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'Tampopo' Style Bowl of Noodles

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lepetitgourmand Mar 2, 2009 07:37 AM

Recently, a friend of mine gave me a copy of the Japanese movie 'Tampopo'. Ever since, I've been on the search for the perfect bowl of noodles. I love Pho, and Chinese noodles, but i can't seem to find a Japanese equivalent, like the one at the end of the movie 'Tampopo'. Where can i find that perfect bowl of noodle soup 'a la japonaise'? I live downtown but would travel great distances...

  1. p
    Phoenix Mar 3, 2009 05:42 PM

    A couple years ago I went on a hunt for the best Japanese noodle soup in Toronto. Zen is often mentioned on this Board for its sushi, but the soba and udon noodle soups are the best I've had, the perfect antidote for these cold winter days.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Phoenix
      skylineR33 Mar 3, 2009 06:04 PM

      What makes the soba and udon so special when compare to other places in Toronto area ? Do they home made the noodle or import it from a source from Japan ? How's their soupbase different from others, is it something other than dashi based ?

      1. re: skylineR33
        p
        Phoenix Mar 4, 2009 06:40 AM

        It is not that the noodles are so special, although the soba are very good. What had always disapppointed me was the broth in most of the soup combinations that I had tasted - never enough taste and I always found myself adding soy sauce or other spices to bump up the taste. I thought that the broth at Konichiwa was pretty good, but at the soup at Zen is consistently well seasoned and needs nothing added to make it deliciious.

    2. t
      tjr Mar 2, 2009 04:22 PM

      If by "great distances" you mean to Japan, okay, because you aren't going to find it in Toronto. There are some places that do an okay ramen, but none that are good, let alone great, and certainly extremely far from "perfect."

      I think anywhere you go would only disappoint you.

      10 Replies
      1. re: tjr
        c
        CoffeeAddict416 Mar 2, 2009 06:39 PM

        http://www.bob-an.com/recipe/dailyjc/...

        is that an example of what ramen should be?
        if it is then why is it that restaurants can't get a mix of some very basic sounding ingredients right? I can make stock and i have sake and soy and sesame oil all at home. Can I just add these to my homemade stock and get better than restaurant ramen???

        1. re: CoffeeAddict416
          skylineR33 Mar 2, 2009 07:02 PM

          Of course it is not that simple. Every good ramen place has their own receipe. They home made their noodle. They take long hours or days to prepare the broth for the soup base with lots of ingradients to be cooked in a big big pot, all these are almost impossible and not feasible to be remake at home. The pork they used for cha siu is of high quality with home made sauce and cooking methods ... These are not limited to Ramen, the same concept apply to chinese noodles such as wonton noodle or beef brisket noodle too.

          1. re: skylineR33
            t
            tjr Mar 2, 2009 08:04 PM

            Exactly. Check out sites like ramendb, or even tabelog (let alone ramen blogs) to see what ramen is like in Japan. It's truly an art; perhaps it might be interesting for you, CoffeeAddict416, to check out the story of Ivan, or Ivan Ramen (http://www.ivanramen.com/), run by an American in Japan who has successfully placed himself on numerous top lists in the country...

            Though he's not the greatest in Japan, it would be nice for someone with the dedication and tenacity of Ivan to start a ramen restaurant here... I'd go everyday!

            1. re: tjr
              aser Mar 2, 2009 09:35 PM

              Like skyline said, it is kind of a secretive art form. Each shop has their own unique process, special ingredients that is thrown into the mix. No two bowls are alike, even if they share the same style (ie. shoyu). The broth will be slow simmered for at least a day. Basically, it's just too much work for a home cook to make in small quantities.

              Rameniac is another interesting site for info....

              http://www.rameniac.com/

              1. re: aser
                skylineR33 Mar 2, 2009 09:57 PM

                Right. That's why most of the ramen shops in Japan only sells ramen with a small menu. They sell many (can be hundreds) bowls of ramen a day, this makes their soupbase so nice with the quantity of ingradient they put in. I think it is hard for places in Toronto like Ematei or Konnichawa to come up with a nice bowl of ramen with their hugh menu and the small demand for ramen in Toronto ... unless they really put in a lots of dedication ?! It is hard to find a restaurant in Japan which sells ramen and sushi at the same time...

                1. re: skylineR33
                  t
                  tjr Mar 3, 2009 07:29 AM

                  That's often one of the biggest differences with Japanese food in Japan and Japanese food elsewhere. In Japan, most of the better restaurants for a certain dish focus specifically on that dish. Tempura? They only sell tempura. Tonkatsu? They only sell tonkatsu. Sushi? They only sell sushi. Ramen? They only sell ramen.

                  There are places that sell a large variety of things (though rarely something like sushi and ramen at the same time), but these restaurants usually aren't going to be producing "the best x" or "incredible y." In Toronto, other than sushi (and most places have many things in addition to sushi anyways). I think that the big menu not only removes the ability to focus on that type of food because it's not ordered often, but also because the chefs aren't going to end up spending their entire life dedicated to perfecting that single recipe (or single recipe with a few variations).

                  1. re: tjr
                    skylineR33 Mar 3, 2009 11:37 AM

                    Not to go off topic, but just want to point out I found the gap in Tempura is even bigger than the gap of ramen or Tonkatsu when comparing what we have in here to Japan.

              2. re: tjr
                c
                CoffeeAddict416 Mar 3, 2009 04:34 AM

                thanks TJR and skyline
                i've seen Tampopo a few times and it really inspires me as a foodie
                I just didn't realize the depths to which you need to go to make good ramen soup.

                Can't wait when i go back to asia and get to try some food out there. Last time I was too young to appreciate good food simple, gourmet or otherwise.

                oh and tjr if you do a stage at a sushi place then I will strive to make ramen broth. deal? :D

                Just need aser or skyline to pull some noodles for us and we'll be set!

                1. re: CoffeeAddict416
                  c
                  caitlink Mar 3, 2009 04:26 PM

                  The only one I tried and liked in TO is Kenzo. Too bad the Kennedy and 7 location did not last that long.

                  All this ramen talk really makes me miss the noodle shop in Shinjuku. The one that has the pig statue outside. We go there every night for our midnight snack whenever we are in tokyo.

                  1. re: CoffeeAddict416
                    k
                    katana750 Mar 3, 2009 05:52 PM

                    Regarding Tampopo poster @ Konnichiwa, The interior has been redone. but I think the poster itself is still on the wall in the hallway.

          2. Kagemusha Mar 2, 2009 08:45 AM

            When you kind real deal udon in the GTA, let me know. Frost warnings in hell are a better bet.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Kagemusha
              c
              CoffeeAddict416 Mar 2, 2009 08:49 AM

              How does Manpuku measure up in your opinion?

              1. re: CoffeeAddict416
                aser Mar 2, 2009 04:34 PM

                Ematei's nabeyaki udon is probably the best udon rendition in town, for me at least. Much better than Manpuku, obviously much more expensive too.

                The only decent ramen in Toronto is Kenzo as mentioned in the other threads. Even then, it's not that great if compared to N. American ramen strongholds like NYC (Ipuudo), Vancouver (Kintaro), LA (Santouka). Don't even think about comparing to Japan...

                I suggest you try the tonkotsu ramen at Kenzo, it's not on the menu, but posted on the wall. They changed ownership recently btw, I went and the ramen remained the same as before.

                http://kenzoramen.ca/

                Location is on Yonge, a block south of Centrepoint mall on the east side.

                1. re: aser
                  Kagemusha Mar 2, 2009 05:00 PM

                  Bored gormless with TO's stabs at ramen. Had great udon in LA last summer that I'm really pining for today.

                  1. re: Kagemusha
                    e
                    echeng25 Mar 3, 2009 04:21 PM

                    I personally don't feel ramen can be compared with udon. Udon soup base is basically just a dashi; maybe four ingredients and quick to make. Ramen soup base is like a dozen ingredients and takes all day to make with constant skimming and temperature control...

                    This is why I think any place that serves ten varieties of ramen along with a big menu of other dishes can't possibly be making their own real ramen soup base. Usually it is just dashi with soy sauce; not even made with chicken or pork. Exceptions in Toronto I think are Kenzo, surprising Ematei is actually chicken stock despite their huge menu, and the chain Ajisen. I've tried other places touted as good ramen on this board such as Tokyo Grill, Konnichiwa, and Double Happiness (when it existed) and liked none of them.

                    Just my opinion of course, as a moderate ramen groupie whenever I go to Manhattan, Vancouver or Tokyo...

                  2. re: aser
                    t
                    tjr Mar 2, 2009 06:53 PM

                    Kenzo was the best I've had in Toronto, though I hadn't been since they changed management. Good to hear that it's the same as before (even though it wasn't that great). Their tonkotsu ramen is probably the best ramen I've had in Toronto. In a way, that isn't saying much (compared to places with decent ramen), but for Toronto that's a big deal...

              2. c
                CoffeeAddict416 Mar 2, 2009 07:42 AM

                There's been a lot of ramen discussion on this board and I don't think there's good ramen judging from the comments here.

                Personally I enjoy the ramen at Konichiwa
                http://www.gokonnichiwa.com/

                The great thing about this place for you is that they have a poster of Tampopo in there and it always warms my heart to see that poster. I think it's one of the formative movies for me in my foodie evolution :D

                1 Reply
                1. re: CoffeeAddict416
                  l
                  lepetitgourmand Mar 2, 2009 07:57 AM

                  That's awesome, i can't believe i didn't know about that place, it's 2 blocks from my house, i'll be going on wednesday night! It's hard to believe that there would only be one restaurant in Toronto?

                2. ChalkBoy Mar 2, 2009 07:42 AM

                  Konichiwa, tho it's changed ownership, used to have a large poster from the film Tampopo prominently displayed. Does that count?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ChalkBoy
                    d
                    deabot Mar 2, 2009 10:45 AM

                    When did Konichiwa change ownership? Not sure when I was in there last maybe late dec or early January but I did see the tampopo poster up. Hope the food is still good and homey!

                    1. re: deabot
                      c
                      CoffeeAddict416 Mar 2, 2009 10:53 AM

                      AFAIK konichiwa has been owned by the same owner since it opened?
                      Kohei Matsuyama from Katsura is owner/chef

                      I should also note that Ema Tei has ramen as well although I have not tried it so i can't comment on it. I've only had udon there personally.

                      1. re: CoffeeAddict416
                        ChalkBoy Mar 3, 2009 09:19 AM

                        I was told by whoever runs the place now that they took over Konnichiwa from the original owners four or five years ago.

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