REVIEW: Hosaka-Ya Ramen

photo9I can’t tell you how happy I was when I first heard about this specialty ramen place that was opening about two and a half years ago. Coming from NY, where there is a large Japanese population, I was used to being pampered with authentic Japanese cuisine, by which I mean food prepared by someone who grew up with Japanese food and culture, and whose recipes were handed down in the family. When I was in NY, if I walked into a Japanese restaurant hearing Chinese behind the counter, I would quickly run away in horror. No offense, but I’ve had too many bad experiences with faux Japanese cuisine in the past. Hosaka-Ya Ramen is neither one of those nor a Japanese fast food chain. Everything here is real: the authentic recipes from Hosaka mama (the owners’ mother), the Japanese ingredients, and real love, and they’re the ONLY ramen place I know of in Quebec City!

 

When you first enter the restaurant, you’ll be greeted by the warm steamy aroma of rich ramen broth (which is especially comforting in the winter!), and the friendly greetings in Japanese. All these are very good signs and they’re very familiar to me from my NY days. We often sit at the bar, where I enjoy watching the behind-the-scenes kitchen action – which, by the way, is never loud or greasy, like many typical open kitchen areas. Besides the owners, the cooks are also Japanese. The staff there is very friendly and seems genuinely happy, which creates a very harmonious environment. It’s nice to go there and see familiar faces, and it gives consistency to both the service and food, which is quite hard to maintain for a lot of restaurants these days.

 

The only down side is that they don’t take reservations. The best thing is to get there either early, between 17h and 18h, or a little later, after 20h30, to avoid the wait on weekends, but even if you have to wait for 15 minutes or so, it’s worth it! The ramen dishes are their staple. The broth may not be the best one I’ve ever had (I’ve had quite a lot!), but it’s full of flavour and is certainly among the top. Though it’s a ramen restaurant, they offer a nice variety of food at mostly reasonable prices. They use fresh, local produce, and for some of the exotic Japanese ingredients and wines, they buy from distributors in Quebec and Montreal. The owners are very conscious about using local and seasonal ingredients, and they’re constantly looking to improve their food.

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Decorated in the style of traditional izakaya pubs (a casual drinking place that serves food to accompany the drinks) and ramen shops, the space is small yet very cozy, with deep red walls and a wood bar, chefs in traditional Japanese uniforms, Japanese banners, posters, occasional traditional Japanese music and even maneki-neko (a traditional Japanese lucky cat). If you’re looking for a true taste of Japan, this place will transport you right there!

 

 (Scroll down to the gallery to see all the photos)

So here are some of the dishes I’m familiar with (* = my favourites):

 

There are miso- and shôyu-based ramen dishes; the differences are in the toppings. All the broth is made with a combination of chicken and pork, except for the vegan one, Végé Ramen.

*Miso Ramen This is my favourite and is more flavorful than Shôyu. I love the saltiness and slight sweetness of the miso in the broth, which adds depth to the flavour. The texture of the noodles is what you’d expect from real Japanese ramen. The pork châshû is made with grain feed, antibiotic-free, and BEA certified pork from the local Turlo Farm. It’s cooked for a long time and is very tender, but not too fatty, like some of the ones I had in the past. If you’re not a fan of pork, no worries! The Yasaï ramen has no pork topping, but you’ll still get to enjoy the rich tasting broth! I normally go for the Ômori since it has the largest portion of toppings for only $2 more than the basic one!  (^_−)−☆

*Shôyu Ramen If you’re not the biggest fan of miso, or if you’re in the mood for something basic, this would be my recommendation. Though the broth doesn’t have intensity of flavour of the miso ramen, it does have the bonus ingredient of soy sauce-flavoured bamboo shoots, which I really love!

*Kimchi Ramen – I order this when I’m in the mood for a little bit of spice. It started out as a special menu item, but eventually made it to the regular menu. It has the same soup base but with kimchi and chicken toppings. It’s quite tasty, too!

 

They also offer side dishes and tsumami (traditional Japanese appetizers) and even desserts:

*Kara Age (Fried Chicken) This is a must-try! They use chicken breast for this dish. The chicken is flavourful from being marinated, and isn’t greasy, as fried chicken often is. It comes with slightly spiced Japanese mayonnaise for dipping!

*Agedashi Tôfu (Fried Tofu in Dashi Broth) Here, semi-soft tofu pieces are coated with tempura batter and fried. Not only is the coating very light and flaky, but I absolutely love the traditional dashi broth, which comes with a little bit of grated daikon and ginger. I nearly drank the whole bowl of broth! Yes, it was that good!!  (∩˃o˂∩)♡

Gyôza (Pan Fried Pork Dumplings) When I first tried the pork gyoza a long time ago, I wasn’t very impressed. Recently, I decided to try the shrimp gyoza (Gyoza Crevettes) from the special menu, but it turned out to be an even bigger disappointment.  (∩︵∩) The skin was on the thick side, and when I bit into it, it totally collapsed and had too much liquid inside. There was very little shrimp in taste and in sight, which isn’t worth the $9, in my opinion. Hopefully, they’ll improve this one.

Châhan (Pork Fried Rice) Even though I wouldn’t quite categorize this as one of the must-tries, I truly enjoyed it. It was tasty with a lot of pork pieces and vegetables, and like the yaki soba, it’s large enough to be your main dish for just $6.50! ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

*Yaki Soba (Stir Fried Noodles with Beef and Cabbage in Japanese Worcestershire Sauce) I loved this authentic dish, and here, it’s as tasty and good as the ones in NY! If you’re not a soup person, order this! The slightly sweet and tangy Japanese Worcestershire sauce (which is Hosaka mama’s secret recipe) goes really well with the cabbage and pickled ginger. It comes in a pretty generous portion, too, so you can enjoy it as a main dish as well.

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Fried balls of octopus

*Fried Balls of Octopus – Another must-try, with true authentic flavours! When you bite into it, the inside is creamy with octopus pieces in the center. It’s served with Japanese mayo, pickled ginger, dried bonito flakes, seaweed sprinkles, and homemade Japanese Worcestershire sauce. It’s indeed one of the very best I’ve had!! (((o(*゚▽゚*)o)))

*Crème Glacée (Ice Cream) I tried the soy sauce flavour, which was interesting – a bit like salted caramel. What I liked more was the umeboshi ice cream (Japanese pickled salted plums)! It’s just subtle enough that I could taste the plum’s saltiness and flavour. The only thing I would’ve wished to change is the texture of the ice cream; it’s soft and creamy but maybe a bit too soft for me. One of the times we had it, the ice cream was melting so quickly, I felt like I was drinking it near the end.  o(≧o≦)o

 

In addition to the items on the regular menu, they also offer daily specials that alternate depending on the available seasonal ingredients. I almost always pick something from the special menu when I go there. Here are a few I really love:

*Hiyashi Chùka (Cold Ramen) This is a typical traditional summer dish. Do take advantage and try this one in the summer. It doesn’t come in a broth, but there are a lot of vegetables, some ham and a choice of either soy or sesame sauce for you to mix. My personal choice is sesame, of course. It’s perfect for those hot summer days!

*Kurage (Jelly Fish on a bed of Wakame) This dish often appears in slight variations, all of which are good. I highly recommend it if you like sea algea. I just had it recently and it was so refreshing! Jelly fish may sound a bit exotic for some, but it really doesn’t have much flavour; it has a slightly crunchy texture and goes really well on a bed of fresh seaweed.

*Ingen (Blanched Green Beans with Miso-Sesame Sauce) Again, the vegetables vary depending on availability, but this dish always comes with a delicious miso-sesame sauce and beet decoration. Another very refreshing starter for the summer!

I’d like to thank Louis Hosaka for his kindness and his openess, and for taking the time to answer all my questions. As an Asian, I’m very grateful that we have such wonderful authentic Japanese ramen in Quebec City. You’ll see from the photos that all of the dishes are nicely and delicately presented! Now that I’ve shared all the dishes I know with you, I’ll leave you to discover the rest of them yourself! (‐^▽^‐)
Hosaka-Ya Ramen
75, St-Joseph Est
Québec, QC, G1K 3A6
418.780.1903

For more information and to see a menu, check out their website  and Facebook page.    

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Photos © 2014 Yvonne Rosenbaum

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