Yes, yes, I know, "ya" is actually 屋, or building/shop, in Japanese. And to me, ramen is usually nothing to go "Ya!" about, even when it doesn't cost 99¢ and comes in the form of a brick with an accompanying packet of flavoured salt. I just don't know what it is about me and ramen; often I just find it too soggy and about two bites in I regret ordering it.
So how did we end up in Ramen-Ya, a hole-in-the-wall ramen place on St-Laurent?
Ezra had suggested that we go for sushi, though I'm not sure if he wanted some or if he just felt bad that we didn't have any in New York. But where would we go for our sushi fix in a city known for having more misses than hits? Ezra had tried Odaki, an all-you-can-eat place just half a block from his apartment and didn't like it. Tataki was just takeout, and we wanted to have a place to sit. I remembered passing by a nice looking sushi restaurant further down St-Laurent, but upon seeing that the windows were emblazoned with "Szechuan Sushi", I didn't want to take the risk. Recalling the little shop we passed by on the way to Bagel Etc, Ezra suggested that we try there.
Ramen-Ya is run by a Chinese family. The decor has a sort of modern, minimalist feel with just the right touch of Japanese, and smooth jazz plays softly from the speakers. The waiter was pleasant and took our coats before giving us time to browse the menu. I don't know why we both ended up not ordering sushi... perhaps the selection was too limited, or it was too expensive. I was certainly surprised that even Ezra went for a bowl of ramen, because—if you recall—he doesn't like noodles in soup.
The ramen menu is also very simple; you choose your "topping" - tonkotsu (breaded pork), chashu (the Japanese version of char siu, or BBQ pork... it's sliced more thinly than the Chinese version), grilled chicken, beef (?), or Yasai (vegetarian with soy chicken) - then your broth, shoyu (soy sauce), miso, curry, or spicy. You can't choose your broth with the Yasai option though. Also for a couple more cents you can ask for extra vegetable, extra noodles, no noodles, etc. The noodles are served with shakers of shichimi (Japanese spice) and fried garlic.
As you can see from the photo up top, I chose the yasai, which I *loved* because it was packed with vegetables - bean sprouts, carrot and zucchini ribbons, seaweed... even an asparagus wrapped in zucchini! The noodles also had a sort of springy texture and were not soggy at all. The broth wasn't too salty and was very delicious. The one disappointment was the soy chicken - it didn't have the right texture and had a sort of sweet taste to it which I didn't like. The large soy slabs were the only things left in a pool of broth at the end of my meal.
Ezra got the chashu-men in shoyu broth, which he seemed to enjoy. He gave me a bite of the chashu, which was flavoured really nicely. I wonder if they make it in-house or if they buy it somewhere...
All in all it was a nice, filling meal in a cozy environment at an affordable price. Plus, Ezra made a good call by ordering us a pot of tea (I think they charge per head though), which came with mismatched Japanese pottery cups. If you're a ramen fan, you should check it out; would love to try their sushi and gyoza next time.
4274 Blvd St-Laurent