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Kenzo is now downtown. (Ramen.)

bmoddo Jul 10, 2009 09:33 PM

So, yes. Those of us that care for Japanese noodles have no doubt heard that Kenzo is now open on Dundas St. near Elizabeth. And I know that some people have been unhappy with either the service or the wait, in some cases and to the impatient and the uptight these things matter. Myself, I care about the noodles and the soup and the new Kenzo's is doing just fine. Yes, there are up days and down days and I honestly suggest going back a few times before you write it off.

Frankly, the Ramen at Kenzo's made my Japanese friends very happy, which is good enough for me. I've sent co-workers there and they've been happy. I've been twice now and the shoyu ramen is most excellent. Piping hot soup, the noodles are perfect. If there was one missing thing it would be menma (shinachiku) [fermented bamboo] as a topping... but feat not! This too is coming!! The owner is importing it from the west coast. You kind of need it to round out the taste of ramen, well, I think so anyhow as to any of my Japanese friends who like ramen...

The staff will get into a routine, the menu will grow and stabilize and the returning customers will just keep coming back. In short, it's already good... it's just going to get better.

I've been to Aji-sen, and in all honesty I found the noodles and what passes for ramen to be completely lacking. Kenzo on the other hand brings it to the table better than any other place in the city. Okay, it might be a 'far cry' from ramen in Japan...but, like I said, none of my friends from Japan had any complaints about Kenzo's ramen, so it must be pretty good. What am I saying!? It IS pretty good!

So, don't be put off by the odd raging hippo.... go, don't be in a hurry, take in the smells and flavours. Slurp your noodles when you eat! Drink from the bowl! Lose your sanitized North American soul in a bowl of nice, hot noodles! Come on! You know you want it!

  1. t
    tjr Jul 10, 2009 11:54 PM

    "none of my friends from Japan had any complaints about Kenzo's ramen, so it must be pretty good."

    Well, I could (and do) complain endlessly. My friends (and I) all complain. We don't think it's "pretty good," though it's good by Toronto ramen standards. I'd rather eat at a bad ramen joint in Japan, but unfortunately, it's the best we have in Toronto.

    The service is terrible, sure, but nothing about the ramen really leaps out at me as being "pretty good."

    1. e
      eatereater123 Jul 11, 2009 09:16 AM

      In a way, I'm glad that tjr doesn't like Kenzo, because it means more seats at Kenzo for Toronto ramen fans. While I agree that it wasn't exactly like the ramen I've had in Japan (ie. no menma, yet), it was pretty darn close, with the fresh Japanese noodles and rich, pork broth. My hubby likes Kenzo better than Ippudo and Minca (both NYC) while I still disagree, I think the char siu at Minca is better (more fat) and the broth at Ippudo is a little richer.

      The service is glacial, but that's what happens with two waitresses covering the entire restaurant. Perhaps when they have more money for more staff, you'll see an improvement. Until then, I'm happy to go and slurp their noodles and eat their takoyaki. Oishii!

      3 Replies
      1. re: eatereater123
        aser Jul 11, 2009 11:54 AM

        I know people have hometown pride and all, but Kenzo is nowhere near Ippudo or Minca on their worst days. It's just not happening folks.

        I would be so happy if we had either as an option in Toronto.

        1. re: aser
          skylineR33 Jul 11, 2009 12:19 PM

          I will have to agree, Kenzo is really nowhere near the other ramen shops mentioned in this thread, eventhough it is the best in Toronto. The tonkotsu at Kenzo is lacking the taste of a tonkotsu, it is way too mild to be a good tonkotsu, if the new one is the same as the old Kenzo.

          bmoddo, you said the noodle is perfect, can you gives more comment on the noodle of the new Kenzo when you say it is perfect ? Is it homemade ?

          1. re: skylineR33
            bmoddo Jul 11, 2009 08:04 PM

            The owner used to make the noodles at the old location. I'd presume that this is the case at the new location. Easiest thing is to ask him, which I'll do next time I go.

            There are obviously great passions over noodles! Who knew!

      2. Notorious P.I.G. Jul 11, 2009 09:16 AM

        Your Japanese friends where probably showing their "tatemae" and hiding their "Hon ne" To call Kenzo Ramen good noodles is promoting a sorry standard for Ramen in the city. People need to call a spade a spade here and demand better.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
          tjr Jul 12, 2009 02:25 PM

          Thank you -- exactly.

        2. T Long Jul 11, 2009 10:25 AM

          What I take from all the recent posts on Kenzo is that they are argueably the best in the city for ramen. Comparisons to Japan are nice to read, but mostly academic to me as I cannot easily experience it first-hand. And if it would only diminishes my enjoyment of Toronto cuisine...why bother! I have not been to the new location as yet, but am looking forward to it.

          5 Replies
          1. re: T Long
            aser Jul 11, 2009 11:56 AM

            The thing is, you don't even have to compare it to Japan. Vancouver, New York, and LA all have far superior ramen.

            Just because we're not in Japan, doesn't mean we have to accept mediocrity. I think that's the point Notorious PIG and tjr are trying to convey. Well me too.....

            For the record, I still go to Kenzo, to satiate my fix as best as Toronto can.

            1. re: aser
              Charles Yu Jul 12, 2009 02:58 PM

              Yes! It a shame that Oriental foodies in Toronto are deprived of two really good quality comfort food. Won ton noodles for the Chinese Ch'ers and Ramen/soba for the Japanese friends. These are areas that we are definitely trailing behind Vancouver!

              1. re: aser
                T Long Jul 18, 2009 08:00 PM

                Hi Aser: I made it to Kenzo last week. As many have remarked, the service was poor at lunchtime (food was very slow coming out), but we enjoyed the ramen (I had the miso and my spouse had the shoyu). I think its a good addition and is definitely an option when in the area, although next time we will stay away from the 11:45 - 1:30 lunch surge. I would put it on the same level as Konnichiwa on Baldwin. Not sure when I will be able to get to Vancouver to try out your recommendation (will not name the recommendation, as the moderators in their wonderful mysterious fashion have deleted our previous exchange), but its definitely on our list!

                1. re: T Long
                  acd123 Jul 19, 2009 10:17 AM

                  I like the ramen at KonnichwaI but I thought Kenzo was better. At Kenzo, the broth was spicier and more flavourfu, and the toppings were better.

                  1. re: acd123
                    T Long Jul 19, 2009 01:40 PM

                    No disputing that Kenzo has more ramen variety than Konnichiwa....and agree that Kenzo's broth did have more depth.

            2. s
              Shinobu Jul 12, 2009 11:59 PM

              Interesting post!

              I'm Japanese and often go to Kenzo, I actually have just been to Kenzo@downtown.

              >Okay, it might be a 'far cry' from ramen in Japan...but, like I said, none of my friends from Japan had any complaints about Kenzo's ramen, so it must be pretty good. What am I saying!? It IS pretty good!

              I don't complain about their ramen, either. I like their Sapporo-miso, it might be the best ramen in Toronto. As you said, it's still far from the ramen we can have in Japan. To be honest, we cannot serve the quality at the ramen restaurant in Japan, it's the ramen our mothers usually make in the house quickly :) But none of us expect the high quality in Toronto, so I agree that it's good as a ramen in Toronto.

              I only complain that they are trying to imitate Japanese ramen restaurant, but eveything looks very funny to Japanese people, for example, they mispell many Japanese letters on the menu, their "Noren" (store curtain) was inside out, and their wood-board at the entrance was always saying "In preparation" when I was there :)

              Anyway, I recommend "Sapporo-miso" to the people who compain about Kenzo's ramen, if still unaccepted, then I suggest "Fin ramen" at Fin Izakaya@Eglinton. That's the another best ramen in Toronto, as far as I have ever tried.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Shinobu
                bmoddo Jul 13, 2009 07:23 AM

                Thank you.

                1. re: Shinobu
                  tjr Jul 13, 2009 10:01 AM

                  Welcome to Chowhound! The ramen at Fin is worse than the ramen at Kenzo.

                  Whether or not we expect high quality ramen in Toronto doesn't mean that we should have to put up with a sub par product.

                  1. re: tjr
                    szw Jul 13, 2009 11:34 AM

                    I'm curious what it woudl take to have a great bowl of ramen, in your opinion. Is it low quality ingredients that make it bad, or is it just that the recipe used is not quite right? Or is it the noodles, maybe not fresh or also made not quite right?

                    1. re: szw
                      aser Jul 13, 2009 11:45 AM

                      I'm not tjr but here are qualities I'm looking for. A lot of it involves patience and technique....

                      - slow simmered broth that is left alone for days, skimmed regularly and never a rolling boil. Ingredients could include pork bones, chicken bones, niboshi, conpoy, kombu, etc....

                      - fresh made noodles with good balance of akaline, salt, texture. Must hold firmness well even after sitting in hot broth for a few minutes.

                      - toppings such as charshu, menma, hanjuku tamago, negi, kamaboko etc.....

                      - side dishes such as gyoza, fried rice

                      - bonus: speed/efficiency, ramen-ya is supposed to be a place you can order/eat quickly. A great place for a quick solo meal........awesome if they offer kaedama.

                      1. re: aser
                        skylineR33 Jul 13, 2009 12:06 PM

                        I wonder who in Toronto actually "try" to do point 1 and point 2, let alone come up with a delicious broth receipe ?! Maybe Kenzo only in Toronto if there is any !? There is also a lots of technique required to braised the charshu, and meat selection ... etc.

                        The speed/efficiency is valid as I have waited for more than one hour outdoor just for a great bowl of ramen and finish the ramen in 20 mins !!

                        1. re: aser
                          tjr Jul 13, 2009 12:16 PM

                          It's mostly basic stuff. Ramen isn't hard, but it, as everything else should, takes a lot of knowledge and dedication. The main problem for me is that no one really seems dedicated enough to make a decent bowl of ramen. It isn't exactly rocket science, but there's no "one" way to make ramen, even in Japan, within a specific style, say shoyu, there are a ton of variations. Start with good ingredients, made with care and attention to detail (and hopefully some passion), use fresh noodles, made with the same attention to detail and dedication to perfection as the stock. Toppings can vary, but they should be of good quality and, once again, exhibit the same attention to detail.

                          Making good ramen is like making good pizza, or a good hamburger, or anything else.

                          1. re: tjr
                            Dimbulb Jul 13, 2009 12:29 PM

                            Have you eaten at the Dundas location?

                            1. re: Dimbulb
                              aser Jul 13, 2009 12:54 PM

                              I have not, but I have eaten at both the Markham and North York location countless times.

                              1. re: Dimbulb
                                tjr Jul 13, 2009 04:29 PM

                                Yes, along with the others.

                    2. a
                      acd123 Jul 14, 2009 11:48 AM

                      I just got back from my second lunch at Kenzo. My ramen was absolutely delicious. Broth was great (and super spicy) as were the toppings.

                      I'm sure it's better in Japan and perhaps even NYC, but how much better can it be? If it is indeed better than what I just had, it must be off the chart.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: acd123
                        tjr Jul 14, 2009 01:46 PM

                        A lot better, if it's anything like the bowl I had there recently.

                        1. re: acd123
                          mussetto Aug 4, 2009 06:16 PM

                          It is sooo much better. Ippudo in NYC is better in every way. Just went to Kenzo tonight, the broth had no depth to it and the waitress was very confused.

                          1. re: mussetto
                            jlunar Aug 5, 2009 09:03 AM

                            Hmn. I really liked the King of Kings. Not sure about any of the others yet, (I keep ordering KoK).

                            The wait-staff kill me though. Apparently, they've put the Izakaya on hold for a bit, but the waitress was trying to tell us they'd _never_ served it. She even made a follow up comment before we asked to speak with main Kenzo dude.

                            I mean really? I didn't come here eat skewers!? Twice in the last few weeks even...

                            1. re: jlunar
                              Teep Aug 5, 2009 11:48 AM

                              so no skewers are available right now? what about takoyaki?

                              1. re: Teep
                                jlunar Aug 5, 2009 02:12 PM

                                I did not order, so I'm not sure. I hope they still have it, as I really do like Takoyaki...! Just that the KoK ramen bowl is really huge for me, so getting more seems a bit much...

                        2. Finnegan Jul 14, 2009 01:08 PM

                          Went to the Kenzo on Dundas on its second day of operation. Service was horrible, soup was pretty good. Hopefully the bad service was just opening week jitters. I'll give it another shot

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Finnegan
                            acd123 Jul 14, 2009 01:32 PM

                            Yeah, the service was pretty bad; the wait staff were young girls who didn't really look that interested. But who cares when the food is so good.

                          2. s
                            Strongbad789 Jul 15, 2009 06:12 AM

                            I went yesterday with my girlfriend and a friend and we all liked our ramen. My girlfriend's sho-yu ramen was definitely not as flavourful as we had in Japan, but still very good. My miso ramen was also very tasty. The best for me, though, was my friend's orochong ramen. The broth was delicious and he seemed to like the toppings as well. Next time I go I'm having that one.

                            I was quite happy with Kenzo Ramen. I understand the comments about it not being as good as elsewhere, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's pretty damn good (in my opinion). If there was a better Ramen place to go to in the city I'd go there, but in the mean time this place is delicious, cheap, and (for me) within walking distance for lunch...what more could I want?

                            Oh, and we got there at 11:45 and the place was empty, and wasn't really that full by the time we left at 12:30ish. We got attentive service throughout. Perhaps the key to good service is to go earlier.

                            1. skylineR33 Jul 19, 2009 01:52 PM

                              I went to try their Tonkotsu and King of Ramen. They told me the noodle is home-made, which I found is pretty good, in terms of chewiness and texture. The Tonkotsu is more porky compared to what they have before, which is a good improvement. The cha siu is 85% lean meat on our bowls of ramen, it is way too lean even the meat is tender, also the favour is lacking in their cha siu. The hanjuku tamago (half boiled egg) is done poorly though, with almost 90% boiled.

                              In general, it is the best place for ramen in Toronto, all the others don't come close, eventhough it is still missing the chemistry I found in a good bowl of ramen in Japan.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: skylineR33
                                Davedigger Jul 21, 2009 01:37 PM

                                Are you referring to Tonkotsu or Tonkotsu Ramen? I don't see this type of ramen on their menu.

                                1. re: Davedigger
                                  aser Jul 21, 2009 01:55 PM

                                  It's not on their printed menu, it's posted as a special on the wall.

                                  I believe you're trying to differentiate tonk(a)tsu vs tonkotsu ramen, skyline is referring to the latter.

                                  1. re: aser
                                    tjr Jul 21, 2009 03:38 PM

                                    I probably should have refreshed the thread before posting!

                                  2. re: Davedigger
                                    tjr Jul 21, 2009 02:35 PM

                                    I think you're thinking of tonkatsu; skylineR33 is talking about tonkotsu ramen, which is not on the menu. I just asked for it and they had it.

                                    1. re: tjr
                                      skylineR33 Jul 21, 2009 03:33 PM

                                      Yes, aser and tjr are right. I do not see the Tonkotsu ramen poster on the wall of their new location, it used to be in their old location (Yonge/Steeles) and it is still there after the new management takes over.

                                      1. re: skylineR33
                                        Davedigger Jul 22, 2009 11:50 AM

                                        Excellent! I'll have to give it a try. I soooo miss tonkotsu ramen.

                                2. j
                                  jtamin Jul 22, 2009 07:22 PM

                                  Just went and had the King of Kings. Lots of ingredients, and the meat wasn't very fatty.

                                  Service was a little slow, but there were only two servers and the place was filled for dinner. They might want to hire a third for that time. I recommend getting a seat at the back near the kitchen, so that the servers have to pass by you frequently.

                                  1. j
                                    JimGrinsfelder Jul 23, 2009 12:54 PM

                                    I just ate at the North York location. The food was ok. Nothing particularly special about it. Better than dry ramen, but nothing to write home about.

                                    Next door is an Iranian bakery, Red Rose Patissierie...the three pastries I tried were good.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder
                                      ChalkBoy Jul 23, 2009 01:15 PM

                                      I didn't think the two were connected. Didn't the guy who opened the Kenzo at Finch sell awhile back and has now opened downtown with the same name? Confusing ha ha!

                                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder
                                        jlunar Aug 5, 2009 09:00 AM

                                        As far as I know, the two locations are no longer connected. Original Kenzo dude sold it and the only place he has going is the one downtown now, despite the menu being nearly the same.

                                        1. re: jlunar
                                          canmark Aug 7, 2009 09:50 AM

                                          A very positive review (with pictures) was posted today on BlogTO: http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/ken...

                                          1. re: canmark
                                            pinstripeprincess Aug 7, 2009 10:17 AM

                                            as expected, the blogto "review" is rather light on details and descriptions of the food... i think it made up what... at most 1/3 of what they wrote?

                                            1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                              aser Aug 7, 2009 01:16 PM

                                              The comments as usual are an entertaining read.

                                              I'll wait til September to visit the downtown location. Perhaps a visit to Yonge/Steeles location soon to tie me over.

                                              Hopefully the j-town ramen-ya materializes.

                                              1. re: aser
                                                tjr Aug 7, 2009 05:40 PM

                                                The comments were good for a laugh; the review was, as noted, traditional blog.to. More of a quick ad than a detailed review.

                                      2. Dr. John Nov 27, 2009 01:20 PM

                                        We went to the North York location of Kenzo over a year ago and thought it was only so-so.

                                        Just tried the Dundas location yesterday and also found it so-so. I ordered the shoyu ramen since I wanted to really taste the quality of the broth. The noodles were pretty good, with a nice resilient texture. But the broth was nothing special, although certainly not horrible. So I'd eat there again for a cheap lunch when I'm in the area, but I wouldn't travel a distance to eat there.

                                        I've had the ramen at Konichiwa and Tokyo Grill. I find the former also so-so and not as good as Kenzo. I actually quite like the ramen at Tokyo Grill, although I see others here aren't as impressed. It remains my favourite that I've had in the GTA.

                                        As mentioned above, we don't yet have ramen as good as in Japan (I ate 3 weeks worth on a trip there) but given places like Kintaro in Vancouver, there's no reason we can't wish for more.

                                        1. p
                                          peppermint pate Feb 28, 2010 04:23 AM

                                          Is it possible to do takeout from the downtown Kenzo? Will the ramen lose a lot in a 10 minute car ride home? Thanks.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: peppermint pate
                                            T Long Feb 28, 2010 05:37 AM

                                            I've seen people waiting for take-out there. I would assume they separate the broth and noodles in different containers like pho take-out.

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