Subtle, Tasty Ramen at Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Hakata Shoryuken RamenLocation: 225 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.hakatashoryuken.com/

A lot of times, the broth in a bowl of Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen can be overwhelmingly porky.  The one-note pork flavour can get a bit wearying.

I’m normally not a big condiments guy — I’ll just eat it as it comes — but with this type of ramen, condiments tend to be necessary.  In particular, pickled ginger does a good job of adding some vibrancy and cutting through the soup’s richness.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Oddly, however, the Hakata ramen at Hakata Shoryuken Ramen has the opposite problem; the flavour isn’t in-your-face at all.  It’s surprisingly mellow.

It’s unexpectedly low-key, but quite tasty.  The soup is nice and creamy, and though the porky flavour is subtle, it’s definitely there.  It’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s a pleasant bowl of soup.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

The pickled ginger was still necessary, however — it gave the soup some welcome pops of flavour.  It’s a fifty cent add-on, but it’s worth ordering.

The egg was another add-on ($1.50), and it wasn’t great.  It was bland, and the texture was just odd — it was somewhere between an onsen tamago and a traditional ramen egg, and it wasn’t as good as either.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Everything else was solid.  The chashu, in particular, was tender, tasty, and perfectly fatty.  The noodles were slightly too soft, but otherwise got the job done.

Sad Disappointment at Crazy Crepes

Crazy CrepesLocation: 366 Church Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.crazycrepescanada.com/

Sometimes, you know you’re in trouble before you even take a bite.  This was definitely the case at Crazy Crepes, a Japanese chain that serves sweet and savoury crepes.

It was game over before it even began; as soon as I ordered my crepe, the woman behind the counter went for a big pile of pre-made crepes and started putting mine together.

Crazy Crepes

I’m not sure why, but crepes are one of those foods that deteriorate in quality within minutes of being made.  Fresh crepes are delicious; old crepes are a pale imitation of their previous selves.

I’m sorry, but when it comes to crepes: make it fresh or GTFO.  Yes, I’ll wait.  Get out of here with that dry, rubbery garbage.

Crazy Crepes

I ordered the Strawberry & Kiwi Fresh Cream crepe, which the menu notes is one of their signature creations, and of course, it never had a chance.  The kiwi and strawberries were both pretty sour, but if the crepe had been really good, it still could have been tasty.  Alas.

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).

Empty Instagram Bait at Taiyaki NYC

Taiyaki NYCLocation: 128 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://taiyakinyc.com/

Taiyaki NYC is basically the same concept as Sukoi Desserts, in which a taiyaki (a Japanese waffle-like dessert in the shape of a fish) is filled with ice cream and other toppings.

It’s a dessert that’s tailor-made for Instagram; in fact, Taiyaki NYC even has a portion of their wall made entirely of flowers to make your photo really pop.  I just wish they put in half as much effort to make the food pop.

It’s a dessert I should love.  Ice cream is great.  Taiyaki is great.  Cramming those two things together should be a home run.  And yet…

Taiyaki NYC

I went with the Mangonificient, which is supposedly one of their most popular flavours — it features a mango/vanilla swirl inside a custard taiyaki.

The ice cream is the biggest issue.  It’s not good — it has a decent mango flavour, but it’s icy and thin.  It’s topped with a cookie and a few tiny cubes of tasteless mochi on a stick.  It looks impressive, but the taste is another story.

Taiyaki NYC

I will say, however, that the taiyaki itself is actually quite good.  It’s nice and fresh, with a crispy exterior and a perfectly cakey/fluffy interior.   They sell them on their own, which is clearly the thing to order.  It probably won’t be much of a hit on social media, though, so what’s the point, right?

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.