There are few things in this world that are quite as instantly gratifying as a piping hot bowl of noodle soup. The added bonus of enjoying some great pho or stellar ramen is that it can be an incredibly quick meal, allowing you to get in and out in 30 minutes or less. Part of the challenge is that getting an amazing bowl of Japanese ramen oftentimes requires a trip down to the ramen district near Robson and Denman in Downtown Vancouver.
It is there that you will find such fine establishments as Kintaro, Motomachi Shokudo and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Outside of the ramen district, particularly in the suburbs, the selection can be more difficult. In our ongoing effort to uncover great ramen, Susanne and I ventured to Kamamarui Ramen & Don. Located just past Metrotown near Kingsway and Royal Oak in Burnaby, Kamamarui looked promising.
The interior decor strikes you as Japanese-inspired, though the actual furniture itself is reminiscent more of the Lack series from IKEA. Total seating is probably right around 20 guests at a time, so you may find yourself waiting during busier periods. I should also note that Kamamarui is a cash and debit-only establishment, so you can leave your credit card at home. There is free Wi-Fi though.
Also of note is the fact that the ramen does not, by default, come with some of the “extras” you may find elsewhere. You have to pay extra for nori, corn or an egg, for instance, and there is no menma (bamboo shoots) at all. In addition to the ramen and donburi (rice bowls), Kamamarui also offers tempura and a couple of special appetizers.
Both Susanne and I opted for the tonkotsu ramen; I just upgraded to the chashu ramen for an extra couple slices of BBQ pork. While the serving of pork appears to be generous, based on the number of slices, the actual slices themselves are thinner than other ramen shops. They also choose to top the chashu with some sort of sauce.
And, as mentioned above, the ramen doesn’t really come with anything else. You get the chashu, the noodles, bean sprouts and a light sprinkling of green onion. It’s quite basic and comes piping hot.
The tonkotsu soup base was satisfying albeit far from stellar. Susanne noted that it was a little on the bland side and I found added just a touch of chili oil helped to kick it up a couple of notches. The ramen was not overcooked, offering the slight “bounce” and toothiness that we desire.
When you order a bowl of ramen at Kamamarui, you are offered the option of creating a combo with one of the appetizers or side dishes at a marginal discount. I opted for the “Bomb” for $1.50. This is almost like a deconstructed onigiri, but the rice has been formed into a ball with seasoned seaweed and teriyaki sauce. It’s deceptively simple and a great accompaniment to the bowl of noodles.
Mini Chicken Flame Don
Susanne went with the mini chicken flame don ($5), a small bowl of rice topped with “crazy spicy chicken.” The sad news is that the chicken wasn’t “crazy spicy” at all. The good news is that it brings out a brilliant smokiness to it, similar to what you’d get from Zakkushi Charcoal Grill. Mix in a little bit of the tonkotsu broth with a spoonful of rice and you’ve got a great mouthful of flavor.
For a while, my go-to place for ramen in Burnaby has been Hakkaku Ramen on Hastings. It’s a no-nonsense establishment that sticks to the fundamentals. Kamamarui holds promise, but it falls short in a couple of areas for me. The lack of parking during regular business hours can be challenging, the lack of “extras” included in a standard bowl of ramen is disappointing, and the limitation of just two soup broths–neither of which is my preferred shio–leaves something to be desired.
All this being said, beggars can’t be choosers and your options for ramen in South Burnaby are severely limited. Kamamarui is worlds better than Kenzo Ramen down the street or Kawawa Ramen inside Metrotown.
The total bill for the two of us, including tax and gratuity, came to just over $30.