May 28, 2008

phenomenal ramen... in charcoal

There are certain foods that warrant a life-long search for perfection. The ultimate pain au chocolat... opulent, pristine sushi... a life-changing burger... freshly made ramen...

That's right, ramen. I'm not talking about the instant stuff (although there is a place for that too; thank you Momofuku Ando). No, I'm talking about fresh, hand made ramen, epitomizing everything that is good about noodles (and pasta in general). Silken exterior, slightly toothsome texture, in any one of a variety of carefully slow cooked, flavor packed natural broths. The subject of one of my favorite movies of all time and the inspiration of fanatics around the world... you can have the best bowl of ramen in your life and it only makes you want to keep searching even harder for the next bowl that might just top it.

Being in Seattle, our standby ramen house is Samurai Noodle. Great noodles, super rich tonkotsu broth (if a bit on the salty side) and a great little space where devotees can concentrate on slurping rather than chatting. But Vancouver has always been reliably dominant for asian food, so we figured we'd make ramen part of our quest on our day trip this weekend.

The undisputed king of ramen in Vancouver is Daiji Matsubara, who runs the always jam-packed Kintaro Ramen and the more forward-thinking Motomachi Shokudo, both just steps away from each another on Denman. Motomachi uses a chicken broth, rather than the much richer and more intense pork broth typical of ramen joints, balanced by just a bit of fish broth. But the restaurant is most known for its signature ramen in a broth of bamboo charcoal.

Intensely dark, like squid ink, the flavor of the broth is striking. Packed with complex flavors--rich chicken broth, bamboo, light smoke--the broth's medium body also keeps it from weighing you down. But to make sure you don't miss the richness of pork broth, the bowl includes the most decadent slice of simmered pork ever... meltingly tender, unreal, magnificent. And the noodle texture was simply amazing. Totally balanced, giving the most pleasing mouthfeel... the best I've had. A master is at work here.

But did I really just eat charcoal? What gives? Well, charcoal powder is apparently used in some traditional dishes from Kyoto and is thought to be a healthy ingredient that can absorb toxins and aid in digestion (due to the many small pores and cavities in each particle). Kinda sounds like you're turning yourself into a Brita filter to me, but hey, the flavor definitely works. Come to think of it, I felt great after the meal and pretty energetic for the rest of the weekend... maybe there's something to this after all...

Motomachi Shokudo
740 Denman St.

Motomachi Shokudo on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I tried this once...I'll have to return here again one day.

    Love the slurping pic!