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ATTENTION RAMEN LOVERS!

  • m

So I recently started a ramen club with 3 japanese friends. We sample a different restaurant each week and I ask the experts to rate the ramen from 1 to 10.

The results so far have been eye-opening to say the least.

Konnichiwa: This venerable restaurant averaged a mere 6 out of 10 with my pals. The noodles were the right texture and taste, and the quality of the meat was just right, but the broth lacked flavour and depth.

Izakaya: The broth is a variation of the japanese standard apparently. They loved the appearance of the restaurant and the quality of the vegetables and meat. 8 out of 10

Double Happiness: 599 Bloor Street West. This hidden gem of a restaurant was long known to me for their tonketsu ramen. But could it withstand the expert palate of my japanese friends? I can safely say yes, as they absolutely loved it. The broth was the closest to the japanese ideal, not the watered down version done to appease western tastes. The only downpoint is that the noodles are not quite the same as authentic japanese ramen! At $5 this was also the cheapest ramen. It scored a 9 out of 10!

They have 3 other kinds of ramen available, but I am such a fan of the tonketsu that I haven't even tried them.

It's a small, not very busy place so I am hoping that some of the other ramen lovers on this board will try it out and post their opinion as well!

We still need to try Tokyo Grill and Kenpo as well. But Double Happiness will be a tough act to follow.

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  1. Thanks for this, Miguel! Keep us posted on your ramen adventures.

    1. I haven't been able to find good Udon anywhere in this town. Can you and your Japanese friends watch for this also?

      1 Reply
      1. re: bluedog

        MomoYamma at Yonge/Steeles used to have amazing udon, before the new owners screwed around with the recipe :(

      2. Reminds me of that old Japanese movie, Tampopo. What a great little food project!

        I used to frequent a great, little ramen shop in Vancouver called Shogun and I haven't tried anything like that here. I'll make may way through your very useful list. Thanks.

        1. f
          Frances in Toronto

          thanks! i tried the Izakaya Ramen at Izakaya and it was delicious! the pro's - yes, they do use good quality ingredients. the soup base, even if there is mention from other posts that it is not traditional kind, it still is very tasty. cons - it is a little pricy at $11.50 a bowl. but given the location and also the beautiful decor and service the restaurant provides, i can see why it is $11.50.

          i have yet to try Kenzo on Yonge just south of Steeles... let us know if you try it... but Double Happiness sounds like a good place for me to try next!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Frances in Toronto

            Kenzo is a good neighbourhood place for ramen. It does not have too many options, but doesn't bother me much as I am the traditional shoyu ramen type person. It's not the Shogun (Vancouver) calibre, but I try to support whenever possible small restaurant owners who works hard on their food.

          2. Based on OP's recommendation, wife and I went to Double Happiness to try the tonkatsu ramen. I have to say I don't totally agree with OP's opinion on the ramen being authentic. E.g. tonkatsu ramen, as it is supposed to be pork-based, should be served with pork chashu, but here it is topped with sliced beef (same thinly sliced flank that goes in bi bim bap or other typical korean dishes). Soup did not taste especially strong; usually the base should be made with pork bones boiled very hard and long (hence the white colour), along with konbu, fish, chicken bones, etc. I've mentioned this in other posts, but in my opinion the best ramen downtown is Ematei, and overall in Toronto it is Kenzo. Another poster was mentioning ramen places in Vancouver; for tonkatsu ramen there is a place called Kintaro on Denman that serves ONLY tonkatsu ramen and that is just as good as the ones I've had in Tokyo IMO. However, the price at Double Happiness was $5 including a pop, so you can't complain about the value you get.

            6 Replies
            1. re: echeng25

              Just wondering...is that supposed to be tonkotsu ramen? Because tonkatsu is breaded deep fried pork.

              Where is Kintaro? I'd love to give it a try. My favourite is miso ramen but I like tonkotsu too.

              1. re: echeng25

                Thanks for your opinion. I like Ema-tei as well and value your taste.

                1. re: echeng25
                  f
                  Frances in Toronto

                  Yes, I've been to Kintaro's on Denman (since I'm from Vancouver). It was pretty good, I remember they had other ramens as well, like "Forest Fire" ramen (which is a pork-based soup), then your miso/shoyu/regular pork-soup types. It was good.

                  I tried Kenzo the other day -- it was pretty good, but I ordered the super-size King of Ramen and it was too much. The bbq'ed pork tastes kind of Korean Grill style, which really is quite tasty, and I opted for a mildly spicy soup base. The noodles were ok, but not the best ramen noodles I had. The gyoza is really good though, way better than the gyoza at Kintaro's in Vancouver (Kenzo's tastes fresh, I know Kintaro's uses frozen ones, and last time I went they served me slightly burnt ones).

                  I have never tried Shogun in Vancouver, but that is on my list of to-do's for my next visit home.

                  Chow!
                  Frances

                  1. re: echeng25

                    how much is ramen at ematei? the review on toronto life says dinner for two is 120 dollars.

                    (for a la carte and sushi)

                    1. re: jewelite

                      I've just been to ematei for tempura soba - its not very good i'm afraid... the soba is overcooked and the soup is very salty.
                      and they don't have ramen .. just soba/udon
                      the tempura soba is 11 dollars from what I remember..

                      1. re: xdorax

                        They do have ramen, and its delicious.. although the meat was kinda chewy for my whiteboy tastes. i cant remeber the price 11 sounds around right.

                  2. I've come to the conclusion that there's no such thing as great ramen in Toronto.

                    I've found Konichiwa to be extremely dissapointing. Limp noodles and a bland watery broth. Seeing pics for Double Happiness does not instill confidence either. It does not look authentic at all.........and izakaya, well, even they admit authenticity is not their targeted market.

                    Kenzo is decent, and it's about the only place I would order ramen from in this city. Obviously still a long way to go before I can call it outstanding ramen, but it is servicable and the best you can get in Toronto. They are Korean owned so that's why they have quite a few spicy options for broth. However I would recommend the standard shoyu, miso or tonkotsu, because I find the spice overwhelms and masks the natural broth flavor. Their gyozas are excellent.

                    I think it's agreed the best in N. America is Shinsengumi in LA. Kintaro is up there, also Minca and Chikubu in NY are quite good.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: aser

                      I went to Momofukos (Noodle Bar) last time in NY. Man that place ruled. My friends there tell me Minca is better though which has my imagination and appetite racing. That said, i was wondering if there's anything in TO thats comparable to the two?

                      1. re: goodcookiedrift

                        Again, for Toronto, stick with Kenzo. Although Chef Jyo Gao at Solo sushi ya (Newmarket) says his ramen is the best. I haven't been able to order it yet since I can't resist his omakase.

                        Momofuku's ramen is not ramen, seriously. David Chang is the the new star of the culinary world and I admire his work ethic. However, that ramen isn't ramen, it's a loose interpretation of it, made for North Americans.

                        Minca is pretty good, the broth is extremely heavy, be forewarned. NYC is the hotbed for outposts of Japanese ramen chains. Setagaya opened this past year, Santouka at Mitsuwa (Edgewater, NJ) has been around for a few years (the best in N. America) and Ippudo is set to open shop soon.

                        Unfortunately a great old standard, Chikubu, has closed for good. The owner retired and moved back to Japan. They had an exceptional shoyu ramen, served only on Fridays for lunch.

                        1. re: goodcookiedrift

                          Check out the March 24th New Yorker article about the owner of Momofuku, David Chang, its hilarious and makes you crave ramen

                      2. I was on my way to check out Double Happiness today, but couldn't find it. I did however stumble upon a place that just opened, just a little west of where I expected to find Double Happiness (599 Bloor St. W.). It's called Inoodle and they're at 623 Bloor.

                        The soup was fairly rich and not too salty, but I would have liked some garlic in it. All the best places in Japan load up tonkotsu broth with garlic.

                        Overall, not even close to the best tonkotsu I've had in Japan, but much, much better than the worst.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: Davedigger

                          Am I really naive or doesn't anyone think Ajisen has good ramen?

                          1. re: jacquieF

                            Ajisen really doesn't serve ramen, not to sound too harsh. It serves spaghetti in a salty broth with toppings that would make traditionalists shudder -- like steak teriyaki. It's like a distorted parody of ramen with ingredients taken haphazardly from different places like kimchi (Korea), ebi furai (yohshoku), etc.

                            I do eat at Ajisen from time to time because I have nostalgic memories of it from HK. The gyoza holds some strange attraction because of the sauce. It's not great, but when it's 1 AM, it'll do.

                            I also would rather go to Kenzo than Ajisen if my ramen craving became impossible because the owner tries for authenticity and achieves a faint modicum of it, at the very least. I do have major issues with the ramen that isn't shio, miso, or shoyu like the spicy ones. I also have issue with the shio, miso, and shoyu ramen -- limp and soft noodles, a weak broth and chashu which isn't chashu but merely a slab of pork. The tonkatsu is also perpetually overcooked and dry -- but then again, many other places can't get tonkatsu right either. Kenzo is possibly the closest thing to a ramen shop Toronto has and it's great that the owner tried to bring ramen here.

                          2. re: Davedigger

                            double happiness has closed down for a while now .. and ajisen ... well, .. i dunno, but id rather go to kenzo than ajisen.

                            1. re: jennjen18

                              So.. Ramen.. mmmm.... I remember slurping back bowls of this stuff in Tokyo during the cold (nowhere near as cold as Toronto but it's all relative) winter months. Really sticks to the ribs and warms the body if you get it from a good place that loads it up with pork, veggies, those slices of little pink/white spiral fishcake things (don't know if they have them here but they're in everything back in Japan) green onions, etc.

                              Instead of street meat and sausages, it's Ramen and gyudon (beef rice bowls) for after hours post-clubbing food in Japan. Or pull up a stool to the Ramen cart or Ramen van as it sits outside the train station.

                              This topic is quite old I noticed..

                              ...but has anyone recently found a place in Toronto that can hold a candle to authentic Japanese ramen? It's not a delicacy, it's a HEARTY dish, meant to fill you up and warm you up. Despite this, the irony is that many Ramen chefs work incredibly hard to get the broth JUST right; perhaps this is why many places here have failed?

                              Is Kenzo the best there is? If so, I'd be interested in trying it!

                              1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                                If you have eaten Ramen in Tokyo you will never be satisfied in Toronto. Your best bet is to go to NYC, a city with a real culture of true Japanese restaurants.

                                1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                                  Kenzo is the best we've got in Toronto, but Kenzo pales in comparison to NYC, which many ramen lovers tell me, is garbage compared to Japan.

                                  Kenzo purportedly was much better when it first opened on Yonge. I've been to both locations in the past year and it's been incredibly disappointing.

                                  1. re: lsk

                                    hmm.. just to satisfy my curiosity I will have to go.

                                    Could someone be so kind as to provide one of those little link-posts with the address info? :D for Kenzoooooo..I need to find a location and give it a whirl.

                                    RAMEN LOVERS.. BY THE WAY...

                                    If anyone is hurting for ramen.. a surprisingly good and cheap option during the winter shut-in months.. a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine:

                                    - 1 package of Ichiban ramen instant noodles
                                    - 1 green onion
                                    - sliced pork cutlet
                                    - authentic Japanese kamaboko (pink/white fish cake) available from Sanko or J-town or wherever you purchase your Japanese goods.
                                    - a little bit of nori (seaweed)
                                    - one hard-boiled egg, sliced

                                    Make sure the pork is simmered WITH the noodles to add flavour to the broth, add the sliced egg, kamaboko and diced green onion to garnish after serving, finish with two squares of nori.

                                    .. and honestly.. it's not that bad! Aside from the fishcake, most of it is stuff you probably have laying around the house already.

                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                                      It is a very delicious meal, just one thing I would like to find to substitue is the instant nood le. Maybe something like frozen ramen.

                                      1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                                        Kenzo has two locations?! Only been to the Yonge one.

                                        The add a link ain't working right now.

                                        6180 Yonge St
                                        8392 Kennedy Rd #A9 (Hwy 7 & Kennedy)

                                        -----
                                        Kenzo Ramen
                                        6180 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M2M, CA

                                        1. re: Pincus

                                          yeah ive been finding time to try the one at kennedy and hwy 7 ... but never had the chance. anyone gone? is it the same as the one on yonge in north york?

                                          1. re: jennjen18

                                            finally got to try the kennedy and hwy 7 location for kenzo. thing is, it's been a while since when i tried the yonge location. not too sure what the difference and similarities are.

                                            but as far as ramen goes, it's good.................. i had one of the spicy ramens, i cant remember which one. started with a k... karachi? and boyfriend had the soybean paste one. i think im gonna opt for the classic soup base ones next time ... the spicyness totally destroys the richness of the soup.

                                            there was also a sign when i was there... it said something to the effect of, "more noodles on the house" or something like that. i couldnt read the fine print. does anyone know what that's all about?

                                            1. re: jennjen18

                                              It's a popular option in Japan, adding more noodles after you've finished. It's called kaedama, most places in Japan will charge extra for this. It's offered for free at Kenzo, and they've only started doing it recently. Obviously, you need to save yourself some soup if you want kaedama.

                                              I still only order the tonkotsu ramen, it's their best option imo. Again, the spicy ones overwhelm the broth as you have said. In my experiences, the two locations appear to be quite consistent with each other.

                                2. re: Davedigger

                                  Does anyone know if iNoodle have a website? Trying to find but no cigar.

                                3. I seem to have a vague memory of a place that opened up in the last year or so that does traditional hand pulled raman, does anyone remember what/where it is, and have you been there, is it good?

                                  1. I've been lunching at a great place called iNoodle, on Bloor, between Palmerston and Euclid (2 west of Bathurst). It opened in the late fall, and it basically specializes in Ramen. Now, I'm not an expert, and only had authentic ramen a few times in Japan, but I have to say that it is the best I've eaten in the city. The various broths (soy, miso, pork) have distinct flavors, the noodles have body, and the pork is sliced by hand and roasted every day. they even have the little bits of coloured fish cakes.

                                    check it out.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: mutant4

                                      A friend recently took me there and I was impressed with the care the put into their ramen. I have rarely eaten ramen in Toronto, let alone outside of North America - so I can't judge the authenticity - but I liked it very much. Also the side of tonkatsu (the breaded pork cutlet, not the tonkatsu that comes in the soup) was really delicious - better than any tonkatsu I've eaten at other korean or sushi restaurants in Toronto.

                                      1. re: mutant4

                                        I've been there once and the ramen is not the one I used to in Japan. It dosen't mean they are not good. In fact, I like it because the broths is so tasty and you don't feel MSG at all. For ramen, all about is the broth and ramen itself.

                                        1. re: mutant4

                                          I've been there twice now. I tried their Shio and Miso broths, and both were really tasty. The noodles are a good consistency. I like the egg and fish cake that come with the bowls too. The place seems a little dead though. I hope they don't close down as I really like the food there.

                                          1. re: jtamin

                                            I popped into INoodle on the weekend.
                                            My wife had the miso and I had the shio.
                                            Both were quite good.

                                            On the other hand, the gyoza was greasy and tasteless and the bbq ribs were way too fatty.

                                          2. re: mutant4

                                            Just had iNoodle this past weekend.. I think I still like Kenzo's better.

                                          3. As per advised from this board, i went to the Hwy 7 locaion of Kenzo for the ramen, and the dish was really good. i had the Jisensu or sth like that, the soup was thickened with cornstarch or sth and there was egg, mushroom, chicken, and other things in there. the noodles were great. my bf has the King of Kings and he loved that dish, the soup was like a red spicy soup. similar but WAY better than instant noodles. we asked about the free noodle add on (kaedama) option, and they said that they have stopped doing that b/c of the increase in flour prices. i went this past weekend. you can however still add on noodles for $2 to your dish if so desired.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chalenegirl

                                              Does anyone know if Kenzo "north" (kennedy and 7) is closed for good? I dropped by on a Tuesday and they were closed (the sign on the door says they're closed every Tuesday and I didn't know), but today I went again and it's Wednesday and still closed!
                                              Had lunch at a place a couple of doors down called "Eat With Fun" which had good pork bbq slices but nothing else worth writing home about.
                                              Was really hoping for some Kenzo ramen! Does anybody know anything?

                                            2. Just had the ramen at Tokyo Grill. The ramen has a good consistency and the broth is not salty. The portion size is also very good for the price. It just came with beef however. It would have been nicer if it had an egg or seaweed.

                                              1. Thanks Miguel. Please let us know if you try out the ramen at Sakawaya (Donlands and Danforth) and what your friends think. I was there last night for udon and there was a Japanese couple beside me having the ramen and they complimented it.

                                                1. While Ematei does a variety of cooked dishes that are authentic and excellent, I tried their ramen for the first time this weekend while it failed to impress me, though definitely better than most of (if not all) the other ramen I've had in Toronto.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: tjr

                                                    BTW, you can order the ramen from the dinner menu during lunch.

                                                    I also agree that their BBQ pork ramen is better than most around the city but at the same time nothing special.

                                                    1. re: tksh

                                                      Really ?! I was not given the dinner menu during lunch.

                                                      Their ramen is miso based and well, ok, but the BBQ pork is a bit rough. Kenzo is the best in Toronto.

                                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                                        I think Kenzo was the one other memorable (for Toronto) ramen that I've had in the city, but still nothing special.

                                                        1. re: tjr

                                                          Yes, I agree, but that's best Toronto can offer and I guess we have to live with it.

                                                        2. re: skylineR33

                                                          They do a good job of hiding the fact that there's a separate dinner menu but it's there and you can ask for it during lunch. I went there for lunch for a good year or so before one time, one of the girls handed me the wrong menu. $8.50 for the ramen I think (been a while).

                                                          Personally, I think ema-tei's ramen base is too salty and too much corn.