French Flare in the bowls
Containing Chicken Ramen
At The Ramenman
“Where’s the two types of meat?”
“Do you have Wifi (even though we are going to end up leaving in 5 minutes)?”
“I don’t usually order ramen with meat, your competitors have a veggie ramen option and you should add one too”
“You should always listen to the customer.”
Urrgghh. I don’t know what exactly bothered me so much about the interaction I overheard between the owner, the Ramenman himself, and the two diners. Personally I thought they sounded like a condescending pair of asshats. However, the Ramenman, patiently explained and complied with their requests with one exception.
The owner was insistent on staying true to his chicken ramen vision despite the couple bringing out the “customers are always right” ultimatum on their vegetarian demand. This conversation happened on my second visit. Like the troublesome twosome, I also had questions about the ramen served at this new eatery stemming from my first visit.
“Why was the char sui pink?”
“Do they really deploy sous vide?’
My first ramen at The Ramanmen was their Chicken X Clam bowl. Despite being curious about the Chicken X Stew option, I didn’t have the nerve to order it on my initial visit.
The clams were fresh and had pleasant strong flavour. Oddly, the bivalves didn’t add its flavour to the soup. Although listed, I didn’t detect any truffle oil but the pepper, garlic, onion, and parsley were a nice compliment to the clams.
The ramen-ya utilizes a thin curly noodle, which was perfectly executed; firm with a nice chew. It was the first time where I actually thought, “these must be the noodles they base the instant noodles on.”
The ramen egg had the gooey yolk but I felt it was under seasoned. On my return visit, a substantially more flavourful egg was served.
The broth that encompassed all the components of the ramen was light but also had a complex chicken flavour and a light collagen aftertaste but no gameness I associate with some pork tonkotsu broths. It had an addictive quality, as it was umami rich.
The most unique aspect of the ramen and which generated most of my questions was the eatery’s char sui. There is both pork and chicken available, which makes The Ramenman’s offerings a true chicken ramen since one can get chicken for all aspect of their soup noodles.
The noodle shop offers you 2 pieces of char sui of your choice for all the bowls of ramen. I went with one pork and one chicken char sui. Both arrived on top of the noodles hued a pale cold cut pink. Both were tender and juicy and it was reported that The Ramenman deploys sous vides for their char sui.
However I wasn’t convinced that the chicken was prepared sous vide as it didn’t match my frame of reference which is Gyoza Bar’s sous vide chicken char sui. In addition to the characteristic tenderness and moistness, meat that is cooked sous vide has a concentrated flavour. I didn’t think the chicken had that amped up poultry flavour. However the pork did have a condensed flavour.
As a result I considered other techniques that could create a pinkish tender meat such as brining or serving meat at the minimum safest temperature.
I was determined to get some answers and decide to bring Speedy along in case there was a language barrier. In the end Speedy’s Japanese was not needed as the owner is fluent in both English and Japanese.
The char sui is prepared using the French sous vide technique. Both meats are cooked at 63 degrees Celsius, the chicken for 2 hours and the pork for 4 hours.
As for the Chicken X Stew ramen, which I got on my 2ndvisit, it’s prepared by power blending meat with the ramen stock creating an extremely thick slurry. If it were served cold, I think Julia Child would probably be proud to call it a Mousseline de Volaille (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Chapter 9, page 560).
Although very unique and savoury, the Chicken X Stew didn’t work for me. It was too heavy and mono flavoured. With the exception of the chili flakes, none of the toppings (burdock root, spinach, bamboo shoots) helped contrast and alleviate the intense umami flavour.
As a result, the Chicken X Stew ramen got boring fast, and due to its density from the added protein, became a chore to eat. I was determined to finish my stew and did so in about 40 minutes. In contrast, on my first visit I enjoyed my Chicken X Clam ramen in about 20 minutes.
As for the pink char sui, I got the two kinds again. Given the sous vide method used, the pork was the better executed meat. The chicken was still relatively lacking in flavour. Gyoza Bar’s sous vide chicken char sui is far superior in terms of taste.
With all that said, The Ramenman is still the best ramen shop to open in the last 12 months. I applaud the owner for his efforts to use cooking methods from another culture’s culinary tradition to innovating his chicken ramen. I’m eager to see how the eatery will improve and tweak its menu in the future. For now I would stick with the shop’s more liquid offerings and their pink pork char sui.
841 Bidwell Street
604 620 8806