Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ramen Koika

Driving along Davie Street for a 9:00pm dinner, none of the restaurants really interest me. Sushi? Um… well, after trying the whole "visiting new restaurants" kind of thing, I discovered that some restaurants do not always serve fresh toro sashimi (Sushi Bella, Hi Dozo, Ginza Sushi and Sushi UOmo). How have I gotten away with 20 years of always having fresh toro sashimi until a few months ago, when the experience has happened more than a few times! Anyways, with sushi out of the question along with Greek (yeah, like I will risk having dry roast lamb…), donairs and Montreal cuisine, I guess ramen it was!

Ramen Koika is the newest addition to join the West End and the chefs have travelled to Chiba, Tokyo and Osaka to master ramen. Okay, they may have mastered the noodles but not the broth. The restaurant offers both chicken as well as pork soup bases, and the prices are cheaper than most ramen joints.

Walking in, Ramen Koika is the most spacious ramen joint that I have been to. There are plenty of bar seats available and a few tables at the back. The interior is spacious as well as comfortable and if anything, there was no loud welcoming from the kitchen along with the waitresses like at almost every ramen joint.

Since we arrived during last call, the both of us went for a bowl of ramen and passed on a side of donburi. I hate the feeling of keeping the staff behind just to clear our table! As we were waiting for the food, I could not help but notice a waitress using her hand to grab seaweed for the ramens. Asides from my personal OCD issues, it is basically just sanitary principles. Front of the house staff should not be touching food with their hands, considering they wipe down tables and deal with cash.

BLACK GARLIC RAMEN, "Bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, soft boiled egg, cha-shu, black tree fungus, green onion, garlic chip and black garlic oil" ($9.95) + CORN ($0.50).
The fried garlic is provided on the side, but the egg was forgotten. In addition, the garlic tastes slightly over fried which results in a burnt bitter  flavour. As for the perfectly cooked noodles, there is a pleasant chewiness along with a bounce and taste great. The noodles are pretty good.

Moreover, the broth has a garlic soy flavour along with hints of dried garlic, but tastes a touch too salty. The flavour of the pork broth tastes very light and not rich either, but the black garlic oil provides that extra taste.

SHIO GENTLEMAN RAMEN, "Bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, cha-shu, green onion, bean sprouts and black tree fungus" ($8.95).
I went for the Shio Gentleman which consists of a pork broth, rather than the shio with a chicken soup base. But, my ramen looks so plain… the egg along with the cha-shu was forgotten! The soup base has a light pork broth flavour and the perfect amount of salt is added. There is actually a perfect level of saltiness. However, the broth is a bit on the lighter side and does not taste very rich.

As for the ingredients, the bamboo shoot and bean sprouts provide a nice crunchiness and every bowl of ramen includes all the fix-ins. There is no need to pay an additional charge for an egg, bamboo shoots or fungus. If anything, the only complaint would be that there is a higher noodle to broth ratio.

After our waitress checked the menu to see if our ramen include a side of egg and cha-shu (despite requesting for fatty rather than lean pork earlier on...), the kitchen sent out the ingredients. The kitchen actually sent out an additional order of two slices of cha-shu (or perhaps they thought the meat was missing in the black garlic ramen?). The slices of cha-shu are lightly seared and have that extra flavourful caramelized taste. However, the lean portion is very chewy and the cha-shu could have been sliced more thin.

As for the egg, it is very lightly marinated and does not taste salty. However to some, may consider the egg bland compared to Martutama's. I think it is fine though.

TOTAL: $22.20 + TIP $3.80 = $26.00.

The noodles at Ramen Koika are pretty much the highlight. There are the options of soft or hard noodles and without being asked, we received the hard. The noodles taste clear, properly rinsed and neither gooey nor mushy. In addition, there is a nice chewiness and tastes fairly good. As for the soup bases, the broths are average and not very rich. However, the prices are reasonable and there are worse ramen places out there.

- Friendly staff
- Great housemade noodles (4/5)
- Cheapest ramen prices Downtown and all the fix-ins are included (bamboo shoot, egg, nori…)

- Broth is average and there is better
- Basic ingredients were forgotten (although the restaurant made up for it later on)

- We wanted to go for the smokey miso, but did not like the addition of ground pork

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 2.5/5

Ramen Koika on Urbanspoon

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