Tasty Ramen at Ramen Raijin

Ramen RaijinLocation: 24 Wellesley Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.zakkushi.com/raijin/

Ramen Raijin is interesting; it’s mostly a standard ramen joint, but then there’s the little Japanese convenience store of sorts near the front that sells candy, instant noodles, and other Japanese goodies.  That’s not to mention pre-made stuff like sushi and onigiri.  It’s a neat addition that sets the restaurant apart.

Ramen Raijin

The restaurant itself serves a decent variety of ramen styles; the waitress told me that the Gyokai Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen and the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen are their specialties.

I went with Gyokai, which the menu describes as “seafood flavour pork broth ramen topped with pork shoulder chashu, bamboo shoots, nori seaweed, bean shoots and green onion.”

Ramen Raijin

It’s a tasty bowl of soup, though the flavour is a tad overwhelming; I could have used maybe like 15 percent less flavour?  It’s pretty in-your-face.

The first thing that hits you is a salty, savoury punch, with a wallop of toasted garlic.  The pork and the seafood are next, with a nice balance of savoury and seafoody notes.  It’s incredibly assertive, but it’s tasty.

Ramen Raijin

Aside from the flavour, the broth is rich, creamy, and satisfying.  It’s a bit greasy, but that’s a minor complaint.

The medium thick noodles are nice and chewy, and suit the rich soup perfectly.

Ramen Raijin

My only real issue here are a couple of the add-ins.  The chashu is nice and tender, but has a leftovery flavour.  And the egg (which costs extra, and which you can safely skip) was undercooked and tasteless; the yolk was runny, and if it was seasoned at all, I couldn’t taste it (though it is possible that its flavour was overwhelmed by the aggressively salty soup).

Authentic Ramen at Hakata Ikkousha Ramen

Hakata Ikkousha RamenLocation: 247 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.ikkousha.ca/

I tend not to mention my travels too often on this blog, because:

  1. That would get insufferable fast.
  2. It’s generally not fair to compare a version of a dish in Toronto to its legit counterpoint thousands of miles away.  There are so many reasons why it’s hard to perfectly replicate a dish outside of its home country, from the availability of ingredients to the pool of local chefs.  That’s not to mention the psychological aspect; there’s something about being in a place that makes the food taste better.  Of course the croissant you just had in Toronto isn’t as good as the one from the charming little bakery in Paris.  That would be an uphill battle in so many ways.

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen

However, in this case it can’t be helped; I’ve eaten the ramen at the original location of Hakata Ikkousha Ramen in Fukuoka, so it’s impossible for me not to make a very direct comparison.

Ikkousha serves Hakata ramen, a particularly rich variety of tonkatsu ramen that’s served with ultra-thin noodles.

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen

Shockingly enough, the bowl they’re serving here is basically indistinguishable from the one I had in Fukuoka.  I didn’t love it there and I don’t love it here, but the quality is about the same.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s quite tasty.  But it’s a bit one-note in its porky intensity.  Still, it has a somewhat roasty flavour that keeps things interesting.

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen

The secret to this type of ramen (unless it’s exceptional, and this place isn’t exceptional) are the condiments.  Particularly: pickled ginger and spicy pickled mustard leaf.  Adding a generous amount of both of these condiments gives the bowl a nice zippiness that cuts through the rich broth quite nicely.

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen

The rest of the bowl is (mostly) quite good.  The egg is a $2 add-on, but it’s totally worth it; it’s perfectly cooked and very flavourful.  The noodles, despite being very thin, have a nice bite to them and compliment the creamy soup perfectly.  And the chashu was nice and tender, though it did have a mildly gamy/leftovery flavour.

Stellar Ramen at Kyouka Ramen

Kyouka RamenLocation: 2222 Queen Street East, Toronto
Website: https://kyouka.ca/

The Beaches is a bit of a culinary wasteland; there are a lot of restaurants along the main stretch of Queen, but almost none of them are particularly good.

There are exceptions, however.  One of them is Kyouka Ramen; it easily serves some of the best ramen in the city.

Kyouka Ramen

I ordered the namesake Kyouka ramen: “daily chicken + pork broth, kombu dashi, aromatic sesame oil, green chives, bean sprouts, pork + chicken chashu, egg, naruto fish cake, wood ear mushroom, chili paste.”

The broth — a mixture of chicken and pork — is delightful.  It’s got that rich roasty, meaty flavour that you want from a top-shelf bowl of ramen, and it’s got it in spades.  It’s really nicely seasoned, with a good level of salt that helps all the other flavours sing, but never feels overwhelming.  It looks a bit greasy, but it doesn’t feel oily at all.  It’s top notch stuff.

Kyouka Ramen

The rest of the bowl is hit and miss, but the soup itself is so good that it barely even matters.

The noodles were probably the biggest issue.  They were slightly overcooked, and didn’t quite have that satisfying chew that you’re looking for from a great bowl of ramen.

The pork chashu was tender and delicious, with a mild smoky flavour that was quite tasty.  The chicken, however, was slightly dry and a bit tasteless.

Kyouka Ramen

The egg was perfectly cooked, with a nice gooey but not runny yolk — but it was underseasoned and bland.  Everything else was quite good.

Still, that soup was tasty enough that the bowl would easily be in my top five in Toronto.  It’s so good.

White Lily Diner Makes a Mean Meatloaf Sandwich

White Lily DinerLocation: 678 Queen Street East, Toronto
Website: http://whitelilydiner.ca/

At this point, I’ve eaten several of the sandwiches from Toronto Life’s list of the best in the city.  That’s a solid list.  And the meatloaf sandwich from White Lily Diner (Toronto Life’s 12th best sandwich) is absolutely outstanding.

White Lily Diner

The sandwich features a thick slice of meatloaf, mayo, a sweet tomato sauce, and pickles.  An egg is an optional surcharge, but of course you need to get the egg.  Every sandwich is improved by the addition of a fried egg with a gooey yolk.  That’s just science.

Oh, and did I mention that it also comes with a bowl of gravy on the side for dipping?  Because it does, and it’s glorious.

White Lily Diner

It’s an incredibly rich sandwich — there’s the butter-laden toast (which they make in house, and which is amazing), the weighty slice of meatloaf, the fried egg, and of course, the gravy.  That sandwich doesn’t take any prisoners.  It’s not kidding around.

It’s also delicious.  The meatloaf is perfectly spiced while still retaining a nice beefy flavour.  It has a great texture, not to mention a nice crispy exterior from the griddle.  The rich gravy only amps up the beefy flavour.

White Lily Diner

But it’s perfectly balanced; the pickles and the sweet tomato sauce ensure that it never feels one-note rich.

It comes with a salad on the side (and trust me, you don’t need anything heavier than that to accompany this sandwich) which is dressed with a simple vinaigrette; it works as a nice counterpoint to the very rich sandwich.

Another Decent Breakfast Sandwich at Egg Bae

Egg BaeLocation189 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://eggbae.ca/

I think it’s safe to say that Egg Bae isn’t for me.  I think it’s fine — actually, it’s better than fine.  All of their sandwiches use high quality ingredients that are prepared well; they’re just not particularly to my taste.

The last sandwich I tried — the eponymous Egg Bae — was tasty enough, but I found it to be one-note soft and rich.

Egg Bae

This time, I went with a pick from Toronto Life’s list of the 25 best sandwiches in the city: the Eh Bae Bae (“Soft Scrambled Eggs, Sweet and Spicy Bacon, Muenster Cheese, Tomato, Arugula, Pickled Shallots, Bae Sauce”).

Once again, the individual components are all top-notch; the sweet bun is fresh and fluffy, the bacon is meaty and satisfying, the Muenster is nice and gooey, and the eggs are ultra creamy and luxurious.

Egg Bae

But while this sandwich actually has a bit more balance from the pickled shallots, it needs a lot more; it’s incredibly rich.  It does have some texture thanks to the bacon and the veggies, but it’s still mostly just soft overload.

That’s not to mention that between the glazed bacon and the very sweet bun, it’s an intensely sweet sandwich.

Still, it’s enjoyable enough — but considering the quality of the ingredients, it could be so much better.