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Ramen Choices in Toronto

I posted earlier on downtown dim sum restaurants and received very helpful replies, so I'm hoping for help regarding ramen. We're staying near Queen's Park and have come up with some ramen restaurant possibilities.

They are Santouka, Kinton and Raijin. Any favorites among these? We usually order shoyu or miso ramen, gyoza and karaage (fried) chicken if on the menu. Comments are also welcome. Thanks for your help.

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  1. where are you from? socal? sf? nyc? van?

    if so don't bother.

    if not then santouka shio reg or toroniku.

    karaage save it for izakaya like kingyo.

        1. I've been on a Vancouver ramen tour for the last month or so - but haven't had a chance to visit their Toronto counter-parts - best bets would be Santouka, Kinton, Sansotei, and A-ok, the last heralded as having the best noodles in TO, and one which I attend every couple of weeks. Broth is good, but not great.

          7 Replies
          1. re: justxpete

            Update on A-Ok. I brought the SO in (whos' been in Van) to sample the Ramen at Aok. She was excited about the noodles. When we got there, we asked about the broth - as she has a shellfish allergy. Unfortunately, the broth at A-Ok has shellfish, which is fine - but when we asked if they could serve her broth without the shellfish, the answer was not that they couldn't, but they wouldn't - saying it "wouldn't be Ramen". Really? tell that to Santouka, among others, who only use pork/chicken to make their broth. In any case - we were willing to accept that it wouldn't be quite as good as normal - and the place is closeby to home, so that's why I've been going regularly - but for the "chef" to be able to accommodate a shellfish allergy, but refuse to do so, irrespective of 'artistic license', is absurd.

            And if, in fact, the broth would have been horrible, then the 2nd time I asked the server to check (because what he said initially was terse and confusing), the "chef" should have come out and spoke to us about what the issue was.

            I don't mind chefs or restaurants refusing to alter their dish based on artistic license, but to refuse to alter a dish due to an allergy when you are able, is another matter entirely.

            So we got up and left. I won't be going back - and based on how busy it's been every time I go, they could really use the business.

            1. re: justxpete

              That ain't right. I feel like they could've put that better, like maybe they don't want to stray from their recipe because they don't want to compromise but to say that it's "not Ramen" is pretty ass.

              Tons of really great Ramen shops make broth without shellfish.

              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                Or if the "chef" came out and explained why his broth would have been bad w/o their shrimp powder or whatever, that would have been ok too. Or hell, even the server - but to decline such as they did was inexcusable.

                A bunch ok Aokholes, are they.

                1. re: justxpete

                  Yeah, it's a little bit Ramen high horse. And that's coming from a Ramen high horse.

              2. re: justxpete

                Are all the broths at Santouka shellfish-less? My SO has the same allergy.

                1. re: jinxie

                  Best to ask them. A lot of places will say that their broth is made from such and such pork bones but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Could be shellfish in the Tare, you never know.

                  1. re: jinxie

                    We were able to eat at a number of Ramen places w/o issue in Van, although at Motomachi, she had to settle for the Vegetable/vegetarian broth, which left much to be desired.

                    We call and ask (time permitting), each time we go to a new place. First we ask if they use shellfish in their broth, second we ask if they can serve it w/o the shellfish, and lastly we ask if they have vegetarian broth (which they quite often do).

              3. Santouka looks like the favorite here. Thanks everyone, I appreciate your input!

                1 Reply
                1. for miso, Kinton and Raijin IMO over Santouka. i do not get the love for Santouka.

                  1. In terms of more traditional ramen, Santouka, Sansotei, and Kinton are in the top tier. Santouka is perhaps best overall (particularly for the pork cheek), but I give Sansotei the edge for the tonkotsu broth and Kinton the nod for my favourite noodles.

                    Raijin is pretty good - the noodles are a notch down, but the bamboo charcoal version is interesting. A lot of people here don't seem to like Momofuku, but we just went and thought it was good - not traditional by any means, but good noodles and decent broth. We haven't tried A-OK yet.

                    In terms of cheaper ramen, Niwatei is my favourite. Kenzo and Ajisen are OK. Konnichiwa tends to overcook their noodles. Tokyo Grill used to be yummy but we haven't been in ages so I can't say if it is still worthwhile.

                    1. Here's a latest update!!
                      Santouka 山頭火 - Disappointing Tsukemen!!! Watery one-dimension soy broth, missing cha-siu, tasteless hard boiled egg, a total failure!!! Raijin's version much better!

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Where else have you had Ramen, Charles?

                        1. re: justxpete

                          In Toronto, almost all the popular ones, except A-OK.
                          Also, in Tokyo and Hong Kong

                        2. re: Charles Yu

                          Weird, I went yesterday and it was totally fine.

                          I've always disliked the the hard boiled egg but I usually just order an Aji Tama on the side.

                          That's ok though, there's a rumour floating around about another Ramen giant testing the waters here so maybe you'll have a better alternative in the future...

                          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                            Why do you mention the hard boiled egg? Just curious - the only place I've been that serves it soft is momofuku. Every other place I've been to, if they serve one, serve it hard boiled. (8+ places and counting?)

                            1. re: justxpete

                              Yeah, I don't get that. It's the opposite for me. Most every Ramen shop I've been to serves at the very least some kind of coddled egg and the better ones have marinated it in an insane secret recipe.

                              Maybe it's a Toronto thing? I dunno...

                              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                Actually most of the Ramen places I've been to have been in Van... ?

                                  1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                    Maybe what I consider to be roughly 'hard-boiled' is not actually hard boiled? What I consider to be hard-boiled (probably due to my upbringing) is when an egg has the shape of it's shell, and the yolk is either medium (only partially runny) to fully cooked... ?

                                    1. re: justxpete

                                      No, no. The places here definitely serve more of a hard boiled egg with santouka's egg being the hardest. I have no idea why because in NYC it's more of a runny egg and I feel that the trend in Japan is to have a runny egg as well.

                                      Or at the very least a half cooked gelatinous yolk.

                                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                        Hmm... Interesting. Odd as well because I think a runny yolk is definitely the way to go (had I the choice). It adds so much more than just a "hard-boiled" egg.

                            2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                              Ippudo??? that would be excellent news.

                              1. re: acd123

                                Isn't the guy from ippudo already here?

                                1. re: justxpete

                                  There's a guy from Ippudo at Ryoji I believe.

                                2. re: acd123

                                  not sure what the big deal would be. yes, ippudo is good. i have been to the flagship store in hakata but honestly, i would rather have some original place than some chain....although i prefer tokoshima style ramen in any event and like my egg to start out raw.

                                  1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                    You're not sure what the big deal would be? A major Ramen chain considering our city for a new branch is incredible and does great things to widen the spectrum of our restaurant industry. It will force the little guys to be better and legitimize our city to any other Ramen shops wanting to expand.

                                    The problem with little guys opening up shop (and also the answer to why Ramen in North America is not as good as in Japan) is that there isn't the availability of ingredients here and the making of most Ramen straight out violates our public health code. Take Tokushima Ramen for example, baraniku is hard to find here therefore a shop like say Udatsu would never compromise and open up here.

                                    It's a problem that a lot of the smaller shops moving to NYC right now are facing with Niboshi. In Japan you can get all kinds of different Niboshi but in the US it's not allowed unless it's salted (I think) therefore the only option left is to buy the crappy salted niboshi that comes in packages and wash the salt off but when you do that you also wash away all the good stuff you want to keep for the broth.

                                    So it may be a little while before we get our own Mutekiya opening up here but man, you cannot tell me that a city like Toronto doesn't have it good with Ramen right now. We're honestly approaching NYC/California levels of Ramen scene. What other city competes with us for 3rd place in North America right now? Chicago maybe? They have a Santouka but the options after that fall of considerably, next best bowl is maybe Slurping Turtle or Noodles by Takashi maybe? Vancouver?

                                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                      we will have to agree to disagree as to the impact of another chain openning in yyz (and yes, some here would not regard ippudo as the mcdee's of ramen like many in japan do and do for ichiran also (although i prefer this better than ippudo in any case..)...although it is not going to happen and would not matter anyway since i do not wait in line for ramen.

                                      yes, we do have some decent choices but to be honest, yyz was so piss poor (and is) for japanese food that really, it is only catching up. thankfully the people from yvr took pitty on us and threw some of their chains to us.

                                      how hard would it be to work with a pork supplier locally to get the type of meat you need locally? last i checked, pork does not violate heath codes. you could also figure out a local supplier to farm some to your specs on the west coast? they have a pretty major industry now.

                                      1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                        The McDee's of Ramen really is Ajisen. No doubt about that.

                                        I like the Ichiran in Ueno but they're the only decent one until you get to Fukuoka. Otherwise I have to give the edge to Ippudo and it's sister restaurant Gogyo.

                                        What's not going to happen? You lost me there. I will wait in line for Ramen but that's the difference between you and me I guess.

                                        I disagree that we're piss poor for Japanese food. Kaji I would put in the top ten in North America and the city is booming with decent Japanese food these days. I think you need to check your food quality barometer and stop comparing Toronto to Tokyo. Montreal is catching up, we're evolving at an alarming rate.

                                        A lot of Japanese pork is unavailable to North American pork suppliers especially if you need it in large quantities every day. Pork bones (the right ones needed for ramen) also difficult to find in large quantity. I didn't say pork violated health codes what I'm saying is that various stages in Ramen prep violate health codes. Besides, pork is just one hurdle to get over, there's no good niboshi, Katsuoboshi, Miso, etc. Little shops would have to compromise and for the most part won't, whereas big chains will.