Tasty Japanese Noodles at Raku

Raku
Location
: 456 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://rakunyc.com/

If you’re looking for a Japanese noodle fix and you want something a bit different from the now-ubiquitous ramen shops throughout the GTA, Raku is worth a shot.

Raku specializes in udon noodles — which are thicker and chewier than ramen noodles — that they serve either hot or cold.  I went with one of the cold choices, though I started with the yaki nasu: “deep fried eggplant, spicy miso pork, quail egg.”

Raku

The waitress explained that you should mix this one up so that the egg combines with the eggplant and the pork.  The eggplant is soft, but still has some texture, and works very well with the meaty ground pork.  The miso gives it an addictively savoury flavour, and the egg cranks up its silky richness.  It’s a tasty dish.

Raku

As for the star of the show, I went with the zaru: “chilled noodles, dipping sauce.”

Raku

It’s a really simple dish; the dipping sauce basically tastes like a milder soy sauce.  It really comes alive once you jazz it up with the accompanying green onions, mushrooms, wasabi, and the quail egg (not to mention the little dish of shichimi togarashi — a zippy Japanese spice blend — on the table).

Raku

The noodles are really the star of the show here, and they’re great, with a hearty chewiness that stands up nicely to the flavourful sauce.

Quick Bites: Pizzeria Via Napoli, Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine, Nani’s Gelato

Pizzeria Via Napoli
Margherita pizza from Pizzeria Via Napoli

I suppose you could order something from a Neapolitan pizza joint that isn’t a margherita pizza, but why would you?  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the perfect food.  It’s also a great test of a restaurant’s chops, because it’s so simple that if your technique isn’t on point, and if the ingredients you’re working with aren’t great, it’s going to show.  Pizzeria Via Napoli’s version absolutely hits it out of the park; the crust is flavourful, perfectly chewy, and has a good amount of char on its exterior (including the bottom of the slice).  And the other ingredients are just right.  Margherita test: passed!

Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine
Ramen from Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine

Speaking of food that’s perfect: ramen.  It’s the best.  I ordered the tonkotsu ramen from Ikkoi (they serve several other styles of ramen, along with sushi and other Japanese standbys), and it’s pretty decent.  Is it the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever had?  No; their menu is so broad that they’re probably spreading themselves a bit thin.  But there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with it.  I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but if you’re in the area and you’re craving a bowl of ramen, it’s worth a shot.

Nani's Gelato
Dark Chocolate Oreo at Nani’s Gelato

Nani’s continues to be great.  I don’t particularly feel the need to write about Nani’s every time I eat there, because I think it’s fairly clear by this point that I think Nani’s serves some truly stellar gelato.  But I would like to note that, even though it’s not technically on the menu, Nani’s does have a kids size cup that’s pretty much the perfect amount if you’re not super hungry.  It’s the same size cup as the small, but the gelato pretty much only goes to the brim instead of being mounded way up.  I’m not sure why they don’t advertise this size, but I’m definitely glad I know it exists.  And now you do too!

An Onion Assault at Tondou Ramen

Tondou RamenLocation: 596 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.tondouramentoronto.com/

I noticed after the fact that Tondou Ramen bills itself as “the one and only Okinawan restaurant in Toronto.”  That being the case, I probably should have ordered the Okinawa soba instead of the shio ramen.  Oh well.

Tondou Ramen

Still, the shio ramen was mostly quite tasty, with a fairly large caveat that, to be fair, mostly applies to me and weirdos like me.  Specifically: people who hate raw onion.

Tondou Ramen

I’m a card-carrying raw onion hater, so you can take all of my opinions on the matter with a grain of salt, but the ramen here was a bit much.  It’s topped with the usual green onion (which I’m normally okay with) along with a generous amount of sliced white onions, and it’s onion overload.

Tondou Ramen

The problem is that the soup itself, which the menu describes as a “light chicken broth,” has such a subtle flavour that it can’t help but be overwhelmed by the raw onion assault.  It’s all you can taste.  It completely overpowers the delicate broth.

Tondou Ramen

Still, everything else about the bowl was quite good, particularly the perfectly chewy fresh noodles.

I also tried the takoyaki (A.K.A. octopus balls), which was very good; oddly, the balls are deep fried (is that an Okinawan thing?), which gives them a delightfully crisp exterior.

A Tasty Bowl at Musoshin Ramen

Musoshin RamenLocation: 9 Boustead Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.musoshin.com/

I think ramen might be my favourite dish of all time, which means the last year and change has been a long, sad, ramenless slog.

(Yes, there is instant ramen, but that’s not even remotely the same.  You could also make it yourself, but that’s an all day project and it’s never going to be as good as what you can get at even a half-decent ramen shop.)

Musoshin Ramen

Well, ramen is finally back in my life, and, of course, it’s delightful.  Musoshin is actually a small Japanese ramen chain (they have three locations in Kyoto) that recently opened in Toronto, and yeah, it’s good.

I started with the karaage, which features very crispy pieces of juicy boneless chicken thigh; this was maybe slightly too salty, but was otherwise packed with flavour and was top-notch fried chicken.

Musoshin Ramen

Next up was the ramen: I went with the namesake Musoshin Ramen, which features a porky tonkotsu broth — it has a very rich, roasty flavour with a lot going on (is it made with seafood, too?  Because it definitely has some subtle seafoody notes).  It borders on being a bit overwhelming in its flavour, but it never crosses that line.  It’s very tasty.

Musoshin Ramen

The noodles were quite good, too, with a springy texture and a satisfying level of thickness.  The egg costs extra, but it’s nice and creamy and worth the two dollar surcharge.

The chashu, on the other hand, is the bowl’s clear weak spot.  It was pretty dry and had a very pronounced gamy, leftovery flavour.  Everything else is delicious enough that this doesn’t really matter, but it’s a bummer nonetheless.

Musoshin Ramen

I had the strawberry mochi for dessert, and it was the perfect way to end the meal.  Featuring a full strawberry surrounded by sweet red bean paste with a chewy mochi wrapper, this was a delightful mix of chewy and creamy with a perfect level of sweetness.

Classic Pork Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Apparently Momofuku has been open in Toronto for eight years.  I was under the impression that it was more like three or four years, which doesn’t seem like a huge difference but kind of shook me to my core.

Well, maybe that’s overstating it, but seriously: where does the time go?  It’s like one second you can comfortably call yourself young, then the next second you realize that you’re practically middle-aged, and when the hell did that happen??

But I digress.  We’re talkin’ about noodles here.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried the classic bowl of pork ramen at Momofuku back when it opened, and my recollection is that it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly special.

It’s better than I remembered.  I don’t think anyone is going to call it the best ramen in the city, but it’s a top notch bowl of noodle soup.

The broth is quite tasty, with a nice porky flavour.  It comes with a scoop of sweet chili paste on top; the bowl really gets going once you mix that in.  It adds a nice sweet/savoury punch that does a great job of complementing the porkiness of the broth.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The noodles are nice and chewy, and the toppings are all great — in particular, the delightfully fatty thick-cut chashu is super tender, and the egg (which is a Japanese-style soft-boiled egg — a.k.a. onsen tamago — rather than a standard ramen egg) adds a silky richness that compliments the slightly sweet broth quite well.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried a couple of other things.  There was the fried calamari, which is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a tasty mayo-based dipping sauce on the side.  And it’s hard to go to Momofuku and not get one of their buns; I tried the shiitake buns, which feature meaty mushrooms tossed in hoisin sauce.  Hoisin is one of those things that could make basically anything taste good, so yeah, it was good.