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which ramen place for ramen intro?

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  • ctl98 Aug 22, 2010 07:45 PM
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I'm taking a friend for her first taste of ramen. I've had ramen before, but not here in TO. To all ramen lovers out there, where should we go? Kenzo, Manpuku, Ajisen or the one in J-town? Want to have some takoyaki and gyoza as well. Thanks!

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Kenzo
138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

Manpuku
105 McCaul St, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

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  1. don't know about the old Kenzo, haven't been there since the new management.
    I personally don't like Ajisen as it's just like eating spaghetti in a bowl of soup, that's really weird.

    you and your friend want to go for real Japanese taste? or just want to try it?

    1. No ramen at Manpuku. Perhaps you're thinking of Konnichiwa up on Baldwin?

      I don't have ramen enough to have a strong preference. I like the food at Konnichiwa a lot, but I like many things on their menu better than their ramen.

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      Konnichiwa
      31 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

      Manpuku
      105 McCaul St, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

      1. I have not tried the uptown Kenzo for a while. But Kenzo (the one at Dundas) and the one in J-Town are both good, they are just the best you can find in Toronto area. I like the Tonkotsu ramen at the one in J-town. For Kenzo, I prefer King of the King ramen if your friend is ok for spicy food. I don't think the one at J-town has Takoyaki though. But I heard they are going to open up another restaurant soon in there which serves Okonomiyaki and probably takoyaki too.

        1. Without trying to threadjack, can anyone recommend a decent place to buy pre-made ramen noodles?

          I am ISO just plain noodles, fresh or dried - not picky.

          Thanks!

          1 Reply
          1. re: munkdogg

            My favourite purchased ramen are available at PAT. They are fresh, Pulmuone brand, in the refrigerator. More pricey than the dried, but they aren't deep-fried first or laden with palm oil, and I find the texture and flavour way more enjoyable.

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/camknows...

          2. I also recommend Kenzo (Dundas location). Very consistent after a slightly rocky start last year, and they now have great tonkotsu. We're there every few weeks for lunch and it's always satisfying.

            Munkdogg: Sanko on Queen West has the best selection of dried ramen, a lot of it seems to be imported from Japan via BC (no English on the package except for an ingredients sticker) and it's much better than I've been able to find at, say, T&T. It's pricey though at about $10 for a pack of 5 and they often run out of the best kinds for weeks at a time, so it's a bit of a crapshoot.

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            Sanko
            730 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

            Kenzo
            138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gary

              Good stuff, I will check it out. Many thanks!!

            2. Avoid Ajisen. Cute place, crappy noodles.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Herb

                noodles like spaghetti!

                go to ni wa tei in J-Town. Very recent discussion thread about it.

                1. re: Crispier Crouton

                  Supposedly they are "authentic" ramen noodles at Ajisen, just not in a style we Westerners are used to. (Have to ask one of the resident Asian experts, but I remember seeing a post where it was described why they are different, and in what area of Japan they are popular.)

                  Having said that, I prefer the Kenzo-style noodles over the Ajisen-style one. Just the mouth feel.

                  1. re: Pincus

                    They're Hakata style noodles. And not a very good rendition at that.

                    1. re: Pincus

                      I've dined there with Japanese natives who either tolerate the noodles, or have the same "spaghetti" complaint.

                      I've experienced serious attitude problems from the staff there, too (Yonge and Empress location). And I'm rarely one to really care about service.

                2. Thanks to all! Maybe we'll go for a ramen taste test and try both Kenzo and Niwatei. If there's no takoyaki in Niwatei, at least we can head next door for some yakitori!

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                  Kenzo
                  138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                  25 Replies
                  1. re: ctl98

                    Excellent call! Make sure to post about your experience.

                    1. re: ctl98

                      i've only been to the izakaya once, after the ramen actually, and didn't find that there was much infused flavour from the charcoal in the skewers. there also was barely any charring, but as promotion and perhaps a quick snack they stationed a younger chef outside of the entrance to the main food building and he was certainly charring the skewers more though it's hard to say if it added more flavour or just made it acrid. i think, for my tastes, i would have preferred the one outdoors since the ones inside certainly didn't taste burnt but lacked flavour overall.

                      be sure to talk to the niwatei servers about salt levels, it might be shockingly high to a ramen first-timer if they're keeping it as potent as my last visit.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        Hi Princess! Charring equates to Carcinogen! May be all those Japanese chefs are ultra health conscious and don't want to murder their patrons! Ha!

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          i know that you don't really want charring, but these were so incredibly low in flavour that i would have welcomed it. i guess overall, i wouldn't recommend the yakitori there at all.

                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                            I agree that the yakitori could use more char. I've been there a few times and although I've had better (yakitori totto NYC...yum!) this is the best I've had in TO. The guy outside does a much better job and it's nice to get a few sticks there and then head inside the shops for various food stuff.

                            1. re: ctl98

                              Still preferred the Yakitori served at Japango. Amazing glaze/sauce and 'charring' flavour!

                              -----
                              Japango
                              122 Elizabeth St, Toronto, ON M5G1P5, CA

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                That's one I still have to try. Went to Japango a few months ago and was not happy with the sushi so I haven't been back since.

                                -----
                                Japango
                                122 Elizabeth St, Toronto, ON M5G1P5, CA

                            2. re: pinstripeprincess

                              I have been to that yakitori place multiple time (both inside and outside) and find it not too bad eventhough it is not very consistent, as there is no other better choice in Toronto, or you got other better choice ? It satisfies my yakitori craving.

                              1. re: skylineR33

                                you have the benefit of accessibility on your side, so for me it is a miss. i never said it was bad, just... lacking the true benefit of the charcoal. it is fairly infrequent that i crave yakitori. i have my alternatives with similar flavour profiles.

                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                  Yeah, too bad, it lacks something. This goes the same with most if not all kinds of Japanese food here, sushi, ramen, yakitori, tonkatsu, takoyaki, udon, unagi ... not to even mention tempura. Hopefully for first timer as of ctl98 's friend, it is not too bad.

                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                    Oh Sky! Don't get me started on the tempura. We sooo lack decent options here for that!

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      Even something as simple as a well-made gyoza is difficult to find!

                                      Wil, I'm a tempura fiend and it is tough. Many places over-batter the shrimp hoping to make it look bigger. My fave is Zen...nice large shrimp, thin, crisp batter and good veggie selection. Haven't found one that comes close, and I have tempura in every single Japanese resto I try.

                                      1. re: ctl98

                                        Have you tried the gyoza at Kenzo downtown? Made fresh daily, never frozen.

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                                        Kenzo
                                        138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                        1. re: Herb

                                          Not yet but gyoza, takoyaki and tonkotsu ramen are on my to-order list when I go.

                                        2. re: ctl98

                                          Toronto's tempura has even a bigger gap than ramen's when comparing to the real deal one can get in Japan..... we do not even have a tempura restaurant in Toronto.

                                          1. re: skylineR33

                                            Yup! skylineR33!! Sure miss the real authetic ones in Japan ( or even HK?!). Fresh seasame oil, thermometer at the side, 'live' shrimp de-shelled infront of the patrons! Ultra thin batter, totally greaselessand super tasty dipping sauce.! Man! I'm missing all that!!

                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                              I miss having tempura with ultra-fresh shrimp. Live shrimp have a particular firmness that gets lost when the shrimp have been dead for a few hours.

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                I would agree, HK has some very nice tempura restos!

                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                  Maybe we should host our own "Charlie's Burger" with chefs lured from Japan (minus the gimmicky nature of the actual one, if it still exists).

                                                  1. re: tjr

                                                    tjr, second your idea whole heartedly!

                                                    Right now, with the current pathetic choices in town, As visiting chefs, I'll even settle for Tojo of Vancouver and Yasuda from NYC!. Add a Nobu and Morimoto would be nice.

                                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                                      When did you last eat at Tojo's? I was there a month ago and was a bit underwhelmed. Kaji's omakase was better, frankly...and I preferred the sushi at several other (less expensive!) places in Vancouver, not to mention I felt Zen here in Toronto. I think I agree with the local Vancouver sentiment that Tojo has fallen off.

                                                      1. re: childofthestorm

                                                        You're the third person I've heard that from regarding Tojo vs Kaji.

                                                        1. re: childofthestorm

                                                          Actually, I should excuse myself from any discussions about meals by both Tojo and Kaji san. I cannot be unbiased! The reason being I had amazing ' unforgettable' meals in both places each time accompanied by friends who had known the chefs for years and as such we all received special VIP treatments! That is to say, our omakase was no ordinary omakase!! Some of the special dishes served by these two masters include live lobster sushi topped with sea urchin 'foam', whole braised abalone slow cooked for hours in Mirin, sake, dashi and top soy, fresh bontan prawns embedded in sea urchin jello served with Hokkaido sea urchin in urchin shell, A5 grade Wagyu beef sahimi served with imported 'white' wasabi from Japan....etc. I doubt for $120, Kaji san will serve those special dishes?!

                                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                                            Mouth watering !! Those dishes can't be from Kaji, right ?!

                                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                                              The lobster sushi with uni foam was actually Kaji's! My omakase that night had more than 17 courses!! However, it did include a few special sushis served individually one or two pieces at a time though! I think I posted some of those photos on facebook?!
                                                              The rest was from Tojo a few years back. I recall the tako ( octopus ) duet was also amazing consisting of part raw and part cooked.

                                2. If you go to Sanko, look in the frozen section for "Toronto ramen" which is a lot more expensive than the cheap dried ramen but also better.

                                  My personal favourite place for ramen is Tokyo Grill at Yonge and Wellesley. I have yet to try the J-town place. I find Kenzo and Ajisen OK and Konichiwa very so-so.

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                                  Sanko
                                  730 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                  Tokyo Grill
                                  582 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y1Z3, CA

                                  Kenzo
                                  138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Dr. John

                                    I agree that Tokyo Grill makes a very satisfying bowl of noodles.

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                                    Tokyo Grill
                                    582 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y1Z3, CA

                                    1. re: Crispier Crouton

                                      I went to Kenzo for the first time yesterday. I enjoyed the King of Kings ramen, though I found the pork quite fatty. The taste was good, though. My DC had the ramen noodle stir-fry, which was pictured on the menu as being a mix of vegetables and noodles. When it arrived, there was also pork, which was a welcome addition, but odd since it was neither mentioned nor pictured in the photo of the dish. The place was jammed at lunch and service was adequate. I'd like to go back and try the tonkotsu ramen. Does anyone know if they serve anything other than the ramen soups, gyoza, okonomiyaki and takoyaki? There were items listed on the wall that weren't on the menu, skewers listed on the chopstick wrappers, but no skewers to be found, and the donburi dishes which ARE on the menu are apparently not available. So, what DO they have?

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                                      Kenzo
                                      138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                        Did you go to the Kenzo on Dundas ? The donburi are no longer available?! did you confirm with them ? I really like the Katsu Don there, it is some of the best in Toronto area ! Their rice is so nicely cooked which put Manpuku's into shame, no comparison. But the last time I order it, they told me it is a 20mins wait.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          Yes, it was the Dundas location. The server said the donburi were not available "right now". I didn't ask if this was only temporary, but based on your endorsement, now I would like to know. Maybe she just meant that it wasn't available during the lunch rush. The place was absolutely jammed, so perhaps it's problematic for them to go beyond ramen, gyoza, okonomiyaki and takoyaki at lunchtime?

                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                            I think so, they are not very efficient. I always go before 12pm. I rarely go at dinner time, I think they may have donburi available at dinner time because it is not as busy.

                                    2. re: Dr. John

                                      I third your reply re: Tokyo Grill. Not fancy, but nicely made. Order their pickle plate too! I forget what it's called. I used to always order the curry myself.
                                      Another nice place for ramen noodles is Liberty Noodle in Liberty Village, but it's less "authentic" to me, but very cleanly made, not greasy and stylish interior.
                                      I like places that make me feel like there's a mom in the kitchen:)

                                      -----
                                      Tokyo Grill
                                      582 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y1Z3, CA

                                      1. re: wecandoitrosie

                                        Is this the same Liberty Noodle I went to??? Who cares about the interior? What does cleanly made mean? Are you endorsing this place because it's clean?

                                        The broth was bland and the ramen had almost no toppings. Ajisen wins over Liberty Noodle by a long shot and Kenzo is much better than Ajisen.

                                        No "mom" i've known has ever made so bland a broth.

                                        It's too bad, I really wanted to like Liberty Noodle because my office is in the neighbourhood.

                                        If they focus on making a rich broth and putting more toppings on the ramen, I would try it again.

                                        -----
                                        Kenzo
                                        138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                    3. Finally got to Kenzo today for lunch. Got there a little before 1pm and there was a short wait but wasn't too bad. I had the tonkotsu ramen and my dining companion has the yakisoba plus we shared an order of gyoza.

                                      My order was very good. The broth was flavorful but not too salty. Noodles had a nice chewiness and the pork had a good mix of lean meat and fat. The egg was perfectly cooked. Solid bit with a runny middle. Yum! And so cheap!

                                      I tried the yakisoba too. It was also good but got a bit oily in the end. Same chewy noodles and just the right amount of meat and veggies. The veggies weren't overcooked, despite the fact that it was served on a sizzling plate.

                                      The gyoza was very, very good! Thin wrapper that didn't fall apart, good density of filling, didn't fall apart when bitten or held with chopsticks, nice crisp crust on the bottom, well-flavored filling, well-balanced dipping sauce with just the right sour-salty-sweet mix.

                                      All in all an excellent meal for $35 or so. Will definitely be back to try the other ramen bowls and the takoyaki, although it will be hard to resist ordering the gyoza again!

                                      Hope to hit Niwatei soon...

                                      -----
                                      Kenzo
                                      138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                      1. I haven't tried any of this stuff.

                                        Are there any places for TAKE OUT (specifically not dine in. I don't like dining in alone, I always feel "conspicuous" haha) in Mississauga that you guys would reccomend? I'm a total noob when it comes to Asian foods

                                        thanks

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: duckdown

                                          Duckdown: I'm impressed with your current zeal to try out Asian foods, especially given your posts on these matters not that long ago! I don't find that noodle soup dishes like Ramen or Pho would lend themselves too well to take-out. Oh, I'm sure they will accomodate you, likely separating the noodles from the soup with you then reassembling the mixture at home, but something will be missing imo. However worth a try and it will give you at least an idea of the food. Dumplings like gyoza are best eaten freshly cooked, and will deteriorate significantly with take-out. Something to be said for many Canadian Chinese dishes which translate better to take-out. My 2 cents.

                                          1. re: T Long

                                            I agree completely. When the noodles sit in the broth for too long, they can get water-logged and can lose that toothsome texture that is requisite for any noodle dish, be it ramen or pasta or pho. There's something so satisfying about slurping that almost too-hot broth that you just can't get the same experience when you take the food home.

                                            The good thing is that these noodle places are quick eats type of places so dining alone is not an uncommon occurrence. If it makes you feel less conscious, try going during lean hours like between 3-4 pm so that there are less people.

                                            When I dine alone, which I quite enjoy sometimes when the place and time are right, I will often bring a magazine or book so I can read while waiting for me order.

                                            Happy eating!

                                            1. re: ctl98

                                              Duckdown, rustle up a dining companion, and try out Kenzo and any other place that strikes your fancy. Like you, I feel uncomfortable eating alone. It's much more fun to have a table mate, especially if that table mate orders something different from you. This gives you a close-up ogle of that person's choice(s) and maybe even a sample. I sometimes wish that Chowhound offered a dining companion meet-up board for single diners that just want to share a restaurant experience with others.

                                              If the spark has been ignited to branch out and investigate the myriad Asian cuisines that abound in the GTA, don't short-change yourself on the experience by taking out. I firmly believe that the vast majority of us approach takeout meals totally differently than we do an eat-in experience. I'm more likely to scarf back sushi in my car or at home, whereas I'll savour each morsel and try to make the meal last a bit longer if I'm in a restaurant with attractively plated food.

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                                              Kenzo
                                              138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                Ramen is best slurped down alone. Preferably while standing at a counter jammed with sweaty salarymen in suits while a steady line of patrons out the door and halfway around the block squeezes into any open standing position as people squish their way out. Bonus points issued for requiring the use of a vending machine.

                                                1. re: tjr

                                                  But if you're alone, you can't lean over to your neighbour (a total stranger) and taste what's in his/her bowl! I'm all for generous table mates who are willing to order something different from you. But, I will note that Kenzo has a few bar seats for single diners near the cash. I noticed 3 male customers contentedly slurping their noodles, oblivious to the hustle and bustle around them.

                                                  -----
                                                  Kenzo
                                                  138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA

                                                2. re: 1sweetpea

                                                  Hey sweet pea! You can always join the google group and do a quick request through there. Other people have done it for random meet ups :) The link is on the sticky Djerba post on the main page

                                                  Erin
                                                  http://cookiesandtomatoes.blogspot.com/

                                                  -----
                                                  Djerba la Douce
                                                  1475 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1N5, CA

                                          2. Finally made it to Niwatei today. Here are my thoughs on Kenzo vs. Niwatei:

                                            Broth: Niwatei had more complex flavoring for the shoyu, miso, and especially the tonkotsu broth. Noodles: tie. Toppings: Kenzo had better chia su and eggs but Niwatei had better preserved ginger for the tonkotsu. Price: Kenzo is cheaper but has smaller servings for the "normal" ramen. Parking: Niwatei hands down. The biggest thing for me though is that Kenzo has King of Kings, which I love, while Niwatei only has the basic broths.

                                            So, while both places are excellent, I think I would frequent Kenzo more unless I'm up north. Plus, I'm addicted to Kenzo's gyoza! I've been back 3x in the past month!

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                                            Kenzo
                                            138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA