Benkei Ramen’s Robson location (near Denman) was the second out of the chain’s five restaurants we visited. The restaurant’s decor and layout was virtual identical to its location on West Broadway, in Kitsilano, with a bamboo dividing wall at its entrance and similar warm colour tones throughout. Servers were friendly and promptly seated us upon our arrival. We dined fairly early on a weekday evening, around 5:30pm, so the restaurant wasn’t very busy, nor were we required to share an elbow-to-elbow communal table.
Their little padded stool-benches aren’t the most comfortable seats, but Benkei does offer a lot more 2 and 4 seat tables, so you’ll have less of a chance of having to share a communal table, like at Kintaro. I was fine with the seats, probably because I’m quite small; Gary on the other hand is 6’2″ so he found the benches rather tiny.
We noticed the above sign and requested the raw minced garlic and chilli bean condiments. The sauces were served in very cold containers, so it was good peace-of-mind to know they’re kept in the fridge for food-safe purposes. Speaking of food safety, this restaurant was very clean and tidy; I’d highly doubt I’d find a hair in my soup like I unpleasantly experienced at Q Go Ramen.
I ordered their Miso Ramen ($7.30) – This Hokkaido ramen was made with a rich chicken and pork soup, and cooked with their house-special miso sauce. Wow, this was some darn good ramen! The broth was excellent – it had multiple levels of flavour: A little sweet, a little salty (although NO MSG was added), a little rich ‘n’ creamy, and a little nutty aroma from the fermented soybeans.
Shio Ramen ($6.95) – This Fukuoka-born ramen claimed to contain lots of “collagen and calcium” in its rich tonkotsu (pork bone) broth. It exuded a hearty aroma and a beautiful, slightly salty flavor. Both of these ramen dishes included bamboo shoots, sliced green onions, and bean sprouts. Gary added a half boiled egg for $0.50 extra, but for an additional $4.50, all the extra toppings like spinach, kimchi, nori, corn, butter, etc., could have been ordered. Noodles were not over cooked in either bowl and they were a bit al dente, which was certainly the optimal texture.
Two pieces of meat were served in each bowl. The amount was slightly smaller than other ramen restaurants (noodle portion seemed smaller too), however, the slices were thick and there was barely any fat. To me, this was a bonus – I’d rather eat all meat, than mostly fat. Yes, I know others who believe wholeheartedly that “pork fat rules” and adore all things lardy, but I was very happy with my two slices of meat. Also, this pork was incredibly soft and fall-apart tender. Loved it.
Benkei Ramen’s Robson location offers great ramen at reasonable prices. I even enjoyed it a smidgen more than its sister restaurant in Kitsilano. My favourite ramen joint is still Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, but for basically half the price, Benkei Ramen is an excellent alternative.