Does going to a new ramen shop count as a romantic Valentine’s date?
Does it matter?
Didn’t think so.
There are other, more important things. Like fulfilling dreams. Ours? To eat good, hearty ramen on a rainy Vancouver day. Status of dream: achieved!
The boy and I went to try out Ramen Butcher, the latest in ramen establishments to open here in Vancouver. It’s the first North American venture by the ramen powerhouse group Menya Kouji, who’ve brought their chefs in from Japan and set up shop on East Georgia near Main, Chinatown’s hot spot for good food and coffee (famed Phnom Penh and the Matchstick both reside here as well). Understandably, there’s been hype leading up to the opening. Unlike certain highly-anticipated ramen bars, however, Ramen Butcher has held up to expectations, serving up delicious ramen until official closing time…. or until they run out of broth. Which has happened a few times during these busy past two weeks (which included the soft opening, when ramen was a mere $5 per bowl)!
So we arrived early. We had heard about line ups, so got there twenty minutes before the 5pm re-opening. There was a middle-aged Chinese couple already there, and soon after we arrived another young couple out for an early Valentine’s date like us (they also went to Crackle Creme for dessert. Stealing our itinerary? Join me and the boy for an open-door meeting about similar conspiracy theories next Wednesday).
Rain = ramen weather.
Inside, Ramen Butcher is clean to a point. Open, tidy, and tastefully spare, with a few highlights: the glittery “RAMEN” sign above the counter, the mirror by the communal table, and the dozens of white paper cranes suspended above the back wall.
At opening, the ramen establishment isn’t too full, despite the line up. Maybe six tables filled, tops. The communal table is near empty. Just wait half an hour or so, however…. it gets packed.
This half of the restaurant was near empty. Our side was full.
Aesthetically hip branding. How does the vaguely “oriental” pig with a Houdini moustache & top hat reference a butcher? And what of the two guns, versus the perhaps more intuitive butcher’s knife? I don’t get it, but I love it.
We had already viewed the menu hanging outdoors while waiting for the place to open, so we ordered shortly after taking our seats. The boy, who had been debating between the classic and orange ramen, went with the class; I went with the red ramen with only mild spiciness levels. We ordered the original and spicy gyoza dishes, too.
First up was the original gyoza. All of Ramen Butcher’s gyoza’s are house made, and you can tell. They’re delicious. The wrapping has a soft texture but is crispy in all the right places. It really has a true home-made, rather than house-made, feel. (But better, of course. Unless you’re a gyoza expert!)
Dipping sauce not pictured.
I think I set a personal record for worst chopstick separation ever.
Next was the spicy gyoza. Not terribly spicy–I tasted more oil than chili in the chil oil, perhaps, but still scrumptious and definitely worth an order.
Before we had finished the spicy gyoza, our ramen arrived! And oh god, it was good.
Mild spiciness is perfect for those who enjoy spicy things but have really sensitive (read: pathetic) palettes. Like me! Given the choice, I’d definitely order it again. It gave the broth a good kick.
Speaking of the broth… good stuff. I haven’t had ramen in ages but I know it was about the right consistency. Not too thin or thick. Flavourful.
The boy enjoyed his classic ramen. Eager to try more & eager to come back (“We could make this a Friday thing”). He also took advantage of their extra noodle policy, which in Japanese is called kaedama. Essentially, once you’ve finished your noodles, you can order another batch to add to your remaining broth. Noodles are the only extra thing you get, so make sure to save some soup and maybe a but of pork for your next set. The reason I suggest this is because your first kaedama is free. Take advantage of it!
The dinner was yesterday, and I’m already reminiscing as I write. The bill for everything ended up totalling around $34 before tip, and we both left full, so it was a great deal.
Highly recommended for good, super affordable, casual meals in a trendy hot spot. Given the three big factors when dining–quality, atmosphere, and affordability–it’s definitely worth your while.