Vancouver - Does all the ramen taste the same?
I have been to most of the ramen spots downtown and I find that they all have about a similar level of flavour. Some days one may taste better than the other. Here is how I like to think of the breakdown of the three ramen spots downtown.
Kintaro - I get rich soup and the cha shu bowl. It costs about ten dollars for the cha shu bowl but I am happy because I get four pieces of meat. The atmosphere could be a bit nicer but it suits eating ramen fine.
Benkei - Tasty, doesn’t stand out from the rest but definitely hangs in there. The interior is nice and adding extras is only 50 cents so it is a good deal.
Motomachi - Most expensive of the group, atmosphere is nice. I find it is the tastiest but is it worth the price. It is not much more but ramen is supposed to be cheap.
Menya - Lucky they are on the other side of the bridge cause I would always pass them to go to any of the above three. The gyozas are great but I find the soup doesn’t have enough meat or vegetables.
I posted a comparison of these ramen spots on http://www.Vancouverslop.com
Does anyone else agree that none of the ramen spots stand out from each other?
I haven't really been into ramen in years, so I haven't attempted structured comparison. I don't think they taste the same. The broths are quite different from each other, IMO.
From my perspective, you first have to break it down by ramen type and choose one for comparison's sake ( Shio, Shoyu, Tonkatsu, Miso, etc) Some places specialize in one type.
Motomachi Shudoku for example has a specialty called Bamboo Charcoal Miso Ramen (I'm not sure if they are still serving this?), which I find unique and tasty. My ramen loving friend does not like the 'burnt' taste, however...he prefers the Tonkotsu Broth cut with Shio like they serve at Kintaro. I would normally order the Shio at other places if I'm in a ramen mood.
The most popular ramen in Japan is probably Tonkotsu...something most people here find too "porky" and milky-looking -- so it is cut with other broths (eg Shio) to localize it for our palettes.
A Japanese colleague states that the ramen you can get here (at Robson and Denman) are top-notch and compares quite favourably to ones he can get in Japan....ie he does not miss ramen at all when he is here.
I think between the ones you listed (though I haven't been to Menya) - it becomes a matter of preference. They are all very good, from all accounts. So yes, they don't really stand out from each other in that sense. Then you get the B-grade ones from McSushi places, etc...I don't even try to order those.
I suppose your question is akin to a Japanese asking "does all fried rice taste the same?".
I am no ramen expert. I like my soup rich and noodles al dente. Good char siu is a bonus and I like them fat. With the above criteria, my first choice for ramen will be Kintaro, followed by Menya (you get 3 lean and 3 fatty char siu), Motomachi (my favorite for char siu amongst the lot) and Benkei.
I prefer to look at value over price. Motomachi cost a little more, but they use organic products. I do not mind the additional cost.
Also, remember there's a difference between authentic and tasty.
Short answer: No, not all ramen taste the same.
I remember going to Tokyo and trying out different styles of Ramen at Odaiba, Aqua City. They have a recurring Ramen Contest at the mall - 4 stalls set up their shops for 3 months, and whoever gets the most customers during that period win the contest. Then 4 new shops come in. Repeat.
All I can say is that Japanese take their ramen seriously.
Muku in Calgary has some decent ramen, but it's not the same as the ones from Japan. I've never tried the ramen from Vancouver so I can't comment ... but if their ramen is as decent as their sushi, I'll say it's probably one of the best outside of Japan!