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The return of Kenzo Ramen

j
jon b Jun 30, 2009 06:58 AM

Walking on Dundas yesterday, I noticed a sign advertising a new Kenzo Ramen. Stuck my head in, and chatted briefly with the owner, who was working on fixtures in preparation for a Friday opening. He was very excited to hear that I knew and loved his old location near Yonge/Finch (which is still open, but under new ownership). He promised the new location would be even better, with a more extensive menu. There aren't many items listed yet on the website, but was pleased to see that some of my favourite ramens will be back, along with the gyoza, which at the old location, was outstanding:

http://www.kenzoramen.ca/ramen_side.php

138 Dundas West (just east of Elizabeth Street, between University and Bay)

  1. Finnegan Jun 30, 2009 07:49 AM

    Giddy up...have tried the ramen at the Yonge location and found it to be pretty authentic. This new location should do well (given the bland chinese restos in the area)

    1. g
      Gary Jun 30, 2009 08:25 AM

      Exciting news! Thanks for sharing. Aside from Konnichiwa there's a lack of decent ramen downtown, and for me heading up so far north is just for a bowl of noodles (no matter how good) just isn't practical.

      Out of curiosity, 138 Dundas West is the address of the burger place called "Red Charcoal"... did that business go under, or is this address shared by multiple units?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Gary
        l
        LTL Jun 30, 2009 08:42 AM

        Red Charcoal is definitely gone. Too bad because I loved their burgers. They never seemed busy enough though, 1-2 tables at the most.

        1. re: Gary
          c
          canmark Jun 30, 2009 09:18 AM

          I was just in that neighborhood the other day (checked out the new mini-Longo's near Dundas/Bay), but didn't see Kenzo Ramen. I shall go check it out next week after the opening.

        2. p
          Pincus Jun 30, 2009 08:31 AM

          If they can serve the same product as up on north Yonge, I'll be quite happy!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Pincus
            Teep Jun 30, 2009 08:56 AM

            Hmm Takoyaki - do they have that on Finch and is it good?

            1. re: Teep
              p
              Pincus Jun 30, 2009 09:54 AM

              I think they do.

              Never had it, and I wouldn't know the good stuff if I did...sorry.

              1. re: Teep
                t
                tarteaucitron Jul 1, 2009 08:46 AM

                Tried their takoyaki there before. I love takoyaki but do not have too much experience on the street version, and by my standards they were quite good. Bonus points for having them freshly made (it took them a while to prepare) and served lip-burning hot, and in the traditional boat-shaped disposable plate. It's going to be the best you can get in Toronto, for a very long time to come!

                I hope they continue making them in the new location too!

            2. t
              tjr Jun 30, 2009 09:32 AM

              Kenzo served an okay ramen before (despite being one of the better places, or the best place in Toronto for ramen); hopefully they can do some work and improve the product.

              1. d
                ddelicious Jun 30, 2009 10:58 AM

                do you know what the broth is made from?

                4 Replies
                1. re: ddelicious
                  n
                  Negaduck Jun 30, 2009 11:30 AM

                  That would depend on the type of ramen you order. Tonkotsu isn't on the menu but the old location used to have it advertised in the restaurant.

                  1. re: Negaduck
                    g
                    Gary Jun 30, 2009 03:31 PM

                    Boo, I also noticed Tonkotsu was not on the website and hoped it was just an online omission. Maybe if we all ask nicely...

                    1. re: Gary
                      aser Jun 30, 2009 10:01 PM

                      It'll be there, they never had it on the printed or online menus. It was always listed taped on the wall as a special.

                      Again, Kenzo is the best Toronto's got, it's too bad the bar is set rather low.

                      1. re: aser
                        t
                        tarteaucitron Jul 1, 2009 08:56 AM

                        It's like Indian food in Japan, I am just grateful they are ever available at all :)

                2. hippotatomus Jul 3, 2009 09:23 PM

                  I went today. The food was mediocre. I usually really enjoy the King of the Kings ramen, but today it was missing the umami I tasted back at its Yonge and Steeles location.

                  It was a poor experience. I usually am very easily pleased when it comes to service because I value food over service. However from the moment we arrived it all went downhill. The place was full when we got there and there was a table of 5 waiting ahead of us.. the waitress came over and told us they were full with no indication they wanted us to stay. It was almost as if they wanted us to leave because they were full. i told her we would wait because we weren't too hungry yet and wanted to try the place out. However, looking around they had many 4-person tables that seated only two. Perhaps they should consider changing the set up to have more tables for two, rather than tables for four so they can seat more people at once. When we were finally seated we found the lighting was too dim and luckily another table had just left so we moved over by the window. We waited probably almost half an hour before we asked them why our orders were taking so long and found out they hadn't entered our orders. The manager told us they would look after our orders immediately but it was another while before we finally received our food. When my order arrived the few pork slices in the broth were 75% fat!!

                  Those hoping for an extensive menu will also be disappointed as there only ramen available when we asked. The advertised dishes on their windows were not available. Takoyaki was not available. The only appetizer was gyoza. On the wall there appears to be some menu items but they were all in japanese so I'm not sure if those were actually available as we didn't try to order. The chopstick wrapper reads "Ramen - Skewers - something" so I suppose later on they will be offering some sort of skewered appetizers.

                  We probably waited 45 minutes for our food? The table next to us waited 5 minutes after asking for their bill before it was brought to them... the table behind us who were seated before we even arrived didn't get their orders until only shortly before we received ours.. after the table to my right left, another couple were seated (at a 4-person table) and they were left to peruse the menu for probably 10 minutes or me - completely forgotten before they had to flag a waiter down and tell them they didn't order.

                  At another table I'm not sure if they had eaten or not but they walked out and shortly after we saw the waitress run out the door chasing after them.. after a minute or she came walking back with one of the men - maybe the transaction didn't go through or something?

                  I don't think people should go in the first month... all the waiters seem new at everything and they need to work out the kinks first. Ramen shouldn't take long to produce should it? But it seemed like most tables waited a long time for theirs. Probably won't return until a month later to make my final verdict as I really liked their 'king of the kings' ramen at their Yonge location... =(

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: hippotatomus
                    t
                    tjr Jul 3, 2009 11:31 PM

                    I don't think Toronto would accept the service at a Japanese ramen restaurant. But this is just bad. How was the food?

                    1. re: hippotatomus
                      g
                      Gary Jul 4, 2009 07:01 AM

                      Thank you for this detailed review, hippotatomus. I was thinking of trying Kenzo this week but now I'll give them a few weeks to work out the kinks. Hopefully this is just growing pains. I guess most restaurants aren't so busy immediately after opening. Hope it improves.

                      1. re: hippotatomus
                        skylineR33 Jul 4, 2009 08:20 AM

                        You can still go to the one at Yonge for their 'king of the kings' ramen. It is still called Kenzo eventhough it is under different management, the quality is not much difference from the old one except the noodle itself has a stronger akaline taste and is definitely not something home made. But is the noodle at the new 'Kenzo' home made and good ?

                        1. re: skylineR33
                          jlunar Jul 4, 2009 01:16 PM

                          I don't know for sure, but the King of the Kings ramen I had tasted really good today. I would agree the service is a little muddled, (not bad, but it's day 2), and that the kitchens are super slow.

                          I'd wait a bit before visiting or bring your DS/newspaper/whatever along with you. It's not a quick meal right now. I would think these are new-resto woes though.

                          ---
                          http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                      2. j
                        jasonmanikel Jul 5, 2009 04:10 PM

                        Well, it's day 3 and we've eaten at the new Kenzo twice!

                        Service: Yes, absolutely horrendous. But it's early days. All the wait staff are new and inexperienced. The owner is not new to the game, though, and ought to be able to straighten everyone out.

                        Menu: Yes, there does seem to be a lot of items promised by the signage that aren't yet available. Though, I was extremely excited about having ton-kotsu ramen, and though it wasn't offered on the menu, when I asked, they did indeed have it. It seems to me that they're trying to 'ease into it'. An unusual way to go, though, if that's the case... Quite a variety of ramen dishes, though - all the main ones. That's what counts. If the yakitori does eventually appear, that'll just be a bonus!

                        Taste: What we've had so far has been quite tasty. (Between the two of us, we've tried the Sapporro miso, shio, shoyu and ton-kotsu. All very good.) As good as the old location, I thought. And better than any other ramen we've had here in TO. (Though not nearly as good as Kintaro Ramen in Vancouver, in my opinion. And not even in the same ballpark as the real stuff in Japan.) But very good anyway. The tako-yaki was pretty tasty too. Haven't tried the gyoza yet.

                        Value: The prices are extremely reasonable, I thought. Even the bottled beer - $5.25 for a large bottle of Kirin. Our bill for two people (including beer and tax) has been just over $20 each time. Quite cheap. The portions are not very large, though. Not nearly as big as Aji-sen, for example.

                        Overall: We're very, very excited about this place opening up. And after a couple of visits, are sure we'll be back on a regular basis. (Assuming, that is, that the service improves over time. And possibly even if it doesn't... ;)

                        1. i
                          instantnoodle Jul 5, 2009 07:46 PM

                          Went by yesterday afternoon. The food was delicious. I ordered the miso ramen and takoyaki. The broth was excellent and very tender (did not have the fat on it as mentioned in another post). The takoyaki was not on the menu but when asked, the waitress said they had it. Each one had a minimum of two good size pieces of octopus. I found the service to be adequate.

                          I will most definitely be visiting often.

                           
                          1 Reply
                          1. re: instantnoodle
                            t
                            tekkamaki Jul 6, 2009 06:28 AM

                            Good to see that they are working through the grand opening jitters. Hope they will get their website proofread and edited. It is pretty painful!

                          2. pinstripeprincess Jul 6, 2009 08:11 AM

                            had a miso ramen i think it was the satro? thought it had a pretty good soup base with overwhelming flavour being the salty miso. the noodles could have been a bit chewier and flavourful for me though and i'm hoping they're making them in house (don't see why they wouldn't though...) but it didn't distinctly feel like they were. still better than most options out there by a reasonably wide margin.

                            i thought the takoyaki was much better than what they're putting out at manpuku. nice smooth batter that was steaming hot when it arrived and good sized pieces of octopus. i thought the batter could have used a touch more oomph though and was surprised at the lack of mayo. for once i may actually ask for more mayo. there is a sign on one of the walls advertising it, shrimp cheese octopus and i think a 4th option can be had for fillings.

                            what bothered me was the luke warm tea and only 1 knowledgeable waitress of 3... the other two didn't understand what tonkotsu ramen was and since they kept switching up who would try to take our order one told us they had it, another was baffled as to its existence as a food item, and the last gave us some reason as to why we couldn't have it that i really did not understand. turns out... they had it after the experienced waitress corrected one of the others.

                            also, someone mentioned something about the portion size. i thought it was quite fair! considering i like to drink a good broth down to the last drop it was certainly more than enough for me. will definitely go again.

                            1. i
                              Ironchefa Jul 7, 2009 02:18 PM

                              I had the King of the Kings ramen yesterday at lunch and it was very tasty. The broth was rich and spicy. We probably waited 15 minutes for our food and the restaurant was full (we ate at the bar facing into the kitchen). I will defintely be a regular as I work in the area. *slurp* :-P

                              1. t
                                topbanana Jul 8, 2009 12:21 PM

                                Had the orochong ramen for lunch today. It was extremely salty such that I couldn't really detect other flavours in the broth. Service was slow. I'm willing to give it another try after they settle in a bit, but it didn't wow me at all.

                                1. Fwagra Jul 9, 2009 05:03 PM

                                  Went for lunch today as a party of five.

                                  Service was polite but otherwise terrible. Noodle soup lunch took more than 1.5 hours.

                                  Food was good. Pork slices are way too fatty. Next time, will avoid anything with pork.

                                  But, the soup was good.

                                  I will return with fewer people (seems to make service better).

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Fwagra
                                    jlunar Jul 9, 2009 05:47 PM

                                    That was probably the pork belly if the pork was way too fatty. I found my pieces really good - melty good, even! Though I agree - service was really, really slow.

                                    ---
                                    http://foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                                    1. re: jlunar
                                      Fwagra Jul 10, 2009 08:24 AM

                                      I don't consider myself averse to fat, but I certainly cannot eat it the way some Asian cultures do. Is it supposed to be that fatty?

                                      And, I think that the service issue should be politely but firmly raised to the owners/management. A good Ramen house must be efficient and well-organized. A person in my party said she liked the food but could never go back until the service improves, because she simply cannot afford the time from her day! That's no good!

                                      I want this place to succeed. And it will if the service normalizes.

                                  2. l
                                    lindtchoc Aug 12, 2009 02:47 PM

                                    I found the ramen taste like instant noodle to me. I got the King of Kings, got a few bite, and left most of it there. Terrible waste of money.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: lindtchoc
                                      Satish Patel Aug 12, 2009 04:27 PM

                                      I too was excited to hear about this place and after the review in now magazine was eager to try the ramen. However, upon my first visit there, I was not impressed. Really friendly but badly organized service, many of the items are not on the menu and whilst the soup broth tasted good (though a bit salty), the noodles (like mentioned above) tasted like they came out of packet! Will give them another go once they find their feet firmly on the ground!!

                                      1. re: Satish Patel
                                        b
                                        blinknoodle Aug 13, 2009 06:14 PM

                                        I have been to Kenzo's twice already and the highlight has always been the takoyaki! I had the miso ramen and wasn't too too impressed and the second time they didn't have any Tonkatsu available. The service has always been good for me. Although the second time, they brought out the dishes in an odd order, probably as they were finished being made: yakisoba way before we got the gyoza, and next the takoyaki and dead-last was my okonomiyaki. It would have been better to receive the appys first then the main dishes, but I couldn't complain about how tasty the gyoza and takoyaki were. The okonomiyaki was good, too but I would prefer something other than a seafood variety.

                                    2. d
                                      derekw Aug 24, 2009 08:41 PM

                                      my first visit to the dundas location on sunday, aug 23 ... MAJOR disappointment!

                                      the entire bbq menu, as shown on their website, is no longer available. the waitress said they removed it because they are too busy and they will not be bringing that menu back. well, how about taking that menu off their website so that i won't be led into such expectation?!

                                      ok, let me just have the oyako don or the katsu don as displayed on their street window then. sorry, they are also taken off the menu. but we didn't take the window display down. WTF?! have they heard of false advertising?!

                                      alright, i normally prefer ramen in the winter but since there are not many choices left, i will order a ramen then. hummm ... ramen prices are not that cheap here. asked the waitress if they have tonkotsu ramen? answer: no. <sigh> ... well, just one of the basic ramen then. $6.

                                      i don't recall seeing smaller portion anywhere. and the noodle is so tasteless and lifeless i honestly think the noodle packs from T&T taste better. the nori is also very close to tasteless. to say the soup lacks depth is a gross understatement. i was just shocked how bad it was. it's as if some amateur trying to make ramen for the first time based solely on a photo. because what i was served was a bowl of items in a typical ramen arrangement and yet tasted nothing like it!

                                      iNoodles on bloor wasn't super great, but they were MILES ahead of kenzo.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: derekw
                                        a
                                        ace123 Aug 24, 2009 10:06 PM

                                        I think iNoodles is closed already.

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