Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Mofo-Delish Ramen?

Red-Blooded Canadian Girl Ethnic Food Cravings, as I've established, can be rather aggressive sometimes (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B), and a while ago I found myself desperately craving ramen, a Japanese noodle dish that's served in luscious, savoury broth. So I did my research on Yelp, CHOW and Google and came up with a To Eat List of eateries to try (story of my life).

Since I was heading downtown that weekend, like I usually am, I decided to hit up the place that was in that general area - Kenzo. It's not really known as THE best ramen joint in Toronto, but it has a solid reputation and a lot of people have said that the quality is decent. Plus one of their locations was on my way to Kensington Market, which was perfect.

It was the first nice day after about a week of rain, and I was happy to be able to rock a sundress for the first time this season - this dress, by the way, earned me a honk when I was walking in the Yonge & Eglinton area earlier that day, which reminded me of when I used to go to school in Nowheresville, Ontario ('cause it was something of a party school) and made me wonder if I was looking like a prostitute...

But I digress.

So the sun was beating down quite relentlessly and I was very relieved to finally find the restaurant, which had a very narrow front and was basically a hole in the wall (but there's a lot of depth inside). I was the second party in line, which meant that the people behind me had to wait outside the doors and couldn't bask in the air conditioning. I wasn't surprised to see that nearly everyone inside was Asian and about my age. :P

The party in front of me consisted of a Cantonese-speaking couple and a Mandarin-speaking couple. They ended up sitting next to me and my keen, professional eavesdropping skills let me know that the jagged-haired, toothpick-thin Cantonese boy was the one referring his friends to the place. He was going on about how amazing that restaurant was, how it was on a par with the ramen places in Japan, how no one can say they've lived until they've tried it...so I was giddy with anticipation!

Their food came and upon arrival, Canto Boy announced that he was going to take a sip of the broth first. That experience was apparently so world-rocking that he shouted something kind of rude in Cantonese that roughly translates to, "HOLY SH*T, THIS IS SO MOTHERF*CKING DELICIOUS!" He then proceeded to inhale his meal like a tornado.

I ordered a tonkotsu miso ramen (noodles in pork bone and miso broth) and...well, I didn't think it was mofo-delish, exactly, but it was good. Decent and solid, just like the reviews said, but nothing east of Vancouver is on a par with actual restaurants in Japan, in my opinion. The broth was super rich and flavourful, although I think there was a fair bit of MSG in it (but not, thankfully, nearly as much as Ajisen, which my family and friends affectionately call "MSG ramen" - 味精拉麵, a play on their real name, 味千拉麵).

The serving was decent - I was reasonably full afterwards - and the noodles were fairly good quality, cooked al dente just like it's supposed to be. The broth was very rich, a delicious, heavy punch to the tastebuds, if a little salty. The tonkotsu soup tasted like it was actually simmered for hours, which was good, because nothing's worse than ramen soup base that's from concentrate/originally powder. And the soup to miso ratio was most satisfactory.

The egg was cooked just right, with a medium-boiled yolk and all complementary ingredients were standard - green onions, bean sprouts and kamaboko. The chashu - the rolled pork - wasn't rolled, so the presentation was a little lacking, but they used a nice cut of pork belly that wasn't too fat or too lean, and the flavour was done well. It was also sliced paper thin, which is how it's supposed to be.

Many reviewers have complained about the service but I didn't find it to be that bad. Like I've said before, there's a general understanding that less-than-stellar service is tolerable in certain (usually inexpensive) restaurants if the food is really good. The food at Kenzo was slightly above average and the service slightly below. But there were only two servers working the entire restaurant, so I chose to be understanding. Besides, the male waiter was kind of cute. :P

This cost me about $9.95, I think, before tax, so it was not bad at all, and it did satisfy my craving. But was is really mofo-delish? I wouldn't say so.

The location I went to was:
138 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
M5G 1C3

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