Montreal’s best ramen comes from a chain

New ramen shop Misoya, a franchise of a Japanese chain, serves the most authentic ramen in town — at a premium.

Kome miso at Misoya on Bishop. Photos via Misoya

Ramen has appeared on our city’s menus for a couple of years, but, with few exceptions, it has come in the form of pan-Asian noodle soups that resemble the Japanese phenomenon in name only. Now, thanks to Misoya, a new restaurant on Bishop, the real deal is here.

Those who haven’t borne witness to the ludicrously long lines outside Ippudo in New York, or for whom the name David Chang means nothing, might still think of ramen as the 80-cent stuff enjoyed by dorm dwellers. Ramen is not that. Though Japan has countless regional varieties, the common factors are alkaline noodles, a fatty, meat-enriched broth and toppings like menma (fermented bamboo shoots), egg, seaweed and pork.

Misoya, a franchise of a Japanese chain, is owned by a Japanese expat who says she opened it because she couldn’t eat ramen anywhere else. The chain aspect, however, isn’t apparent in much except the sign outside. The haphazard decor, with its mismatched chairs and perplexing, too-high-for-the-table bench, suggest independent management, as does the somewhat dazed service.

The soups here are miso-based (other common varieties are soy sauce- or pork bone-based), and menu options come under the banners of the milder Kyoto-style shiro miso and the full-bodied Hokkaido-style kome miso, with pricey add-ons available. Each bowl is served with a slice of pork belly, scallions, noodles and menma. The shiro also comes with two squares of fried tofu, while the heartier kome features corn and fried potatoes.

The appetizers my dining companions and I tried — crisp, juicy gyoza, chicken karaage and miso-pork fried rice — were all good, though the latter didn’t go particularly well with the soup. The fried chicken was my favorite, with a lightly battered, non-greasy exterior and moist interior.

The broth is what really gives inauthentic ramen away, and Misoya’s is easily the best in the city. I preferred the lighter shiro miso, which lets the toppings shine, but the umami-packed kome should be the choice of hardcore miso lovers, and can better stand on its own. The slice of pork belly — richly fatty, filling and barbecued — was the star topping, especially compared to the miso-flavoured egg I added to my soup, which wasn’t as runny as I’d have liked. Springy noodles added an at first pleasant, but then top-button-undoing, heft.

With soups starting at $12 — and quickly entering $15 territory — Misoya can seem startlingly expensive, though imported miso and noodles, and a Concordia-friendly $9.99 lunch menu (which includes a daikon or seaweed-tofu salad), lessen the blow.

The ramen here may not reach the transcendent heights of its brethren in other North American cities, but it’s enough to challenge pho’s reign in Montreal. 

Misoya, 2065A Bishop
Monday–Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
Ramen Misoya on Urbanspoon

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