I don’t think many people see it turning out this way. All the restaurants in Metro Vancouver were all bracing themselves for the expected onslaught of customers during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. It did not turn out that way.
Instead, everyone were clustered around the Robson Square area where the Olympics actions are. Not only that the expected increase of customers did not materialized, the number of customers actually decreased.
Suanne and I spent last Friday in downtown. We decided to go to Benkei for ramen. We had always see that this part of the city is teeming with people on Friday evenings. But that day was eerily quiet.
Which was good for us anyway. There were no lines when we went there and got a table straight away. Benkei Ramen had always ran second fiddle to Kintaro Ramen just around the corner. I am not sure why though because I don’t find a lot of difference between the ramens of these two places. Food aside, there are a lot more I like about Benkei than Kintaro.
The interior is way better than the bare basic interior of Kintaro. We were kind of surprised how spacious it is inside. From the outside it does look deceptively small and narrow.
There is this casualness about Benkei I like too. We thought that the box chairs were a great idea because they also act as a bag holder. We also like the fact that their offer to hang up our jackets.
Service wise, there are no shortcoming we could point out. They are friendly, genuine and even anticipative. I am saying this because …
… Suanne and I was just sitting there and was reading a sign on the wall saying that minced raw garlic and chili sauce is available for the asking. The waitress who walked past saw us pointing to the sign, stopped in her track and then said, “I’ll get you some”.
The menu is just a simple two-pager. You just order out of the five soup offerings and then decide if you wanted extra toppings and sides to go with it.
We got a side order of Chashu Plate ($3.75). Thinking that it would just be a small plate given that price, we were quite pleased it was quite a serving despite it sitting on a bed of beansprouts.
The Japanese name Chashu sounded a lot like Char Siu in Chinese. I am surprised if they have the same root words. We love this. It has a softer and moister texture compared to the Chinese Char Siu with quite a bit of fat too.
I had the Akaoni (Spicy Miso) which is $7.80.
It had a rich flavour from the … garlic oil, sesame seed and spices used here. I added the raw garlic into this for that extra kick. The broth was lightly spicy but very rich.
Suanne’s choice was the Shio ramen which is $6.95. I think Suanne got this because the menu says that eating this will result in beautiful skin and string bones and is also particularly popular with women. :-)
The yellowish broth was heavy and cloudy rich.
Those were hearty bowls of ramen and fully satisfying. There is little that anyone would not like about ramen — OK, other than the debate over how healthy or nutritious it is. This is never an issue with us at all.
We drank every single drop of the broth.
Between Kintaro and Benkei, I like eating in Benkei better. While Kintaro has its charm in the chaos, steamed windows and long(er) lines, Benkei has that calmer ambiance that suits Suanne and I better.