There is this teeny tiny restaurant in Banff called Chaya. Run by Japanese, they serve a small variety of ramen, rice, udon and soba dishes. The food is rather simple, but it is satisfying. Seating is limited – if the restaurant is full you will have to wait. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (although don’t quote me on that as my memory is swiss cheese and I didn’t jot it down). Menus are in both Japanese and English.
Their rice balls come with your choice of salmon, tuna or umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). I ordered a salmon filled rice ball to try. (I’ve had umeboshi before but I think it’s one of those foods that I’d rather pass on.)
The rice is unseasoned, but the filling was actual chunks of cooked, seasoned salmon instead of just some canned fish stuffed into the rice. My only complaint was that either the rice could have used some seasoning or that it would have been nice to have more salmon included, as I found the rice to be somewhat bland on it’s own. The salmon tasted very flavourful.
The chicken teriyaki don came with many pieces of very tender chicken, plenty of sauce, and some pickled ginger on the side. It was a very large bowl and was more than enough for one person. Could probably feed two if you only wanted a small meal.
The BBQ pork ramen (chashu) had four thick slices of cooked pork, a very flavourful broth that was salted perfectly, and gorgeous, tasty fresh noodles. The noodles themselves were probably the best thing in any of the ramen dishes, and were some of the best noodles I’ve had in a long time (including the ones I had on my trips to Malaysia and Hong Kong). I could not discern any specific BBQ taste to the pork.
The miso ramen was basically miso soup with the aforementioned noodles. I think there was ground pork in the bowl as well. The miso tasted fine but was a touch salty for me and I much preferred the BBQ pork ramen instead.
The tan tan ramen was a spicy, peanut-flavoured broth, with broccoli, ground pork and those wonderful noodles. We asked to have extra spice added to this bowl (the person eating it loves hot peppers), but when I tasted it the dish was still only had a slight heat to it. Fine for me but not hot enough for the person who ordered it. I actually quite liked this one and would recommend it if you were looking for something with a bit of heat.
Is this the best ramen in Western Canada? No, there are probably better ones in Vancouver. But the noodles alone make me think about going back.
118 Banff Avenue, Banff
And lastly, the main reason why I usually end up in Banff – skiing and the mountains: