In the last week of 2012, an international ramen chain called Ramen Misoya touched down in Montreal to the delight of ramen enthusiasts such as myself. Despite not knowing a thing about the brand, I was excited by its potential to help redeem Montreal’s poor ramen reputation because, let’s face it – if you’ve been around town, you know nothing could possibly make it worse.
Located below street level, Ramen Misoya is small yet spacious with a bar facing the kitchen and a few tables by the wall. Basic layout. Basic look. Low-key dining. Each time I’ve been, I was greeted at the door with a warm “irasshaimase” (welcome) and was attended to by waiters and waitresses that should be awarded gold stars for smiling.
After analyzing the menu, it became clear miso is the foundation of every bowl. You have the option of choosing between kome miso and shiro miso broths, both of which have a different set of complimentary toppings. Extra items like a miso-flavored egg, chicken karaage or kimchi among others things can vamp up your order for an additional fee. Just be careful. If you get crazy, the costs add up to the $12.00-15.00 you have to put down for the basic bowl…
Prices run high, and initially, that was my biggest issue. My love for ramen wavers when a bowl can easily amount to $20.00. But they recently found a solution: a lunch special for $9.99 that includes the standard kome or shiro miso ramen and a side of tofu or daikon salad. Basically, I’ll be making daytime trips almost exclusively.
I couldn’t pass up the kome miso ramen with extra chashu ($14.50) at my initial visit. Popular in eastern Japan, kome miso is prepared with white rice, soybeans and a heavy dose of salt, and undergoes a long fermentation period. The end result is intense. Paired with pork bone soup that’s gushing with porky flavor, the dark broth was too savory and overly robust – which sounds ridiculous, I know, because ramen is supposed to be salty and porky. But the salt was overpowering – so much that it was hard to appreciate the awesomeness of the extra-large, more-meaty-than-fatty pork medallions, the unusual potato wedges, bean sprouts, corn kernels, bamboo shoots and green onions.
As for the noodles, they’re the thickest I’ve had. Full-bodied and chewy, they remind me of miki noodles, only slimmer. They’re heavy too, threatening the well-being of your wooden chopsticks the longer they bathe in the broth. I prefer the lightness of thin, slick and straight wheat noodles (like at Sumo Ramen), but these fat, yellow strands are what they are and get the job done. FYI, the chefs don’t pull them to order, and they don’t make them on-site.
OK, pay attention. This shiro miso ramen ($12.50 reg price; $9.99 for lunch) you see here is my favorite ramen in Montreal to date. You already know that I’d rather have different noodles, but the broth is GOLD. Like kome miso, shiro (white) miso is made with the same ingredients, but it contains significantly less salt and the fermentation period is shorter. As a result, the product is milder, lighter in color and laced with sweet undertones. Together with the deep pork bone flavor in the liquid base, the soup achieves the right balance of salt and porkiness missing in the kome miso broth. It stands outs, but it also complements everything from the pork to the vegetables, and the delicate tofu to the noodles – creating an all-around lip-smackingly good bowl of ramen.
By the way, if you go with the lunch special, get the tofu instead of the daikon salad. Soft bean curd slices drizzled with a sweet and sour black bean dressing beat white radish any day.
Ramen Misoya knocked down Sumo Ramen for the #1 ramen spot on my list. But let’s get real – had they not offered a reasonably priced lunch special, I’d be taking my business elsewhere no matter how fond I am of the shiro miso broth. Fortunately, I’m not – as far as mid-day visits are concerned – and that makes my life so much better. The fact that it’s right next to Concordia facilitates my compulsions too. At every chance I get, I’ll be the one slurping noodles, my face buried in my bowl, licking every curve dry.
N.B. Closed Sunday
2065A rue Bishop | map