By Candice Macalino
Special to The Post
It's usually a sure bet that a restaurant is worth the wait based on a consistent line-up of patrons waiting for a delicious meal.
This is definitely the case at Robson's Hakkaido Ramen Santouka.
I went with my older brother, a reliable source for all things Asian cuisine - he recommended Santouka because it's known to serve the closest thing to authentic ramen noodles you can find outside of Japan.
And on a rainy Vancouver day who wouldn't want a steamy bowl of ramen, a Japanese dish made with wheat noodles served in broth.
Opened in 2010, Robson's Santouka is a chain restaurant with locations around the world.
They're internationally known for their broth recipe because they incorporate the same cooking methods used in Hakkaido, Japan. When making traditional Hakkaido broth, pork bones are slowly simmered for 48 hours and the soup should never come to a boil.
We started with the pan fried gyozas - the crispy gyoza crust against the succulent saltiness of the pork filing was delectable!
For those heat seekers, dip the little dumplings in the chili oil and soy sauce supplied at the table for a spicy kick.
As for the main ramen dishes, you choose your seasoned pork broth from four flavour options: *Shio* with salt; *Shoyu* with soy sauce; *Miso* with fermented soy bean paste and *Kara Miso* with hot spices and fermented soy bean paste.
I selected the Shio Ramen simmered pork bowl combo which came with two side dishes: Japanese pickled plums with an egg and chashu rice bowl. The Shio Ramen was surprisingly creamy but light and rich in flavour. While the melt-in-your-mouth slices of braised pork and crunch of the salty seaweed added texture and decadence to the soup.
The star was the ramen. Gently wading in a hot pool of pork essence, these chewy, bright yellow noodles were cooked to perfection! Trying to savour every bite, I made sure I fished, pulled-out and slurped (acceptable eating practice in Japan) every single piece of ramen out of the bowl.
The sour Japanese pickles side dish balanced the richness from the broth and I enjoyed the chashu rice bowl for the sweet and tender pieces of cubed pork.
From the raving reviews, food awards and regular lineups, Santouka's ramen seems to be the real thing. For someone like me who has yet to visit Japan, Santouka is the perfect place to indulge in a delicious, hot and tasty bowl of ramen.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
1690 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
Neighbourhood: West End
Simmered Pork Bowl Combo (choice of ramen with Japanese pickles, egg & chasu rice bowl) $14.50; Shio Ramen Bowl $9.95; Gyoza $5.50; Toroniku (simmered pork meat) $6.25.