Yesterday, I successfully made it to Shubaytei while it was open, and my meal there triggered some intense ramen research. While I was eating it, I realized I don’t really know all that much about it, other than I like it. There’s instant ramen from the grocery store, and salty, quick, and comforting as that may be, eating from-scratch, MSG-free ramen is a very different experience.
First let me describe Shubaytei; it’s an oddly-placed restaurant run by a man who many years ago used to live in Canada, then returned home to Tokyo because of family issues. He ended up staying there, opening a number of successful restaurants, and was featured in a variety of Japanese magazines for his work.
Last year, he decided to venture into the B.C. restaurant world, and heard that Canadians are quite fond of noodles. His offerings would be traditional Japanese noodle soups, made from scratch and without MSG. He opened up shop in a tall, strangely-shaped space with a car mechanic as his neighbour. There’s just enough room for the kitchen and about four tables, and when I arrived at noon, there was opera playing on the stereo, and WWE wrestling on the TV. Weird, and just how I like it.
The reason I did so much research on ramen yesterday, was because this broth tasted different from anything else I’ve had. It was darker, stronger, and almost more bitter; who knows, maybe almost all bowls of ramen I’ve had contained MSG? It tasted of pork, and was intense, without being terribly salty. I came across a great blog with a very apt description of an ideal Japanese noodle soup:
“A perfect bowl of ramen, unlike, say, a perfect steak, isn’t about coddling some cherished ingredient and letting it shine. No, it’s about a meticulous and flawless combination of about 28 different ingredients into a whole more powerful and important than any of the individual components could ever hope to be…..Of course, there must be ramen noodles, and they must be springy but not rubbery, able to be slurped and not fall apart. There also must be broth. It should be deep and dark, made from a combination of chicken broth and another base; together they should as David Chang so eloquently described, be “not quite too salty but almost.” And there must be garnishes, which can include, but are in no way limited to, fish cake, bamboo shoots, sliced pork, hard boiled eggs, and nori.”
Shibuyatei’s charsyumen soup had a shoyu-based broth, shoyu being the Japanese version of soy sauce – it’s apparently lighter, sweeter, and stronger than Chinese soy sauce, and is the foundation of Japanese cuisine. The soup also had at least five thick slices of pork, a mass of very al-dente ramen noodles at its center, and corn, green onion, bean sprouts, and nori on top. Because it was so much stronger than I’m used to, I think I’ll need to try the broth a few more times before my tastebuds become accustomed to it. They instantly accepted the slices of pork, however, which were tender, flavourful, and so filling!
I also ordered one of their tofu burgers ($6.50), which is a dish the chef created just for his restaurant, and is meant to be a healthy version of a hamburger.
Instead of a bun, the various meat fillings, lettuce, and mayo are sandwiched between two fried tofu patties. I requested ginger pork as my filling, and while it didn’t really taste like a hamburger, it was good. The tofu was dense and firm, and I liked its texture. If you’re trying to avoid bread but still want a sandwich, give this a try!
Now, my favourite part of any day: talking about sweets. Today’s Best of Richmond list is the Top Five Desserts I’ve had in Richmond so far, though this won’t include bakery goods. That’s another day/another excuse to eat more cookies.
Ha! Who am I kidding? Top 5?? As if I could narrow it down. Here are my Top TEN Desserts in Richmond thus far:
1. Chocolate Tres Leche Cake from Blue Canoe. It’s cream-soaked chocolate cake – you do the math. I bet they hate me for repeatedly putting this terrible picture up of it (the cake got rather beat up in its box), but it’s the only one I have. And I still think it looks beautiful.
2. Baklava from Kisamos Taverna. It’s not easy to find a flaky, chewy, crunchy, crispy, nutty, buttery, honey-filled piece of baklava, but this is it.
3. Bread Pudding at Harold’s. Topped with homemade caramel sauce, this carb-ed masterpiece is one of best bread puddings I’ve ever had, and warning – the portion is enough to feed 2-3 people.
4. Leche Flan from Casa Pinoy. If you love a dense caramel custard, then you’ll be wanting to try this. It’s everything that’s bad for you in one golden, smooth slice.
5. Citrus Olive Oil Cake from the Market at Papi’s. Yes, it would appear as though Steveston is sweeping the dessert section, but you can’t argue with a gorgeous, pound cake-like, anise-spiced, marmalade-topped piece of cake, now can you?
6. Fallen Chocolate Souffle at CHOP Steakhouse. This is not for the faint of heart – it is only for serious, well-versed consumers of decadence. It is heavy on the chocolate, and heavy on the delicious, IF you can handle it.
7. The Whole Top Tier from Adorabelle Tea Room. You’ll have worked your way up from scones on the bottom, and sandwiches in the middle before you reach your final destination – dessert at the top. It was a lovely sweet assortment of lemon coconut tarts, cream-filled strawberries, mini cupcakes, and Earl Grey shortbread cookies. A charming way to finish a charming meal.
8. House-made Houji Tea Ice Cream at Moncton Café. If you’re more the type who enjoys just a few refreshing spoonfuls at the end of a meal, then this barely-sweet, earthy ice cream is for you.
9. Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake at Gudrun. I don’t know if they make this regularly or not, but I sure hope they’ll keep it up during the holiday season. Like most slices of gingerbread cake, it’s a little homely looking, but is gorgeously rich, warmly-spiced, and sticky with buttery homemade caramel sauce.
10. Halo Halo from Little Ongpin, for pure entertainment value. This is a classic Filipino dessert, consisting of shaved ice over various sweet beans, taro, jello, grass and coconut jellys, and probably several other things I’m forgetting. Then there are two precariously-stacked scoops of purple taro ice cream on top. If I’d seen this as a kid, I think my brain would have short-circuited – it’s a lot to look at!
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available
Parking in front and back