I love the Olympics. No ifs, ands, or buts. Flat out I love the Olympics. I consume huge amounts of coverage, my Tivo groans under the metric butt-ton of programming I tell it to record. I make time in my day to watch all of that programming, I even watch some of the puff pieces that get tossed into the coverage. Not all of them, but some of them. I watch more TV during the two weeks of the Olympics than I do all the rest of the year. Thankfully it only comes once every two years. With the 2010 Winter Games in my backyard practically, I would have been absolutely bereft if I had not gotten a chance to go.
This marks the third games that I have been able to go to, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and now Vancouver. Besides being a great city in general, Vancouver is one of my favourite places to go eat. There are things there that I can never get in Seattle, and some items that are way better than in Seattle. One of those items in ramen, I have been addicted to ramen since I was a small child. When I would visit Japan, I would eat ramen at least once a day, twice if possible. The balance of broth, noodles, and accoutrements are to me one of the best expressions of comfort food in the world.
So, after a day of watching double luge up in Whistler, I joined the mobs of people not fortunate enough to stay there and got on the bus back to Vancouver. I need to digress here. Luge, bobsled, and skeleton are some of my favourite events at the winter games. Hurling yourself down a frozen tube at crazed speeds seems like a great way to hand out some medals and to entertain the crowds. Double luge though, well look, I’m sure it went like this. A Scotsman, a Finn, and a Dutchman walk into a bar, I’m sure you can finish the rest. Now back to the topic at hand. After that, and wearing shorts all afternoon and evening up on the mountain, a nice warming bowl of ramen was just the ticket.
Before you tell me I’m crazy see the picture of the weather that day, there’s a girl wearing a tank top, it can’t have been that cold, that or it was the Jaeger and my flask talking.
Well made ramen is a balancing act of richness and flavour in the broth. It should be rich but not make you feel like a gut bomb just went off, the noodles need to be just the right level of al dente, and the toppings should be simple, and restraint needs to be exercised in their ordering. You might want to order the kitchen sink, but for the love of Loki, don’t do it. It just makes a mess, a little bit of pork, some spring onions, half a hard boiled egg, and one other thing, that’s it! Any more and it just looks like a mess and tastes that way too.
Kintaro in Vancouver nails it on all counts. It’s really like visiting a good stand in Japan. There’s a line out the door, you sit, you order, and within ten minutes a monumental bowl of noodles and soup is before you. You slurp, you smack, you inhale, and then you pay in cash, and get the hell out. It’s glorious, absolutely glorious. Once you’ve had good ramen you’ll understand what all the gnashing of teeth is about is when you can’t find it. Even worse is when you find bad ramen. All it does it make me angry, I start looking at plane tickets to LA or think about driving across the border to get a bowl.
The amalgamation of noodles with just the right chew, a bit of roasted pork – preferably belly, and rich ; deep broth all come together in your mouth. Umami washes over your tongue, warmth spreads from your belly, and all is right with the world. Ramen is magic, and Kintaro gets it right.