It's another hot, hazey, humid day in Portland. In an effort to escape the horrible afternoon traffic home I decide to escape early and get across the river before the onslaught of cars hit the road. But it's Ramen Wednesday and I need a bowl of noodles.
Hmmm, where could I go in Vancouver to get my slurp on?
A little bit of time with Dr. Google and there it is.
Kenji's Ramen on Mill Plain (don't ask me what a Plain is, and why they don't call it a street. And to make things even more confusing, there is a Fourth Plain, but not a First, Second or Third Plain anywhere to be found. I just don't get it). Okay, enough about my confusion with street nomenclature in Vancouver. Let's get some noodles going.
Kenji's is on the east side of Vancouver in an unassuming strip mall and as I park my behemoth in the tight parking spaces meant for skinny cars I start to get a little giddy in thinking that there is a ramen joint that I don't have to drive across the river to.
A large cavernous space with a concave vaulted ceiling and an open kitchen makes for a noisy restaurant. Greeted by a frantic server who is doing too much at once, we circumnavigate the dining room to seat me at a two-top with a perfect view into the kitchen and the mammoth HDTV in front of the hood vents. Flanked by more tv's mounted on both sides of the dining room, I'm happy that the volume is off since 3 different tv shows going at once is just too much for my brain to manage.
Only 4 ramens to choose from and I gravitate to the one named after the restaurant, Kenji's Ramen that includes Kenji's Fusion Sauce and kim chee.
I ask the nervous server what's in the fusion sauce and he explains that it's chili's and peppercorn, then pulls a small jar onto the table telling me that this is it. The contents of the jar looked suspiciously exactly like Sambal Oelek, but I accept his explanation and order away.
As I wait for my lunch to arrive I watch as two small boys explore and slurp noodles from bowls that are bigger than their heads and Mom & Dad patiently try to teach them table manners. An extremely difficult task as they are having too much fun playing with their chopsticks and noodles.
As the kitchen staff furiously assembles bowls and plates of food, the cauldron of broth simmers away front and center of the kitchen, the giant tv catches my eye.
Are you kidding?
A new season of Star Trek is coming in the fall!
I'm so excited (nerd alert 🤓)
My bowl arrives steaming hot and I get tingles in my belly as the anticipation of slurping hits me. Everything decoratively placed for a perfect picture. I shoot a couple with my phone (for Instagram), grab my tools and dig in.
A balance of pork, chicken and nori that is savory with a touch of heat from 'Kenji's Fusion Sauce'. I was hoping for some more heat, but this way I get to savor the broth. It's good, but I start to think, "are my standards wrong?" Am I thinking too much like a European trained chef and feel like the broth should be rich and meaty? The broth in Malaysia was.
The noodles were great! Perfectly cooked. Long and twisted, dangling into the broth as I slurp away.
I love when ramen comes with a soft boiled egg. It adds a touch of decadence to the soup, especially when the yolk is still runny (as a soft boiled egg should be, but often difficult to achieve for a fast casual) as I bite into my egg. The creamy yolk coating my mouth. God I love it.
The best part of my bowl is the pork belly. Kenji's pork belly is fantastic! Slow cooked to perfection and then seared. It melts in my mouth. The only downside is that I got two pieces and I wanted 10.
This is a good bowl of ramen.
🍜🍜🍜🍜 out 5 bowls. Definitely recommend trying Kenji's if you are on this side of the river.
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