Kintaro Ramen: Cheese Ramen Comfort Food
788 Denman Street, Vancouver
If you’re looking for some comfort food on a cold winter day, Kintaro is the place to visit. There’s nothing like a steaming hot bowl of ramen noodles in broth on icy Vancouver nights. I actually did bundle up to visit Kintaro though, in preparation for standing in line outside. This place has always been very popular. Thankfully, we arrived early and there was no line-up. We only waited five minutes for our table. Just enough time for me to snap some pictures of the entrance.
I loved that as soon as we walked in, we were enveloped in warmth from the open kitchen. Pots of ramen noodles were boiling on the stove top and the air smelled of fresh broth and frying gyozas.
I already knew what I wanted before looking at the menu: the cheese ramen. I always order the same thing when I’m here. The menu actually quotes that ‘ladies love it.’ I’m such a stereotype. I know to ramen purists, it’s the ultimate crime to ever add cheese to ramen. My dining mate (ramen purist to the core) was appalled and rolled his eyes as I placed my order. After the server left, I was treated to a long rant from him on how cheese has no place in a sacred Japanese dish like ramen, and how he is ‘violently opposed’ to such ramen blasphemy.
Anyhow, purist that he was, he ordered the shoyu ramen with fatty pork. It looked and smelled amazing when it came to the table, with the slices of pork lining the edge of the bowl, the broth was hot and steaming. No, I didn’t get a taste of the shoyu as I was much too busy taking a billion pictures of my own bowl of ramen.
The cheese ramen smelled pretty incredible too as it was placed in front of me. The slices of cheese and thick cuts of fatty pork were half submerged in the miso based broth. I couldn’t wait to dig in.
Now as previously discussed, as opposed to many ramen obsessed diners, I love ramen, not for the broth but for the bouncy, chewy noodles. Something about their curly shape and their springy texture is absolutely comforting and addictive. The noodles at Kintaro are no exception. Just firm enough to provide some bite but soft enough to absorb flavour from the miso based broth and the saltiness from the cheese. I obviously let my noodles sit for a while as I snapped pictures but I was happy to find that the noodles did not get soggy; they remained al dente and flavourful.
What I love about the cheese is how it’s half melted and gooey and creamy in the broth, creating a cloudy, salty mix of flavour. Kintaro uses two types of cheese, you get a few big slices along with a pile of shredded cheese that pretty much melts entirely into streaks of creamy, milky goodness by the end of the meal. The mix of cheese and noodles always makes me think of macaroni and cheese, and in a salty broth, what could be better? It’s like the best mix of comfort food from two cultures. The stretchy cheese also adds another texture to the dish, gluing (literally and figuratively) all the flavours together.
As I’m eating, the cheese continued to melt and intertwine with the ramen noodles so I had a delicious bite of both gooey cheese and chewy noodles in each mouthful. It was heavenly.
The co-star of this dish was the fatty pork. The slices of pork are larger than at Ramen Jinya or Santouka and I love that it was submerged in the broth so it was nice and hot throughout. The meat was so tender, it fell apart every time I tried to pick it up with my chopsticks. When I finally got a bite in my mouth, it practically melted on my tongue with very minimal chewing. The meat was flavourful and salty from the broth.
I have to note though, I haven’t visited Kintaro for a while but it seems like their servings got a little bit smaller. The bowls are the same size, you just don’t get the same amount of noodles. I also have to admit that personally, I think Santouka has surpassed Kintaro in broth flavour superiority. I didn’t think that would ever happen, Kintaro has been the go-to place for ramen ever since I could remember.
Onto the gyozas. I’m happy to report that I loved the gyoza shells, minimal thickness but tough enough to only tear a little bit as we pulled them apart to eat. The bottoms were perfectly fried and crusty. The pork filling was more coarsely ground that I remember. The fillings are definitely not as delicate as the Ramen Jinya gyozas but they were still tasty.
I will happily revisit Kintaro for my cheese ramen fixes!