hokkaido. The only difference between it and Karaage is that Zangi is marinated before frying. It was crisp and tasty but without a side by side taste test, I couldn't really attest to a difference. It was served with a garlicky mayo which provided an excellent contrast.
We have never actually had Ginger Ramen before but it sounded good and also, I have noticed that if the menu tells me that an item is limited (20 bowls a day served) then I can't help myself. There was a nice selection of vegetables in this bowl and the ginger was tasty and provided a nice warming spiciness that is perfect for a cold day (and a restaurant that keeps its front door open and is on the chilly side). Hidden from view in this photo are some lovely noodles with nice chew and small pieces of pork.
We also enjoyed the Tsuke-Men (cold ramen noodles with dipping soup). These noodles also had a very nice texture. It also had the small pork pieces which we generally found to be a little on the chewy side but tasty enough. I can see us swerving back to our old standbys, shoyu, shia and chashu in the future.
Lastly came the rice bowl with grilled salmon and Ikaru (salmon roe). The Ikaru was very much my favourite single item of our lunch this day. The pop is not quite as sharp with these larger fish eggs (compared to massago for example) but its flavour was mild and I was convinced that it was smokey. Very nice.
HRS is mostly following the pandemic protocols with separated tables and well-followed mask rules but I did notice that the servers were refilling our water glasses which called for leaning in while we weren't wearing our masks (to eat obviously). While we would usually applaud attentive service, most places leave water and glasses and allow you to fend for yourselves which is a safer procedure. HRS may want to reconsider this one detail. Otherwise, we very much enjoyed our lunch here and recommend that ramen fans give them a try!
Food 3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort 2 1/2 our of 5 (quite chilly)
Service 3 out of 5 (very nice service but the water thing)
Value 3 1/2 out of 5
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