Who knew that charcoal ramen would taste good, let alone make sense? I guess the mastermind behind Motomachi Shokudo (“Motomachi”) on Denman Street in Vancouver. The delicious bowl of noodles, and the entire experience, was top shelf and makes me want to head back soon.

Like many great places, Motomachi is unassuming from the exterior, and is not adorned with a perpetual long line of people snaking out of its front door like its Denman cousin, Kintaro Ramen. The restaurant is relatively narrow, with seating for less than 20 (including the spots at the counter), so its a pretty intimate experience. Motomachi’s design, and the speedy and friendly service, also adds to the restaurant’s amiable feel.

After a quick review of the menu, I was immediately drawn to the “charcoal ramen” on offer. I’d never heard of such a thing, and I was initially skeptical of its black broth. The little blurb (you can read a version of it in the photo on this blog) exalting the benefits of charcoal tipped the scales, however. I threw caution to the wind and decided to order a bowl, some gyoza, and a beer.

Motomachi Shokudo's charcoal ramen (and an order of gyoza hiding behind the bowl).

The kitchen was very quick in getting the ramen to me, and I was pleasantly surprised. Though you can definitely taste the charcoal’s influence in the dish, you don’t feel like you’re eating handfuls of ash. In fact, it’s fair to say that the charcoal actually provided a nice, bold contrast to the broth and the sweetness and umami of its other constituent parts.

Oh…and as you can tell from the photo, there were many a constituent part to this generous dish. Below the egg, seaweed, and vegetables, there were also a stack of pork slices that filled me right up. Though plentiful, I found the pork to be slightly dry/overcooked. It did not bother me, however, because one can remedy this minor criticism by combining a each pork slice with a sip of broth.

As for the gyoza, it was pretty much your standard gyoza deal (NB: In the interest of full disclosure, I am a horrible gyoza snob). I suspect that they had spent some time in a freezer, but then you don’t go to a ramen place for gourmet gyoza.

As for the price of my meal: My ramen was a little under $10 before taxes, making it a little bit pricey for a bowl of noodles, but good value given the mountain of goodness contained in the hefty ramen bowl.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Motomachi. Its an easy-going place with a nice atmosphere, good service, an interesting menu, and good food. What more can you ask for?

Motomachi Shokudo 元町食堂 on Urbanspoon

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