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Kinton Ramen - First Taste

Visited Kinton Ramen last night for the soft opening (5pm-10pm daily I think, leading up to this Friday's official launch). You have two options for the ramen, regular or light and belly or shoulder. I ordered the Shoyu regular with pork belly, my wife the Miso light with pork shoulder. To drink we went with the yuzu lemonade and a calpico soda (liquor license coming soon).

The Shoyu ramen was very delicious. The pork belly was super tender and the outer edge had a smokey almost sweet aroma - easily the best chashu ramen in Toronto. The noodles were fresh and had a nice bite. The broth was rich with bits of goodness floating around. And the Shoyu ramen came with a perfectly cooked egg, runny in the center. The chopped fresh red onions might not tickle everyone's fancy (my wife picked them out of her bowl), but I didn't mind the contrast to the deep broth. Amazingly for such hearty fare, I didn't feel at all weighed down during or after dinner.

The Miso ramen was tasty, but I preferred the Shoyu. I'd also recommend the pork belly over the shoulder (which is probably as fatty, but doesn't provide the same melt in your mouth mmm).

Kinton was designed by the same architect from Guu, I'm a fan of his modern style it really sets the mood. We sat at the communal table in the back, which is tight but comfortable enough. The price point is very affordable, dinner for two ran just $28 including tax. Kinton is a welcome addition to Baldwin street and a definite contender for the best ramen in Toronto. We'll be back soon!

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  1. How big is the place?

    2 Replies
    1. re: szw

      They have made the most of the space... but it is a narrow venue (perhaps seats 30?). There is a hightop table up front, counter seating (with full view of the action in the kitchen), and a shared table in the back. There will also be patio seating soon, which is where I'll be camped :)

      1. re: JonasBrand

        Thanks for the review. Was this a special invite thing or did you just go? Any wait when you went in or when you left? (i.e. lineups?)

    2. Anyone know if they'll take reservations or its like guu's with no reservations?

      1. anyone know if their broths are vegetarian (no meat or fish used to make the stock)? i notice they have a vegetable ramen but that doesn't always mean vegetarian because of the stock.

        thanks!

        4 Replies
        1. re: helenhelen

          I don't know, but if you are looking for a good veggie ramen, I really like the one at Kenzo. They have a veggie broth and all veggie stuff with the noodles.

          1. re: helenhelen

            No it's not. The broth is still pork based.

            1. re: sbug206

              i notice they also have a miso broth on the menu at kinton... perhaps fish stock?

              1. re: helenhelen

                Nope, they just add miso paste into the same pork broth.

          2. I visited Kinton Ramen on their official opening day (May 18th) and ordered Shoyu Ramen with light broth and pork shoulder. It has only been one month since I visited NYC and had ramen at Totto, Momofuku, and Ippudo.

            First, I believe Kinton is off to a great start and will soon improve as the chefs get used to their new home (One of the chefs actually arrived on opening night with his luggage at the restaurant!)

            The ramen I had at Kinton was very good and certainly superior to similar dishes at Kenzo and Ajisen ramen. However, it is clear that by comparison to other top North American ramen, it has lots of room for improvement.

            Specifically:

            Noodles: good consistency, but too alkaline in taste - they should tone down the sodium/potassium carbonate. Also, the noodles I had were straight style, and I am hoping they will get the frizzy style.

            Broth: I had the light broth for Shoyu ramen. It was slightly too salty. It was also a tad too cloudy for shoyu style. But most of all, although the flavour was rich and meaty, it lacked a certain depth of flavour which is mastered by the momofuku interpretation I had in NYC. This flavour, as far as I can tell, comes from a slight charring or roasting of the pork which is put in the broth -- you get an extra deep flavour in the broth this way.

            Pork: The pork shoulder is quite standard, very good. My advice is that they should have one meat option which is lean. As far as I know, this is not traditional, though I am sure that in Japan it is possible to find lean meat in ramen. The momofuku "chicken" option is like this, and although it isn't traditional, it is amazing.

            I think that we have a lot to look forward to as Kinton evolves and especially when their true competitors arrive later this year. Because at the moment, they have no competition at all!

            EDIT: I have a question - - if you visit Kinton, please try to find out what their noodle process is. Do they make the noodles on site? What kinds of noodles do they have? Any more technical details would be appreciated.

            6 Replies
            1. re: mgualt

              i read on another review that the noodles are made offsite at a factory.
              but its rather vague......

              1. re: mgualt

                perhaps you should compare it to totto and ippudo instead of momofuku. What they make isn't really ramen.

                why must there be a lean version of everything? ramen is unhealthy, it's fatty. Have soba or udon if you want something healthier.

                I haven't been to Kinton yet, but am looking forward to it.

                1. re: aser

                  There should be a lean version because that's what some people prefer, and not only for health reasons. It's an easy thing to do without compromising flavour, not like asking for a lean bacon cheeseburger.

                  1. re: acd123

                    They do offer lean. That's what the choice of shoulder vs belly is for.

                    1. re: acd123

                      The most fatty part of ramen is the broth.

                      1. re: aser

                        Okay, that part I really like. But sometimes I find that fatty meat (especially if the fat is chewy) is kinda gross. So, keep the broth fatty, but offer a lean meat option as a topping.

                2. Went today and tried the shoyu and shio ramen. The soup base is not great; rather thin. Not much better than Kenzo. Also there was no menma (bamboo shoot), but the eggs were perfect 半熱卵 (half-boiled egg). Everything else was fine, but if for you the ramen is about the soup base, you will be disappointed.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: echeng25

                    I really think this is underrating it by a very wide margin. I had the shio today and it was a very rich and fatty broth. I would say Niwate (or whatever its called in J-town) is a little bit better than kenzo. I'd say this is a lot better. I'm not like a ramen guru or anything but I've eaten more than my fair share in tokyo and nyc and I think its almost just as good. I think the noodles need just a bit more..something...not sure what yet. I think I would have liked them a little bit fatter and chewier.

                    1. re: szw

                      I'm kind of convinced the place in J-Town serves noodles from frozen.

                      I find Kinton Ramen has great noodles. Whoever upthread said it's too alkaline, I definitely didn't find it so. I could barely taste any alkaline, but then, maybe I'm used to won-ton noodles which have a pretty pronounced alkaline taste.

                      I think the noodles are the best I've had in Toronto. To be quite honest, I was almost sure it was going to be crap, because the guy behind the counter just dumped them into the basket and left it there for about 2-3 minutes. They didn't do any of the fierce stirring you see in a place like Kintaro in Vancouver. I found them to be very thick - thicker than Kenzo, at any rate, and very nice and chewy.

                      The cha siu, as someone said upthread, is amazing. They torch it with a blowtorch after stewing, which adds a bit of nice caramelization and smokiness on the surface. I got one giant piece of belly, which was a bit of a surprise, because it wasn't rolled and it was't sliced.

                      The eggs have a nicely soft yolk, but they didn't have that nice soy coloration on the outside. The white was uniform in color, as far as I could tell.

                      The soup base was thick, and it didn't have that heavy, salty taste that you get at Kenzo. I think, though, it might be missing something. Maybe chicken bones.

                  2. Toronto Life has posted a photo gallery of Kinton:
                    http://www.torontolife.com/daily/dail...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: canmark

                      I had to read through 19 posts before I found the address, in the Toronto Life link.

                    2. Two questions:

                      1. Any idea if they use MSG? my heart says they do
                      2. THeir broth is pork based, but is there any fish in it? I've read that they may mix their pork broth with a bit of fish.

                      1. I want to go this weekend - have there been lineups yet?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Wench Foraday

                          yes...

                          1. re: justsayn

                            Of course...silly question. I'll go anyway.

                            1. re: Wench Foraday

                              : )

                          2. re: Wench Foraday

                            Went today (Sunday June 3) at 5:45. Had to wait about half an hour. Not bad, and well worth it.

                          3. How's the cheese ramen? I really want to try this place out, what are the wait times like?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: .alias

                              I do NOT recommend the cheese ramen. It's a weird combination that doesn't really work. Cheese is so foreign to Japanese cooking; I wonder why they included it. You can choose pork shoulder or belly...go for the belly. We waited 1/2 hour at 5:45 on Sunday. It's not widely known that they are open yet, so expect the wait to grow. It's a quick turnover though, much quicker than Guu, but the restaurant is also a lot smaller than the 2 Toronto Guus.

                              PS no LLBO yet.

                              1. re: meanmartin

                                When I was in Japan earlier this year and looking up ramen places to try, cheese ramen was the biggest trend for some ramen shops there.

                                1. re: flipcyde

                                  Ah...makes sense now. Two people at my table had it and didn't like it.

                                2. re: meanmartin

                                  any good recommendations of what to get? hoping to go saturday, whats the opening time?

                                  1. re: .alias

                                    Gyoza appetizer was very good, very porky. I had the most basic miso ramen with no additions. I wanted to try the basic version first. You pick your basic ramen (there are 5 or 6 versions, about $10) then add extras (~$1 each). The spiced egg looked good. Next time I'll load it up with extras.

                              2. Anyone been for lunch? What's the lineup situation?

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                  I've been a few times at lunch and lineups during each, but I got in really quick because I was a single diner and am probably the quickest turn ever.

                                  1. re: szw

                                    thanks...the menu is calling out to me. spicy karaage, yes please.

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      Its a good portion of chicken. However, the spicy kind of tasted like franks' red hot, which I don't like. I will get the regular next time.

                                      So far shoyu is my fav. Miso is too mild for me and I don't like the taste of the spicy broths (though I love spicy food).

                                  2. re: grandgourmand

                                    got there before opening one day... didn't take long to nearly fill up, tables in the back weren't taken though when we had left.

                                    got shoyu, pork belly. it was still too salty for me, otherwise i do like the broth and the noodles quite a bit. pork was a bit dry through the centre of the cut for me, egg nice and jelly but needed more marinade soaking time and i REALLY miss the menma and other bits on top. adds more texture and flavour. not a top spot for me but it's up there, exp for dt options.

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      Visited today (Wednesday) for lunch at about 1ish. It was busy but we didn't have to wait for a seat.

                                      The food was simple and tasty, just like a ramen shop should be. It's not a destination restaurant by any stretch of the imagination, but a great place to have close-by when you're at work and want something quick and tasty for lunch. A real keeper.

                                      1. re: biggreenmatt

                                        I went yesterday at 6:30, quite a long lineup. But I was alone so I got a seat right away. Had the mild karaage, and a shio ramen. Karaage was flavorful but not as crispy as i would've liked. The ramen has a quite alkaline flavor, and I also grew up on wonton noodles so I didn't find it too offensive, it's just noticeable. The shio broth is as its namesake: salty, and I must not particularly rich with pork flavor. Is the broth supposed to be rich and gelatinous' I can't remember, but the one I had sure wasn't.

                                        I'd go back, but between the wait time, and the heat (the dining room was quite warm), I'll at least wait until the crowd dies down and LLBO is issued.

                                        1. re: Inkou

                                          Shio broth doesn't have to be rich and gelatinous and is most often times not. That said Kinton's shio is probably the weakest bowl of the ones they serve. All I can taste in that broth is the bean sprouts.

                                          Shio broth should be complex tasting with different dried fish/shellfish notes popping out at you as well as whatever salt or salt blends they've concocted.

                                          I think the one flaw with Kinton is that the broth's for all of their bowls of noodles aren't complex enough and sort of fall flat as a kind of one note bowl. Pork is great, Egg is great, although out of all the times I've been it was under seasoned once. Maybe cause it was lunchtime and it hadn't had time to sit in the marinade. Noodles are good, although the straighter version that they do tends to get soft by the end of the meal as straighter noodles generally have more water content but pick up the broth better.

                                          No matter, can't wait to try the new ramen shops opening up this year. I think 3 more are coming so at least we'll have choice. I'd also be very surprised if Santouka didn't knock it out of the park.

                                          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                            we went Friday night. its a small place. bloody hot in the summer. wait is silly (45+ min) for a table for 2. crowd was predominantly Asian.

                                            PIG said it best. the broth is pretty flat. its not bad, but its ok. the meat was tasty, but if i went again, i'd have to order extra meat. having 1 piece of pork belly for a huge bowl of soup is a tease.

                                            my wife had the spicy broth. its a spice hit, but again, thin on bottom end flavour.

                                            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                              Santouka will be the one to watch, for sure. Had it before and it's better than our current options here.

                                              1. re: childofthestorm

                                                santouka toroniku shio, no competition.

                                                kinton's broth is lacking, needs much more pork and shellfish, based on two visits. The noodles are the best in the city so far though....but you need to eat it fast or it gets soft as it's straight.

                                                because of that, they need to offer kaedama as on option after you finish your noodles, instead of ordering extra at the beginning.

                                                egg is cooked well but under seasoned/marinated.

                                                karaage is good, much better than guu, but not as good as ematei.

                                                the room is HOT, poor circulation.

                                                1. re: aser

                                                  while eating soup isn't on my must-do list during the summer, i cannot see how people will go to Kinton Ramen during July and August.

                                                  its painfully hot in there. looks like there's zero ventilation happening in their open kitchen.

                                      2. BlogTO review w/photos: crowded, but somewhat underwhelming seems to be the verdict.

                                        http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/kin...

                                        1. Had the spicy garlic ramen and the spicy fried chicken. Loved both. Noodles stayed firm throughout, soup was well flavoured and not overly salty. Also, not painfully spicy. Pork was devine, nice fat without being greasy. I enjoyed this dish more than the Momofuko ramen past summer and Aijisen Ramen but then again, it was a different broth. No problems with bloating and thirst that happens after eating 'pho' at some places (no msg then, I think). I haven't yet tried the other new Ramen places but looking forward to a Ramen crawl.

                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          1. I have now been to Kinton twice. First time Shoyu broth regular w/ Pork Shoulder, second time Miso broth w/ pork belly.

                                            Sat at the area in front of the kitchen the first time. You would think in the middle of the winter I wouldn't mind the HEAT from the kitchen but it was so hot. (I was wearing a tshirt). I can't imagine what they do in the summer! 2nd time we sat at one of the tables at the end (low table).

                                            I prefered the Shoyu broth myself.

                                            I can't recall if I posted to this thread or not, but, if you want to take your left overs they charge you 50 cents for the container but it is a pretty solid container. 2nd time I was there, I was with three females and neither of them were able to finish. First time I was there I ate all of my ramen but couldn't finish my fried chicken order.

                                            I went to Santouka more recently and loved it even more. It is pricier and the portions are smaller but I enjoyed pork, broth and noodles more. I went during an off time so no lineup and quick service. I don't think I would wait an hour in the cold outside for it, but enjoyed my meal. I found the atmosphere to be nicer at Santouka too (maybe because it wasn't busy, but, much better ventilation it seemed).

                                            Overall, I would go back to both of them as they both have a different appeal. Depends on what I am out and about doing.