Kintaro is the Vancouver standard for ramen. Ruling the egg noodle in rich broth kingdom with one hot cousin by its side. If you had the bonitos to challenge that authority by opening up another ramen shop on the same street block, what might you do to avoid a quick and shameful death?
Make a good bowl of noodle and address the gripes about the current reigning king of course. Atmosphere, seating, cleanliness, wait times, and to some extent, price. Benkei is easy on the eyes from the get go
With a brightly lit facade, dressed up decor, adequate seating (not comfortable, just adequate), and no line of hungry customers spilling onto the sidewalk on a Friday night, its more welcoming than the royal ramen family around the corner. All of that is simply plate garnish however, as what really matters is the food.
Three familiar types of soups are offered, with toppings as optional add-ons. This brings the price of the basic soup + noodle + 2 (mingy) pieces of pork chashu + green onion + bean sprouts down close to $7. We ordered a chashu plate, which resembles a more tender, thicker, fatter, less seasoned versions of the Chinese charsiu. Whether its better or worse than Kintaro’s is a matter of personal preference. I like the flavor of Benkei’s but does it have to be so tiny…
Their Shio “heavy tonkotsu” ramen is advertised to be popular with the ladies. Though I think it’ll appeal to anyone who’s looking for a rich and very meaty tasting broth that suspends a lot of flavor around slippery noodles.
We also had the Miso ramen, which in my opinion is even heavier than the Shio tonkotsu soup with a quarter inch of clear oil floating at the top of the bowl. Combined with the extra salty miso, any depth of flavor (if there were much) were covered up. Also, the portions were a bit smaller than Kintaro’s.
A good hearty meal, but Benkei still doesn’t beat out Kintaro or Motomachi Shokudo for ramen. It does offer some healthy competition that ensures everyone is playing their A game, which I hope someday will spread beyond the Robson & Denman block.