Daruma-ken claims to be the "originator of Sapporo Ramen". Based solely on this, I suspect many and all food lovers' ears would perk up; surely a restaurant over 60 years old would be delicious, and worth the trip, am I mistaken?
This is partially correct. Which brings me to the first rule in my "Rules of Ramen"
1. All ramen in Sapporo is, at the very least, good. You should want excellent by default.
I will be blunt with you; almost no ramen shops in Sapporo are called "bad", and if they are, it is only under the context that there is more to gain elsewhere for a similar price. Ramen is usually considered pretty tasty, no matter where you go in Japan, especially Sapporo. Perhaps this is the Japanese manner of thinking; trying not to talk in such extremes as "disgusting" and "terrible", but similarly, food quality is always thought of as a prime ideal here.
Daruma-ken has an interesting history to say the least, having been opened since the post-war era. The location is, surprisingly wild to say the least.
View Larger Map
It's located in a fish market near a river that flows through Sapporo. During the post war era, many shops did this, as high traffic allowed shops to maintain profit and be open at less strenuous nighttime hours. Now a days, Darumaken is only open for lunch on the weekdays. They make an old world, old school style ramen, with handmade noodles.
Let's take a look.
The ramen shop seems to pride itself on this notion that they were first.
However, as you may remember from the previous post, even this in itself is debatable; technically a Chinese restaurant years before was selling ramen, though of course it was much different.
But of course, you're here for food! Not for history! So, let's talk about the goods.
Daruma-ken recommends either "Shio Ramen" (A ramen with soup and salt) or "Shoyu Ramen" (A ramen with soy sauce and soup). I picked shoyu, and this is what came.
Shoyu Ramen, chicken stock with bamboo shoots, nori, sliced welsh onions, egg omlette, and sliced roast pork. 600 yen.
It's kind of old school looking right? Reminds you of something of a post war era perhaps.
Ramen owners will frequently suggest that they attempt to change their recipe from with the times to keep customers happy, but I don't necessarily think this is the case. Daruma-ken prides itself on being "the oldest", and they attempt to preserve their old style, the noodles are hand made, and the soup is light, not overpowered or rich.
Daruma-ken has fairly average to good reviews on Tabelog, with an average rating of 3.29/5 as of this writing.
Most Japanese people suggest, much like this specific review here, that the ramen is... average.
I will agree with this sentiment.
Ramen has a tendency to include complex flavors, aromas, textures, and other sensations. Daruma-ken, on the other hand, while of course charming in it's ability to draw you to something perhaps out of your normal life, a day in the past in an old, its ramen feels old. It feels simple and feels... kind of boring at times. But this makes sense, because it mirrors somewhat well with the Japanese idealism, the old world untouched culinary thought that "simple is best". And it attempts to maintain a sense of old world style. Which is actually interesting in it's own right.
But even under those circumstances, I have to wonder; despite ordering "Shoyu" ramen, there was no shoyu flavor, no musky deep hint of that extra Japanese ingredient. It just kind of tasted like chicken stock. Which I liked, a clean chicken flavor is always delicious of course, but it was missing something unexpected, or powerful, or exciting. In this way, I can see why people may think it's average.
In terms of importance this place is totally at the top ranks. But... that's about all it's maintained. At the end of the day, ramen is about the food, not the name of the place. For those looking for something extraordinary, I would not recommend this restaurant.