Good Eats at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Hokkaido Ramen SantoukaLocation: 515 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.santouka.co.jp/en

After ramen disappointments at Konjiki and Kinton, I was starting to worry that a really good bowl of ramen might be impossible to find in the city.

Well, here’s Santouka, riding in to save the day.  Their ramen certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was a solid bowl of noodles.  I enjoyed it.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

They specialize in tonkotsu ramen, in which pork bones have been boiled down for hours until you get a rich and creamy broth.  They have shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso, or spicy miso.  I went with shio.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

It’s a quality bowl of soup.  The broth doesn’t quite have the magical complexity that you’ll find in the best versions of this dish, but it had a rich porky flavour (without the heavy greasiness that can bog down tonkotsu ramen), and a good amount of salt that doesn’t overwhelm.

The noodles were slightly thinner than I’d like, but they have a nice chewy bite.  They’re satisfying.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

The egg is an add-on, but it’s worth shelling out the extra cash; it’s nicely seasoned and perfectly-cooked, with a gooey but — and this is the key — not runny yolk.

Outstanding Japanese Crepes at T-Swirl Crepe

T-Swirl CrepeLocation: 510 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://t-swirlcrepe.com/

Creme brulee: delicious.  Crepes: delicious.  A creme brulee crepe?  Yes please.

I will, however, admit that I was skeptical; would this be one of those Instagram-friendly food mash-ups that never should have been mashed up?

T-Swirl Crepe

Nope, it’s exactly as delicious as you’re hoping it’ll be.  Actually, no; more delicious.

My only real complaint is that the top didn’t have the sugary, crackily crispiness that you’re looking for, despite being thoroughly torched.

Other than that, it was top notch.  The custard was a little bit too sweet — I suspect that it came from a mix — but it was still quite tasty, and certainly got the job done.

T-Swirl Crepe

There was also quite a bit of it; every bite had a generous amount of custard, even right at the bottom of the cone.

The crepe itself was the highlight; it was freshly made, with a chewy interior and a lightly crispy exterior that set it apart from the norm.  It complimented the custard perfectly.

T-Swirl Crepe

I enjoyed it so much that I went back a few days later for round two.  I tried the Mango Raspberry, and it was just as good as the creme brulee.  The crepe had the same addictive crispy/chewy contrast, and the filling featured a great balance of tartness and sweetness, with perfectly ripe chunks of fruit.

Amazing Cupcakes at Prairie Girl Bakery

Prairie Girl BakeryLocation: 150 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.prairiegirlbakery.com/

Prairie Girl Bakery might just serve my favourite cupcakes in the city.  There are some other contenders (the Cupcake Shoppe comes to mind), but Prairie Girl is right up there.

Prairie Girl Bakery

I like that they actually have three different sizes — standard, mini, and cutie.  The mini size is absolutely perfect if you’ve just had a big meal and you want something sweet that isn’t going to make you feel completely sick.  It’s still a couple of decent bites’ worth of cupcake, so it’s enough to satisfy, but not so much to make you question the way you’re living your life.

Prairie Girl Bakery

On this particular visit I got the banana peanut butter, which features peanut butter frosting with banana cake.  Not surprisingly, it was great — the cake basically tasted like a lighter, fluffier banana bread.  It had a really distinct banana flavour that worked perfectly with the very creamy peanut butter frosting.

The whole thing was sweet, but with enough of a balance to not be a complete sugar overload.  It’s good stuff.

Crispy Fried Goodness at Mr. Tonkatsu

Mr. TonkatsuLocation: 520 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.mrtonkatsu.com/

Tonkatsu is one of those dishes that’s very difficult to dislike.  You can coat pretty much anything in panko breading and then deep fry it, and that thing is going to be tasty.  A fried, panko-breaded pork cutlet?  Served with rice and a delicious dipping sauce?  Yeah, it’s hard to go wrong there.

And while Mr. Tonkatsu doesn’t serve the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had, they certainly do a solid job with it.

Mr. Tonkatsu

They have a couple of different pork options on the menu — loin and tenderloin, with the latter being an extra dollar.  I went with loin, which comes with a bowl of rice, tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage, and miso soup.

The panko breading on the tonkatsu had an absolutely perfect texture — it was golden and lightly crispy, with just enough heft to make its presence known, but not enough to overwhelm the meat.  But it was way underseasoned; it was actually pretty bland.

Mr. Tonkatsu

Thankfully, the tonkatsu sauce very thoroughly solves that problem.  I normally like that stuff — it’s kind of like a Japanese take on HP sauce — but the version here was something special, with way more complexity than the norm.

It’s good that the sauce was so delicious, because the meat needed a lot of it.  Aside from the distinct lack of flavour, the pork itself was overcooked and extremely dry.  A prodigious application of the tasty sauce goes a long way towards fixing those problems, but they are problems nonetheless.

Mr. Tonkatsu

Everything else was quite good.  The dressing for the cabbage was the usual sesame-infused concoction you’d expect; it was quite satisfying.  And the miso soup had a mildly fishy funk that I found to be delightful.