Location: 515 Bloor Street West, Toronto
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 520 Bloor Street West, Toronto
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.
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.
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.
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.