Over the past year, there have been a series of Japanese businesses opening in Burnaby.
Making their entries into the area have been clothing companies Muji and Uniqlo, Stem Japanese Eatery, Ramen Raijin, and Jinya Ramen (and the forthcoming Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake will join them).
Preceding this recent wave has been Yaguchiya Ramen, which opened on May 12, 2017, at 4679 Kingsway in Burnaby, across the street from Metrown mall.
Yaguchiya opened its first restaurant in Yokohama, Japan, in 1994, with a second location in Hiratsuka City in 1997.
In an interview at the 18-seater spot, co-owner Keiya Morikawa explained that when founder and chef Eiji Yaguchi was searching for a place to open his first restaurant overseas, he first considered locations in the U.S., such as New York City and North Carolina, as well as France. However, after visiting Vancouver, he developed an affinity for both the people and nature of this city.
While numerous ramen shops have been opening in Vancouver's West End, Morikawa said they chose the 800-square-foot shop in Burnaby for its reasonable rent in order to maintain quality and affordable prices.
As the restaurant hails from Japan's second-largest city, Yokohama, it specializes in that city's regional ramen: iekei, which developed in the 1970s. While most ramen shops serve either pork or chicken broth, this style incorporates both, blending tonkotsu (pork broth) from Kyushu with shoyu ramen from Tokyo. Their bowls come with various toppings, such as chashu (pork), spinach, and nori (roasted seaweed), and their noodles, made locally, are thicker than average ones, according to iekei style. (Prices range from $9.75 to $14.75.)
Morikawa said that while their Japanese locations only offer shoyu ramen, the Burnaby location has adapted to the Lower Mainland market by offering several variations including shio, miso, and spicy.
There's even a vegan version, made with egg-free noodles and a creamy vegetable broth, topped with kabocha, baby corn, tomato, lotus root, and seasonal greens.
Diners can tailor their bowls by specifying if they want soft or hard noodles, mild or strong flavour, and less or more chicken oil. Servings are available as regular, medium (one-and-a-half amount of noodles) or large (double amount of noodles).
The menu is rounded out with various side dishes ($3.95 to $6.15), ranging from rice bowls to a braised pork belly bun, as well as vegan pudding for dessert.
To celebrate its first anniversary in Burnaby, from May 4 to 13 they'll be serving a special ramen featuring their signature broth, topped with chashu, bean sprouts, lettuce, and chives. The special low price for the bowl, $8.91, may not only seem somewhat unusual. But that's because it reflects the sounds of the first syllables of 891 in Japanese and the name Yaguchi. Gyoza will also be on special for $3.50 (for five pieces).
While one can certainly congratulate the ramen shop for its first year of business, the growing hotspot of Japanese restaurants and shops that Yaguchiya seems to have given rise to is also something to raise a glass to.