I’ve been feeling under the weather the past few days. It’s really all my fault too. I’ve been bragging to the boys about how I’m a soldier and how I haven’t gotten sick all winter, while I watched droves of people suffer from swine flue, nasty colds and the “ebola virus”. Karma’s got a funny way of catching up with you. The long and the short of it, I feel really bad right now, have been back and forth to the doctor and have been staying far away from the kitchen of Tapenade. We as cooks live by the mantra of, if you ain’t dead, you show up for work. I have a slightly different rule that I follow and preach. If you’re going to get the rest of us sick and you can’t work at least at 90%, stay home, get better and thank the guys profusely for covering your butt. I haven’t been at work since Sunday evening and by the sounds of it, I’ve been missing a lot of action, with lots of athletes, delegates and their entourages coming in for dinner. I’m hoping to “get back into the mix” tomorrow and look forward to doing a little cooking.
Yesterday, “Nuoc Mom”, “Jazzy”, “Monk” and I decided to go to Metrotown to do a little mall walking. I’ve been cooped up at home for the past few days and felt the desire to get out and about. We arrived right around lunch time and decided to go to Kawawa Ramen. [4700 Kingsway, #E15, Burnaby, (604) 435-8577] “Monk” mentioned that she had been there before, that it was good and since nothing would be more comforting that a big bowl of hot, tasty noodles, I thought, why not.
We were quickly sat, the restaurant was not busy (Wednesday lunch) and within a few minutes there was hot tea in front of us. They recently opened/redecorated, so the place looked like it was in pretty good shape. We ordered a curry ramen, a shoyu ramen combo and a Kawawa ramen. The food arrived quickly and before we tucked in, there were a few things to sort out. First of all, “Monk” does not enjoy spicy food, though she ordered the curry ramen. Apparently it was too spicy for her delicate pallet, so she traded with “Nuoc Mom,” who proceeded to consume all of it. I did not taste any of it, but she described it as being OK. “Monk” inherited the shoyu ramen, but had to return it because she found an insect in her piece of pork. Not a good way to start the meal, but they took it away and prepared a new bowl. The replacement came relatively quickly and when I asked “Monk” how it was, she too said it was OK. The shoyu ramen combo also included a small bowl of rice with a pork, kimchi mixture on top. I tasted a tiny bit and it seemed OK. My Kawawa ramen was a miso based broth, braised pork belly, half of a 6 minute egg and a few miscellaneous topping. It was hot, the texture of the noodles was good, but the broth was very bland and the pork belly was stringy and tasted old. I love pork belly (really I do) and to think that “a pig gave it’s life to be served like that,” disappoints me greatly. I finished my bowl of noodles, didn’t drink the soup and felt nostalgic for a good bowl of ramen.
Issues and concerns; an insect in the meal is a big no-no. Listen, I’m a chef and I know that things happen on occasion (very rare occasion where I cook), but it was pretty obvious and the cooks obviously missed it, therefore showing very little attention to detail. They quickly removed the bowl of noodles and replaced it. Fine, fair enough, but I would definitely remove the item from the bill and make sure that I was doing everything possible to please and satisfy the guest. Other issues, bland soup. The cornerstone of good ramen is a skillfully prepared broth. This broth lacked flavor, depth, technique and soul. If the broth is the cornerstone, then the pork is definitely the capstone of the ramen. The cha siu and the braised belly meat was not good in any way and though it should have been, it was not the highlight of the dish at all. If the overall feeling is that the food is just OK, life is too short for OK and I’ll go eat somewhere else next time.
I love ramen. I fell in love with it when I moved to Vancouver and really enjoy the ramen shops downtown. A few years back, when Kintaro ramen was relatively new and “Ramen Master” was cooking on a daily basis, I developed a great appreciation for the art of ramen. I loved the hot steamy surroundings, I loved watching the apprentice continually skimming the broth and most of all I loved watching “Ramen Master” plate every bowl of noodles with care and efficiency. Since his departure , it’s not the same and the ramen is not nearly as good. Nowadays, I like Benkei Ramen, though I haven’t been there in a few months. The ramen is not as good as Kintaro of yesteryear, but the value, side dishes and consistency please me greatly. “Monk” and I also watched a movie I PVR-ed a few months back called “The Ramen Girl” and though it was a pretty crappy movie, I felt kinship with the curmudgeon ramen chef. Though “Monk” is the true noodle monster of the family, I have learned to appreciate a good bowl of ramen.
On my chef’s night out scale, Kawawa Ramen receives 2/5 SOB (slices of bacon).