Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Hot Bowl of Ramen to Warm a Cold Belly

Having to run an errand at the Eaton Centre, I decided to have a quick lunch in the area.  However, I wanted to avoid the shopping centre's food court as well as the tourist trap restaurants in and around Yonge-Dundas Square.  After a quick search on the internet the previous night, I discovered a ramen shop called Kenzo Japanese Noodle House.  Like izakayas as I mentioned in my previous blog entry, ramen shops are still in foothold stage in Toronto.  With that in mind, and with my penchant for noodles getting the best of me, I decided to try this place.

I made a mistake by going to sleep late, resulting in my getting up late and therefore not getting off the subway at Dundas station until about 12:30pm on a weekday.  When I entered the noodle shop I noticed there were two pairs waiting for tables before me.  Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long, and within ten minutes I was seated and checking the menu.  Service was quick and efficient (I got my dish within five minutes of ordering), allowing for a fairly quick turnaround time, making this place a good spot for a quick lunch within a one-hour break, of which I noticed some of the customers seemed to take advantage.  One major factor for Kenzo being able to serve quickly is the menu selection.  Kenzo limits the menu to just fourteen noodle dishes (all but one being soup-based) and two side dishes.  There are basically only four types of soups to form the base of a ramen dish:
  • Shio (salt sauce);
  • Shōyu (soy sauce);
  • Tonkotsu (pork bone); and
  • Miso (this first became prominent in Hokkaidō in the 1960's).
Netsu Ramen - Spicy Sapporo-style ramen with ground pork and vegetable.
I decided to order the Netsu Ramen, spicy Sapporo-style (i.e. miso) ramen with ground pork and vegetables that included bean sprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, wood ears (a type of fungi) and green onions.  The noodles had the right degree of chewiness, and the soup wasn't rich.  Overall it was a satisfying, belly-warming meal.  Traditionally, the best compliment a customer could give a noodle shop chef was to finish the dish, including especially the soup; the staff there would have know that I was a satisfied customer.

Ramen noodle shops may not seem as sexy as sushi restaurants or provide as much variety as izakayas, but considering their fast-service nature and their dishes generally being less greasy than most typical Western fast food joints, along with serving a unique aspect of foreign cuisine, I hope to see some more ramen noodle shops open here.  In the meantime, I wouldn't mind returning to Kenzo the next time I'm visiting Toronto to try another of its noodle dishes.

Name: Kenzo Japanese Noodle House
Address: 138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON
Cuisine: Japanese
Price Range: $10-$20
Accessible: Yes (partially)

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