Yokato Yokabai is the new player in town taking on the ramen scene of Montreal... Well, actually, the ramen scene is non-existent. I heard of this place thanks to a personal message from the crew of Imadake on my Instagram. I'm always in the search for the best ramen in Montreal. I'm even more excited the fact that this ramen shop specializes solely on tonkotsu ramen - a first in Montreal. Ramen can be classified in four general categories - shio (salt), shoyu (soy), miso, tonkotsu (pork bones).
|Tonkotsu Ramen with Pork Belly|
The preparation of a tonkotsu ramen requires a lot of patience. The broth is made of pork bones, sometimes with lard added, that has been simmered for days to convert all the fats and bone marrows into a rich creamy liquid. You can see why many ramen shops specializes in one specific ramen. I had my best dose of tonkotsu ramen from several places abroad - Ramen Tatsu-yu in Austin, Hokkaido Santouka in Toronto and surprisingly, Ginza Ramen in Ottawa. All these three restaurants have simmered their broth for two days. I even wrote on the latter restaurant that it tops the best ramen shop in Montreal. By now, I can proclaim myself to be a tonkotsu ramen connaiseur. It is a true fact that as we traveled abroad more, we have higher expectations of what a certain food should taste like. That's part of the joy of blogging is that everyone has its own viewpoint. Having said that, does Yokato Yokabai set the bar high to represent Montreal for tonkotsu ramen?
When comes to ramen, I always bring my Japanese friend Midori, ramen-fanatic Carlos and some amateur ramen eaters to see if our opinions match. The menu is on a small piece of paper where they provide a checklist of appetizers, ramen and ice cream. You can customize your tonkotsu ramen with either chicken or pork belly, and have it with spicy miso paste. You can also adjust the level of saltiness, the amount of nori papers, green onions and eggs. There is a vegetarian ramen available on their menu. As a first timer, I recommend not to go for the miso as you will need to taste all the effort that has been put into the preparation of the pork bone broth. According to our waiter, it took them 3 days to prepare it.
|Tonkotsu Ramen - Nov. 2016|
When the ramen arrives at our table, the very first thing to do is to sip the broth, before digging into the noodles. Let the steam to waft into your face and inhale the smell. Finish all the noodles before it becomes soggy. The broth is cloudy, rich and creamy as I would expect in a tonkotsu ramen. It has the unctuous feel and present taste of pork from all the simmered fats. However, the flavors are one-note, it needs more oomph and more complexity. As my ramen-fanatic friend would say, it needs personality. It does not urge us to immediately grab another sip of the ramen. The noodles are long and thin. Some of us preferred the high-alkaline noodles with a bit of elasticity. The pork belly was served cold. It was tender and fatty. We had mixed opinions on this piece of proteins. I personally preferred that it is slightly roasted or grilled to give it a bit of charredness to bring out the flavours of the pork. The soy-marinated egg is made to perfection with a gooey egg yolk center. The marinated bean sprouts give a nice freshness to help reset your palate and the thinly sliced wood ear mushrooms provide a nice element of crunch. All in all, it's a fairly good ramen, but the seasoning of the broth needs some adjustments.
|Yuzu Ice Cream|
Whenever yuzu is on the menu, I do not hesitate to order it. It's my all-time favourite citrus fruit. Yuzu is a Japanese lemon. The taste is a cross between a tangerine and a lemon that give a nice balance of sweet and sour flavours. All their ice cream is house made. Their yuzu ice cream is technically a sorbet. First bite, I immediately screamed BAM and hit my fist on the table. The yuzu sorbet was sublime; it hits all the right notes of what you expect of a yuzu. The moment it reaches your palate, you can savour the sweet and sour citrus flavour. It finishes with a pleasant aftertaste of the fragrant bitterness of the yuzu. Great job on extracting the maximal flavours of the yuzu!
All I have to say, kudos to the crew of Imadake for taking the initiative of opening Yokato Yokabai and introducing Montrealers to tonkotsu ramen. They got all the key points right for the broth, but it just needs more complexity. I'm glad that they took my feedback seriously and fine tuned their tonkotsu recipe. If the broth is adjusted to perfection, in no time, there will be a long line-up craving for their ramen.
|Yuzu Ice Cream - Nov. 2016|
Stay tuned for the opening of another izakaya called Ichi E Ichi Go located in the same building.
4185 rue Drolet