It's no secret that broke university kids live on instant noodles. But ramen from the local store is a poor substitution for authentic Japanese ramen. Think creamy broth, springy noodles and a myriad of toppings with different textures. That's what you're missing out on. When you get tired of eating MSG in a cup, treat yourself to a bowl of piping hot ramen from one of these five places in Ottawa.
1. Sansotei Ramen
According to reviews, this is the best ramen Ottawa has to offer. I went to see for myself. I ordered their signature tonkotsu ramen made with pork bone broth, and I was not disappointed. The broth was rich and creamy and bursting with flavour. The broth paired beautifully with their thin, springy noodles. Other toppings included a soft-boiled egg, black fungus, green onions, and a few pieces of melt-in-your-mouth cha shu (roast pork). In addition to tonkotsu ramen, they have miso (soy bean paste), miso black (another specialty topped with roasted garlic oil), shoyu (soy sauce), spicy Tan Tan, and tomato.
Location: 153 Bank St.
2. Ginza Ramen
There are two locations in Ottawa: Chinatown and downtown. I visited the one in Chinatown, and got their spicy tonkotsu ramen, one of their specialties. I received a hefty bowl featuring thin noodles, bean sprouts, Chinese mushrooms, bamboo, pieces of cha shu, and a soft-boiled egg. The soup was concentrated with pork flavour. After a few bites, the heat started to kick in. If you're into spicy, this is the one to order. For those who can't beat the heat, Ginza Ramen also serves Hataka tonkotsu, miso tonkotsu, shoyu (in chicken broth) and shio (salt flavour in chicken broth).
Location: 280 Elgin St., 832 Somerset St. West
For the real ramen connoisseurs who are craving high quality noodles, Datsun is the place to go. They specialize in upscale Asian fusion cuisine, and feature tonkotsu and fried chicken ramen on their menu. An Ottawa Citizen restaurant review said, "In a town that could use much more ramen, Datsun’s is certainly among the leading examples, with broth that has the right mouthfeel and springy noodles. Tonkotsu ramen was properly porky, and shio ramen had lucid flavour."
Location: 380 Elgin St.
Price: $15 (for ramen)
4. Wasabi Sushi Bar
This restaurant is located in the Byward Market, and they call themselves "a purveyor of fine Japanese cuisine." If you're up for something new and less traditional, try their three types of ramen: the Pira Kara (Spicy ground chicken and pork, tomatoes and potatoes in a tonkotsu broth), Ton Ton Tail (pig tails with potatoes in tonkotsu broth) and seafood (scallop, shrimps, baby octopus, mussels, fish, in a spicy misotare). Their noodle bar also features udon and soba.
Location: 41 Clarence Street
5. Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen & Bar
This modern and hip eatery offers hand-rolled ramen made by Chef Korecki that comes with dashi broth, Chinese greens, golden garlic and a soft boiled egg. Besides ramen, you can taste flavours from around the world as their diverse menu offers foods from tacos to bibimbap to siumai.
Location: 18b York Street
While the number of decent ramen places in the Ottawa food scene is disappointing, there is still hope. If you look long and hard enough you'll find some hidden gems in the city. That's why it's time to ditch the cup of noodles and go visit one of these joints to find some real ramen that's bound to leave you satisfied.