Benkei Ramen Noodle Shop
Address: 1741 Robson St, Vancouver (at Denman).
Benkei is a ramen house very similar to the famous Kintaro located just around the corner. Benkei specializes in Tonkotsu, Miso, and a Mixed Light soup. All their soups are, of course, ramen with different broths. Tonkotsu is made by boiling pork for hours and is the heaviest of the soup broths. The Mixed Light soup is just that, a very light delicate broth made of boiled chicken and pork (it is billed as being the most popular with the ladies). And, the most recent addition to the ramen family, the salty good Miso.
The soups here are quite large and all start at $7, but can go up to $11 if you add all the extra toppings (green onion, bamboo, egg, nori, butter, spinach, sprouts, kim chi, corn). The soups all come with slices of Chashu (roast pork). Though I do not find the pork to be as flavorful or tender as it is at Kintaro.
The soup options are the same as at Kintaro — there is a Shio:
the lightest ramen, a pale yellow broth made from salt and a combo of chicken and pork bones. Shio is the healthiest kind of ramen; but at Benkei I found this soup to be too heavy (though still tasty). The heaviness may have something to do with the meat and egg added to fill the soup.
Next there is a Shoyu:
a soy sauce ramen that has a sort of brown broth. It is based on chicken stock with soy added for some extra zazz. The Shoyu here is light and yummy – adorned with nori, bamboo, spinach, chashu, and green onion.
Finally the Miso:
a delightful miso mixed with oily chicken broth and tonkotsu to create a lovely sweet soup. It comes with green onion, sprouts, bamboo, and chashu. This was my favorite. Not as salty as some miso, it finds a perfect balance with both its chicken and tonkotsu (boiled pork bone).
All the soups here have the same curly, chewy, ramen noodles – not the more traditional straight noodles you will find at other ramen places. Don’t forget to ask for the tea! They will bring you a deeelicious free green tea with roasted brown rice (if you’re keen enough to ask for it). The food comes quickly…I mean ridiculously quickly — and they’ll still apologize for the wait. We got all 4 of our soups in under 10 minutes.
This place is always sort of busy, but nothing like Kintaro’s constant line up out the door. The bright lights are party-esque and the bamboo and wood decor is a step up from Kintaro’s old dirty kitchen feel. Benkei’s, with their comparable prices, will provide Kintaro with some decent competition. However, Benkei’s modern pleasantries and attractive facade cannot make one forget why Kintaro became so damn famous for their flavorful soups which are still second to none.
Open: 11.30am – 3pm, 6pm-11pm
Parking: Not totally hopeless in the evening.
I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I
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