Kamamarui Ramen & Don

Kamamarui is a small (Korean run?) ramen joint tucked away on Hastings that just opened up recently. While I’ve heard about the branch in Royal Oak, I never actually tried it personally. One day, Totoro, Mamallama, Baby-Paca and I were driving out to lunch and we passed by Kamamarui, I told them I heard from some of my friends that Kamamarui Ramen serves up decent ramen. While it’s not the quality you get from ramen joints downtown, it’s a fair option when you don’t want to travel all the way out. Moreover, Kamamarui’s more gentle on your wallet.

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The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the little doggie butts on the wall. I think they’re hooks for clothing, bags and such? Cute and practical, I like that. It was completely empty when we walked in. The waitress apologized and informed us that they weren’t open yet, but I heard a voice from the kitchen say something in Korean to our waitress and she told us that we can wait inside as they open at 11:30 (it was 11:25), so we were seated.

The heat was turned all the way up and it was like a sauna inside, we had to request for the heat to be turned down. 10 minutes after our request, it  felt like the temperature actually increased and we asked the waitress again to lower the temperature. She opened the door to let some cool air in and it was a lot less stuffy afterwards.

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It was rather dim inside the quaint little restaurant, but It seems that Ghibli/Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away may have had a little influence over Kamamarui’s decor, which is a +5 points from me. Can you spot No Face? Hahah.

Kamamarui’s menu is limited, they only offer 2 kinds of broth, miso and tonkotsu, but you get the choice of making your ramen a combo with their selection of add ons (ranging from an extra $1.5-$6). We decided to try a bit of everything.

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I ordered a chashu miso ramen with Kamamuri’s “Twinkle” ($11.5 + $5). The description on the menu was deep fried pork in a sweet, spicy and sour sauce. The sauce had slices of caramelized onions in it and tasted like a plum sauce. It wasn’t spicy, but it was very flavourful, and it was actually my favourite component of this plate. The batter on the meatballs weren’t very crispy, and the dry, flossy consistency of the pork kind of threw me off.

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(To my disappointment) The chashu miso ramen had a generous helping of bean sprouts instead of the usual toppings like bamboo shoots and onsen egg. The chashu had a nice smokey BBQ charred flavour to them, but they were a tad too lean and didn’t have that melt in your mouth decadent quality you’d expect from good chashu.The noodles were decent, a little gummy, but had a bounce to them. The broth was light without being bland, but it was missing that depth of flavour. I also didn’t really like the taste  of cracked blacked pepper in my ramen, but it wasn’t a big issue.

Mamallama ordered the tonkotsu ramen with prawn and yam tempura ($9 + $5). The prawn and yams tasted fresh, but the batter could’ve been a little thinner and crispier. The dipping sauce was more concentrated and thicker than the dipping sauces that are usually served with tempura at other restaurants. I thought it was a nice change as I typically find the dipping sauces too watered down.

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Mamallama’s bowl of tonkotsu ramen looked pretty similar to mine, except with less chashu. The toppings were essentially the same. However, I actually preferred her broth over mine. It had a more clear pork flavour and it was creamier.

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Baby-Paca got the same ramen I ordered but with the side of the mini Chicken Flame (+$5). The Chicken Flame is a spicy chicken don. The chicken was slathered in a tasty spicy sauce that tasted like gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) and teriyaki sauce. The chicken flame definitely had a Korean flair to it. I find that Japanese dishes generally don’t get very spicy, even when they advertise that they are, but the spiciness of the Chicken Flame creeps in on you after a few bites.

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Totoro ordered the miso ramen with the mini tonkatsu ($9 + $6). The fried breaded pork cutlet was served with a homemade tomato sauce and lettuce salad. The breaded pork was not bad, but not good. It wasn’t oily or greasy. The breading was crispy, but could’ve been crispier. I didn’t like the tomato sauce though, it was reminiscent of borscht soup. I would’ve preferred if it were served with the usual tonkatsu sauce.

While our waitress was courteous, she seemed a little airy, but maybe it’s just the lack of experience. We ended up over-ordering and had enough left over for another meal. I could’ve done with just the ramen, but I was unaware that the original came with (2 slices of) chashu. If we ever feel like ramen again, we may come back to try their reman with a side of their Bombs. Apparently their seasoned seaweed teriyaki rice balls are literally the bomb. Baby-Paca had the genius idea of looking up reviews AFTER we had ordered.

Kamamarui Ramen & Don Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

KAMAMARUI RAMEN & DON
+1 (778) 379-8077
North Burnaby
4219 Hastings Street, Burnaby

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

After an awesome day of slip and slide with an enthusiastic hub of Vancouverites, we changed out of our bikinis, deflated our inner tubes and hopped on the SeaBus. KitKat wanted to slurp some noodles, so we scurried off to Santouka for ramen. It was around 10pm when we got there but it was still bustling with people. Luckily they had seats for us at the bar.

Santouka is by far our favourite authentic ramen joint in Vancouver. You know they’re good when there’s always a long line up outside their shop. Service is swift and their noodles are always perfectly cooked to al dente, and quality is consistent. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with Santouka.

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KitKat and I ordered their goro-niku gyoza ($5.95) to share. These pan fried pork dumplings were delectable. The skin was thin and perfectly crispy on the bottom. The pork inside was juicy and full of flavour.

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KitKat ordered the kara miso ($11.45). Initially, I was going to get the kara miso too since I was feeling a little chilly from being in and out of the water, but after our long walk down Robson, my body warmed up and I no longer wanted something steamy and hot. I opted for the tsuke-men ($12.45) instead, where the ramen is served cold on the side with a bowl of their hot simmered pork bone soup seasoned with shoyu for dipping. The tonkotsu broth was rich and creamy and had deep, concentrated flavours, without being overly fatty or salty. There were pieces of menma (fermented/braised bamboo shoots) tender cubes of pork, aji-tama (soft boiled egg) and green onions in the soup. While I expected the egg to have a semi runny centre, it was overcooked and not short of being hardboiled. The ramen noodles in the tsuke-men are different from the usual noodles they use in all their other ramen selections. These dipping noodles are slightly thicker, denser, and chewier. The portion of noodles are also bigger. I ended up packing about a third of my ramen home. I’ve had Santouka’s tsuke-men before, but I had forgotten what it tasted like and thought I’d try it again. While it was good, it wasn’t as amazing as the kara miso. I prefer the smaller portion size, complexity of the spicy miso broth and thinner noodles.

After ramen, we frolicked over to Chatime to top off our day with some tasty boba. While a cellphone (water damage) and a pair of (KitKat’s) sandals were lost (twice) today, we still had a fantastic time. The following day I made the upgrade and got a new phone (finally). Some memories are gone forever, but that makes room for new and better ones, right? At least that’s what I try to convince myself.  In the end, we just gotta cherish what we have while we still have it. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the concept of loss, but good food and awesome company undoubtedly makes the disheartening task easier. Carrying on…

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HOKKAIDO RAMEN SANTOUKA
+1 604 681 8121
West End
1690 Robson Street, Vancouver