When Menya Itto opens the doors to the public for the first time in Vancouver on Wednesday, March 16, they're only going to have a limited number of bowls of their signature soups and noodles available.
It's not because they didn't order enough ingredients or enjoy turning people away.
When you are considered one of the top ramen masters in Japan and this is your restaurant, you want to make darn sure every bowl that leaves the kitchen is impeccable.
Yukihiko Sakamoto is the founder, master, and owner of Menya Itto, who trained under “Son of Ramen God” Koji Tashiro, a disciple of the legendary “Ramen God” and tsukemen inventor Kazuo Yamagishi. Sakamoto has been in Vancouver and in the kitchen of the first Canadian outpost of Menya Itto, to train the staff and ensure the broth, handmade thick and thin noodles, and garnishes meet his exacting standards.
Inside the restaurant on "Ramen Row" on Robson, warm wood tones envelop the modern space, catching fleeting sunlight from outside in "Raincouver" as the kitchen hums with activity.
With so many ramen options in Vancouver - including many with direct-from-Japan pedigrees - the name of the game is to set yourself apart with what's on the menu. Sakamoto's Menya Itto is an immediate standout, thanks to their focus on tsukemen, the "dipping" style of ramen where your cold noodles arrive in a separate bowl from the broth, and you take those chewy, slippery, snappy strands for a gratifying dunk at your own pace.
The tsukemen broth at Menya Itto is also a standout - as are some of their other broth offerings - thanks to its thicker consistency and rich, nuanced, multi-layer flavours with a fish-forward bite. Swimming in the broth are tender, juicy meatballs punctuated by crunchy pops of cartilage. Once you've finished dunking your noodles and meat slices you add wadashi - a fish broth served in an insulated decanter - to what remains of your tsukemen broth. This gives you a bowl of soup to tip back, infused with warmth and an extra boost of flavour, to round out the meal.
Nervous about trying tsukemen? Fear not. There's a handy illustrated step-by-step chart at the table to help, but the whole process is quite simple - not to mention fun and absolutely delicious.
Menya Itto offers other kinds of ramen, as well, where the noodles come in the broth and ready for slurping, like their Yuzu Shio or Yuzu Shoyu, where the clear broth is kicked up with bright citrus notes and zest. For a rich option, their Noko Gyokai Ramen is made with a creamy chicken broth and is topped with scallop oil. All of these non-tsukemen options come with house-made thin noodles, which slurp beautifully.
While Menya Itto will be limiting its menu - and how many servings they can dole out in a day - to start, the restaurant is already working on additional menu items and specials, like side dishes, and an exciting lobster tsukemen, where the remaining broth is transformed into a risotto with the addition of rice, pepper, and a parmesan cheese topping that's torched to sizzling perfection tableside for a little extra spectacle with your meal.
Menya Itto is located at 1479 Robson St in Vancouver
@vancouverisawesome Please don’t count how many times I say “check out.” 😳 #vancouverbc #vancouverisawesome #ramen #tsukemen #vancouverfoodie ♬ Up and Away (Vocalese) - GHOSTLAND