Ramen is the universally loved staple dish in Japan. It is also one of the dishes given the most leeway to break from tradition, as any bowl of ramen will be accepted into the national ramen lexicon as long as it is delicious. This has given rise to dozens of major styles and hundreds of specialized styles of ramen.
This is a very subjective list of the ramen shops I’ve tried in each city and my notes on each bowl of ramen eaten in each restaurant as it compares with my experiences eating ramen around the world. As I can only eat a limited number of bowls in a year, this list tracks only a portion of the thousands of bowls I have consumed so far since 2002, and my thoughts on them.
I prefer to have a very thick, very rich tonkotsu style broth (rich chicken paitan is also acceptable) which has a complex deep flavour and leaves a lingering “golden” flavour in your mouth which slowly fades away imparting its individual complex elements. Extra firm noodles which do not go soft even after soaking in the broth for a while are a must.
The soft and fatty cha siu should melt away in your mouth. The egg should have a perfectly translucent orange gel texture yolk and have a rich egg flavour. I also enjoy abura “oil” style ramen where the thick oily broth coats and provides flavour to the noodles. IMO, the texture of the noodles are the most important part of the dish.
In Japan, I tend to enjoy places such as Honda, Tomita, Asuka, Musashi, Hi no Buta, and Rokurinsha.
Please feel free to leave me a comment or Contact me to let me know about a ramen place I should try and add to the list, or my thoughts on ramen in general.
A word about scoring
As it is difficult to determine the consistency of the food by visiting a restaurant just once, I’ve noted how many time I’ve visited the shop: Once, between 3-5 times, between 5-10 times, or over 10 times. This can provide some frame of reference as chefs can change (hopefully improve) components of their dishes over time, and this negates the occurrence of the staff having a “off” day and accidentally producing a sub-standard bowl of ramen. If I’ve only been to a place once, it’s either new and I haven’t been able to properly gauge their ramen, or I really, really dislike the place so please take those entries with a very large grain of shio (ha ha).
Information about the bowls at each restaurant is updated as I visit them, it is virtually impossible for me to keep up to date information on a multitude of bowls in real-time.
Scoring North American ramen by Japanese standards is completely unfair. Hence, I have divided my ratings this into two categories: one rating reflective of ramen in the city (and somewhat in Canada) relative to each other, and one absolute based on the standards of ramen within Japan.
The North American rating ranges from (worst to best): Poor, Below Average, Average, Above Average, Good, Excellent. Again, these are subjective ratings.
The Japanese rating is stated in the value of Japanese Yen I would pay for that bowl within Japan. For reference, the ramen you get at a train station platform would be approximately ¥130. This is essentially instant ramen where the guy behind the counter pours hot water into the bowl. ¥400 to ¥500 is a completely average bowl. One would pay ¥700 to ¥800 yen for an excellent bowl of ramen; this would be akin going to one of the top 150 ramen shops in Tokyo. Any bowl above ¥1000 yen would have to be spectacular in either size and/or quality, and would comprise less than 1% of the ramen in Japan.
For transparency’s sake, I’ve paid for each and every bowl I’ve eaten at these restaurants, my opinion is mine alone.
Ramen in Calgary
Last Updated September 22, 2018
|Store||Stated Ramen Style||Visits||Listed Price (CAD)||Japan Rating (JPY)||Calgary Rating||Tasting Notes|
|Anju||Kimchi Ramen||Five to Ten||$ 14.00||¥ 520||Above Average||NOTE: Not Japanese style ramen. It's something created for western taste, but retains the style of kimchi ramen. Broth is thick and smooth, noodles can be incoonsistent but only slightly overcooked. Very satisfying.|
|Eats of Asia||Three to Five||¥ 440||Average||Notes to come.|
|Gagana||Tsukemen||One||$ 14.00||¥ 650||Above Average||Dipping broth is thick and slightly reminiscent of Tomita's broth. The broth clings nicely to noodles with excellent texture, perhaps a little on the thick side, but great for carb lovers. Large portion. Broth is less complex and a bit soy heavy, but enjoyable.|
|Gagana||Tonkotsu||One||$ 13.00||¥ 400||Below Average||Tonkotsu broth is quite thin and one dimensional without leaving a lasting impression. Noodles are cooked well with good texture. Toppings are a bit sparse. Char siu is acceptable. Menma are unacceptably sweet, gives the dish a weird flavour.|
|Gorilla Whale||Shoryu||One||$ 16.95||¥ 180||Poor||NOTE: The chef is not trying to reproduce an authentic ramen but rather his take on ramen for western tastes. Too salty almost to the point of being inedible. Noodle texture was acceptable. Cha siu was fried to a crisp which made it tough - more like chewy bacon instad of char siu topping. Need to try again.|
|Goro + Gun||Miso||Over Ten||$ 14.95||¥ 520||Average||Noodles can be occasionally overcooked. Broth is of average depth and richness. Smoked egg can be inconsistent but is usually good.|
|Goro + Gun||Tonkotsu, gyokai||Over Ten||$ 14.95||¥ 500||Average||Noodles can be occasionally overcooked. Broth can be on the thin side but is usually ok. Smoked egg and toppings are done well.|
|Ikemen||Miso||Three to Five||$ 15.95||¥ 380||Below Average||Broth is average, little depth, no lasting flavour which sticks to the noodles. Noodles are consistently overcooked and soft.|
|Jinya||Miso||Over Ten||$ 13.50||¥ 500||Above Average||Noodles can be inconsistent, but usually missing some snap. Broth can fluctuate - some days it is rich and a good base to the bowl, on others it is a tad thin. Toppings are acceptable and abundant.|
|Jinya||Tonkotsu Black||Over Ten||$ 14.50||¥ 570||Above Average||Noodles can be inconsistent, but usually missing some snap. Broth is full and satisfying. Toppings are acceptable and abundant.|
|Jinya||Chicken Paitan||Over Ten||$ 13.50||¥ 580||Above Average||Noodles can be inconsistent, but usually missing some snap. Broth is full and rich (for chicken). Toppings are acceptable and abundant.|
|Menyatai||Miso||Three to Five||$ 12.95||¥ 420||Average||Broth is moderately deep but lacking mellow aftertaste. Noodles are lacking snap but not overcooked. Can get soggy. Toppings are nice, pork is slightly on the lean side. Egg is overcooked.|
|Muku||Tonkotsu||Over Ten||$ 9.90||¥ 350||Below Average||Broth is on the thin side. Noodles are overcooked and have very little snap.|
|Muku||Miso||Over Ten||$ 10.20||¥ 350||Below Average||Broth is on the thin side. Noodles are overcooked and have very little snap.|
|Ookini Ramen||Tonkotsu||Three to Five||$ 13.95||¥ 380||Average||Soup is slightly thin with little depth. Noodles are overcooked and soft. Char siu is quite tough and chewy.|
|Ramen Ichinen||Tonkotsu, gyokai||Over Ten||$ 14.95||¥ 680||Good||Tonkotsu with shellfish broth. Good depth on the broth. Noodles are consistently well prepared. Egg is slightly overcooked but acceptable.|
|Ramen Ichinen||Tsukemen||Over Ten||$ 16.95||¥ 700||Excellent||Noodle texture is excellent. Broth is sufficiently rich and flavourful. Egg is slightly overcooked but acceptable.|
|Shiki Menya||Miso||Over Ten||$ 14.95||¥ 530||Good||Broth has acceptable depth and noodle texture is consistent. Cha siu is average, but tasty|
|Shinjuku||Tonkotsu||Three to Five||$ 14.95||¥ 250||Poor||Thin flavoured broth, noodles overcooked. All broths taste the same no matter what style. Egg was overcooked. NOTE: it may have improved since I last tried the tonkotsu as the chicken paitan was acceptable.|
|Shinjuku||Chicken Paitan||Three to Five||$ 15.95||¥ 370||Average||Broth was richer than the previously sampled tonkotsu, but still did not leave a lingering pleasant flavour. Nice sheen with the chicken fat. Noodles cooked well with acceptable texture. Egg was only slightly gel in the center - ever so slightly overcooked.|
|Shokunin||Tonkotsu||Five to Ten||¥ 700||Excellent||Broth is rich and leaves a lasting golden flavour. Egg is perfectly cooked and on par with a high quality egg in Japan.|
|Tekkotsu-ya||Ikkei - Tonkotsu Shio||Two||$ 12.95||¥ 600||Excellent||Noodles were cooked to the proiper time for a good snap. Broth was full and satisfying without being heavy and oily. Egg had a nice gel center but lacking in egg flavour.|
|Tokyo Street Market||Miso||One||$ 5.00||¥ 280||Average||Smaller than normal portions hence the $5 price tag. Miso broth has some depth but quickly recedes not sticking to noodles or leaving a lasting impressions in your mouth. Noodles are cooked sufficiently, but can get soggy easily if left sitting. A good value for $5, but hardly anything special.|
|Tokyo Street Market||Shoryu||One||$ 5.00||¥ 280||Average||Smaller than normal portions hence the $5 price tag. Slightly sweeter than the miso. Broth is a bit on the thin side, more than likely from a broth mix.|
|Wakado||Tonkotsu Shoyu||Three to Five||$ 13.95||¥ 480||Average||Good snap to the noodles but quality isn't consistent. Broth slightly lacking in lingering mellowness.|
|Wakado||Tonkotsu Shio||Three to Five||$ 13.95||¥ 500||Above Average||Good snap to the noodles but quality isn't consistent. Broth is above average for a shio ramen, good initial flavour, enjoyable texture. Missing some crispness of typical shio broths.|