Ramen Jinya: There is a New Ramen Joint in Town
270 Robson Street, Vancouver
Straight from the glam streets of L.A., Ramen Jinya has now set up shop in Vancouver. Voted by L.A. Weekly as one of the Best Dishes of 2010, Ramen Jinya had its Grand Opening in downtown Vancouver yesterday. Located across the street from the Vancouver Public Library, Ramen Jinya will soon become a busy lunch hub for Yaletown yuppies and the business folk working during the week in the heart of downtown.
I have a major soft spot for ramen and I’d hike it out to G-Men Ramen Shop in Richmond in a heartbeat so I’m happy that Ramen Jinya is much closer to home.
I knew exactly what I wanted to order when I sat down: the Shio Tonkotsu Ramen: noodles in a premium pork broth with slices of pork belly, spinach, bamboo shoots, green onion and fried onions. Shio translates to salt in Japanese and Tonkotsu refers to the broth, a slow boiled broth of pork bones and salt. It is the clearest and most pure pork broth amongst the popular ramen broths: shio, shoyu, and miso. Actually, it’s so coveted here at Ramen Jinya that they indicate on the menu there are only 20 servings of Shio a day. The rest of the pork broth prepared is mixed with soy sauce to create Shoyu ramen or mixed with spices or miso.
I was impressed by the fast and friendly service at Ramen Jinya, I was served less than 10 minutes after my order. The smell steaming from my bowl of ramen was incredible, smelling of salt, pork and boiled noodles. The first thing I noticed was the extremely thick cuts of pork belly on top of the bowl. I know Kintaro serves up to four slices of pork with their Tonkotsu Ramen but the thick cut of pork belly at Ramen Jinya is comparable. And boy, was the meat ever tender. It literally fell apart in my chopsticks. When I managed to get a piece in my mouth, it tasted phenomenal, salty from the broth, and moist and tender. There was a good mix of fat to meat in each slice of pork belly, adding to the flavour of the broth. There’s nothing quite like a good piece of pork belly, with the fat end of the meat melting into the cloudiness of the ramen broth.
The ramen noodles at Ramen Jinya are a little bit firmer than the noodles at G-Men and Kintaro. I suppose the tradeoff for fast service is less than al dente noodles. Nonetheless, the noodles were still tender enough to absorb that wonderful pork broth perfectly. Each bite tastier and saltier than the next. I do love that the ramen noodles remained springy and chewy to the very last bite. There’s nothing grosser than soggy noodles at the bottom of the bowl. The crunchy bamboo shoots and boiled spinach also added extra texture to the dish.
Onto the broth. Everyone knows that’s where all the flavour is. And yes, the Shio pork broth at Ramen Jinya passed the test: it was clear but salty with layers of flavour from the spinach and sweetness from the fried onions that were sprinkled on top of the ramen noodles. This broth is also a bit lighter and more refreshing than miso soup. They’re also super light on the MSG at Ramen Jinya, I could tell since I was barely thirsty afterwards.
I also ordered a side of gyoza. The gyozas here are different from G-Men and Kintaro, the dumpling skins they use are very thin and delicate, I was afraid I would break these flimsy little gyozas as I picked them up with my chopsticks. Each gyoza was so delicate that it bent in the middle when I picked it up. Also as a result of the thin skin, the bottoms of the gyoza didn’t sport that ultra tasty fried firm bottom crust like the gyozas at G-Men. On the plus side, the pork filling in the Ramen Jinya gyoza was pretty flavourful, well-seasoned and moist.
All in all, I was impressed by Ramen Jinya and I can’t wait to go back.