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.

Tasty Miso Ramen at Ramen Isshin

Ramen IsshinLocation: 421 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.ramenisshin.com/

Ramen Isshin is a beloved ramen joint on College near Bathurst — so beloved, in fact, that my phone popped up with a notification out of the blue to recommend it to me, and told me there’s a 97 percent chance that I’ll like it.  97 percent!  It’s hard to argue with that level of certainty.

Ramen Isshin

And yeah, I liked it.  My phone was correct.

I went with the miso ramen: “Isshin Red Miso blend, wok fried pork, onions, bean sprouts, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, chives green onions, pork belly cha shu & thick twisty noodles.”

Ramen Isshin

It’s quite tasty.  The tonkotsu broth has a vibrant flavour that’s a bit one-note in its salty/savoury intensity, but still quite satisfying.  It’s not the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had, but even average ramen is better than most other dishes.

Ramen Isshin

Aside from the broth, all of the add-ins are quite tasty: in particular, the bean sprouts add a nice fresh crunch that helps to balance the bowl’s richness, and the ground pork amps up its meaty flavour.

As for the noodles, they’re thick, chewy, and satisfying.  It’s a tasty bowl of soup.

More Delicious Pasta at Shiso Tree Cafe

Shiso Tree CafeLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ShisoTree/

I mentioned recently that I generally prefer checking out restaurants I haven’t tried over revisiting ones I have.  There are, however, exceptions to that rule, such as: Shiso Tree Cafe, a restaurant that fuses Japanese and Italian cuisine with some seriously delicious results.

On this visit I had the shoyu mushroom spaghetti: “shimeji, enoki, king oyster mushrooms in mentsuyu butter sauce.”

Shiso Tree Cafe

It’s so good.  It looks a little bit dry in the photo; a lot of the sauce is at the bottom of the bowl, but once you mix it up, it becomes creamy and amazing (and the sauce is rich enough to cling perfectly to the pasta — there wasn’t any left in the bowl when the spaghetti was done).

It has an incredibly satisfying buttery/savoury flavour, and the various types of mushrooms add a nice variety of textures and flavours.  It’s a top-notch bowl of pasta.

Shiso Tree Cafe

It’s also an incredible deal; every pasta on their lunch menu costs twelve bucks and comes with a salad, soup, and a slice of garlic bread.  The salad looks a little sad, but features a sesame-infused dressing that’s a cut above the standard Japanese-inspired salad dressing you’re expecting.  The creamy seafood soup is rich, flavourful, and packed with tasty chunks of seafood — it’s way better than a free soup has any right to be.  The garlic bread is quite tasty, too.

Middling Taiyaki at Sukoshi Mart

Sukoshi MartLocation: 160 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.sukoshimart.com/

Sukoshi Mart is a little Japanese convenience store in Kensington Market that sells hard-to-find Japanese goods.  They also sell freshly-made taiyaki, a waffle-like dessert that’s traditionally filled with either red bean or custard.

Sukoshi Mart

I like this place.  If you’re looking for Japanese snacks or candy, it’s worth a visit.

The taiyaki, on the other hand?  Not so much.

Sukoshi Mart

It’s fine.  It’s perfectly edible, but the exterior is dense and doughy, and the red bean is overly sweet.  It’s also misshapen and haphazard, so it doesn’t even have the (usually) delightful visual component.  It’s not the best.

Tasty Japanese Cream Buns at Hattendo Cafe

Hattendo CafeLocation: 13 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.hattendo.ca/

One of the things that takes some getting used to in Asia is that some countries there consider white bread to essentially be a dessert.  More than once, I’ve gone to a convenience store and bought what appears to be a Twinkie-esque pastry, only to realize that it’s just a plain white bun, like a hot dog bun.

Hattendo Cafe

Which is to say that if you’ve never had the type of Japanese cream bun they serve at Hattendo, you might be surprised to discover that the bun itself is basically just a soft, fluffy hamburger bun.  Once you get used to it, however, it’s quite tasty.

I tried three: custard, chocolate, and red bean.  The bun itself is quite nice.  It’s soft, fluffly, and just a little bit sweet.

Hattendo Cafe

The custard was my least favourite of the three flavours.  It was nice and creamy, but the flavour was middling; there just wasn’t much to it.

The chocolate was much better, with a pronounced cocoa-infused flavour and a satisfyingly restrained level of sweetness.

Hattendo Cafe

The red bean was the best of the three.  If you normally don’t like beany sweets, this might just be the perfect gateway dessert — it’s super creamy and tasty, with a really nice balance between the creamy custard and the sweet red beans.