Marutama Ramen is the newest restaurant to move into “ramen row”, that is, the two blocks of Robson Street between Cardero and Denman that contain basically all of downtown Vancouver’s ramen restaurants. So how does Marutama aim to differentiate itself from its well-established, well-respected neighbours, some with incredibly loyal customer bases (I’m looking at you, Kintaro)? Well, for one, they specialize in chicken stock based ramen, whereas most ramen restaurants prominently feature rich pork broths, with chicken as an alternative option on their menus. Secondly, they put a lot of emphasis on their egg. It was this second selling point that got my attention. I’m sort of a ramen egg fiend. So of course, I had to see whether Marutama’s measured up!
And I thought that Motomachi Shokudo had expensive ramen. The price of a bowl of ramen at Marutama starts at around $10, compared to around $8.50 at Benkei (which in a tragic turn of events, closed all its locations recently) and there is no option to add toppings. The most expensive bowl of ramen is $18. What. Marutama seems to be trying to pull an Apple with its high price, low customization strategy, but I’m not a fan. I like to add lots of things to my noodles. Where are the bean sprouts? The bamboo shoots? As for taste, the broth was less flavourful than other restaurants, but that’s not saying much, seeing as how comparing chicken broth to pork broth in a flavour contest is blatantly, laughably unfair. I’d call it decent. The noodles were also a bit different than other shops; they were skinnier and tougher. This is one of those things that I’d imagine would be up to personal preference, but I wasn’t a fan. And the final part of the equation, the part that was supposed to redeem everything else, the egg? It was alright. Marginally better than I’ve had elsewhere, but only just barely, and definitely not good enough to wipe away the price, the soup broth, and that weird bite to the noodles.
So, Marutama was pretty much a no-go for me, but if you like chicken broth ramen and put a huge priority on a good egg, then it might be your bowl of noodles. The wait also isn’t as ridiculous here as it is at other shops on the ramen row (again, looking at you, Kintaro). Note also that I went soon after it opened, so maybe the issues I had with their noodles (and their slightly awkward service) could be chalked up to new-establishment jitters, but probably not, given that most of the things I didn’t like seemed like stylistic choices rather than accidents.
Check it out for yourself!