When it becomes mittens-and-scarf time, my insatiable appetite for ramen grows until it’s practically out of control. Somehow the combo of deeply flavourful broth and toothsome noodles makes for the ultimate food solace. In Richmond, my favourite place has long been G-Men Ramen Shop (1160-8391 Alexandra Rd.), but recently, friends have been telling me I have to try Yah Yah Ya Ramen (1423-Capstan Way). Always up for a head-to-head ramen battle, I decided to visit both, do some serious slurping, and determine who offers the best bowl of noodles and soup.
First up was the defender, G-Men. Owned by the successful Gyoza King Group, G-Men has developed a loyal following of customers who visit for consistently good food in unassuming surroundings. The lunch menu offers four ramen creations: togigara shoyu ramen (soy-flavoured chicken broth); togigara shio ramen (salt-flavoured chicken broth); ae soba (thick noodles served with a bit of soy-flavoured pork broth); and tan tan men (pork broth mixed with spicy sesame and peanut paste).
I ordered the tan tan men ($10.25) since a richer broth suited my mood. The bowl arrived steaming and I immediately dug in. I was looking for a broth with a depth of taste that reflected hours and hours of slow simmering. The version at G-Men ticked the box, with a creamy texture and rich porkiness to it. The addition of the sesame and peanut paste heightened the flavours even further by giving a nutty, spicy kick. If anything, the broth was a tad too rich.
The characteristic yellow-hued noodles had great chew to them, and despite being called “thin noodles” on the menu, were thicker than some ramen places. Overall, I loved them!
The accompanying shredded pork chasu was also a highlight, the meat tender and well marinated, with just the right amount of fat.
The challenger, Yah Yah Ya stepped up to the bowl next. This restaurant marks the first location for a ramen chain based in Japan. Interiors are newer (they opened just over a year ago) and somewhat more modern. The menu features six noodle choices: shoyu (soy), shio (salt), miso, black garlic tonkotsu, and abura soba (soupless).
As a bonus, orders can be customized according to noodle texture (hard, normal, soft), taste (heavy, normal, light), and oiliness (more, normal, less). I opted for miso ramen, with hard noodles, heavy taste (of course!), and normal oiliness.
All ramen options have the same ie-kei broth base, which involves simmering pork and chicken bones, kombu (kelp), and veggies for 12 hours before adding soy, green onion, garlic and chicken fat. The broth had a milky consistency, with a more delicate, complex taste compared to G-Men’s more robust flavour profile. I liked the addition of sesame seeds for texture and slight nutty taste, as well as the umami note from the miso.
The noodles, although fairly enjoyable, were a bit of a disappointment. They were thinner than the ones at G-Men (I prefer a thicker ramen noodle) and not very springy.
The slice of chashu was on the bland side and not particularly tender. The accompanying soft-boiled soy egg was perfectly cooked, however.
THE VERDICT (drum roll please)
Although Yah Ya Ya put up an impressive fight and managed to get in a couple of convincing hits (the subtle broth and ability to customize), G-Men still managed to keep its place in my heart (and stomach) for overall best ramen. That’s not to say, however, that I won’t be slurping over at Yah Ya Ya on occasion. The colder weather has just begun, after all.
Tourism Richmond’s Day of Giving
On November 27, 2015, Tourism Richmond’s partners and the community will come together to support Richmond families in need during the holiday season. Participating partners will donate a portion of sales on this day to the Richmond Christmas Fund, and Tourism Richmond will then match the donations (up to a total of $5,000).
The following restaurants are participating in this year’s Day of Giving:
- Little Mexico Cantina
- Pepper Lunch
- Steveston Coffee Co.
- Kisamos Greek Taverna
- Pier 73
- Java Jacks
Click here to see a full list of all participating Richmond businesses.
All photos: Tara Lee