Unique Pumpkin Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

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

The pumpkin ramen from Momofuku Noodle Bar is extremely untraditional, and extremely delicious.

From the menu: “kanpyo, cheese, scallion pesto.”

An aside: I’m not sure if I’ve ranted about this before, but menu descriptions that consist solely of a dry recital of ingredients fills me with an unreasonable amount of rage.  Admittedly it’s not a huge issue in this case — it’s ramen, so you know that the dish is, at its core, soup with noodles in it.  But these types of descriptions almost always tell you absolutely nothing about what the dish is going to be.  I know that it’s the way that all the young and hip restaurants are doing it, but if all the young and hip restaurants were jumping off a cliff, would you do that too??

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I digress.  Shoddy menu description notwithstanding, it’s a tasty dish.  I’m guessing the pumpkin is blended right into the soup, which is satisfyingly rich and creamy.  And the add-ons are great; in particular, the crispy breadcrumbs compliment the ramen quite well.  Or at least I think they’re breadcrumbs?  Maybe I should check the menu to see what they are oh wait I can’t.

Whatever they are, they’re nicely seasoned and add some crispy contrast to the bowl.

Everything else works just as well, from the zippy pesto to the gooey cheese.  And the kanpyo (a traditional Japanese ingredient made from a type of gourd) brings some meaty substance.

The noodles are slightly underseasoned and bland, but are otherwise perfectly firm and chewy.  It’s an odd bowl of ramen, but it’s very good.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried the Citrus Pie for dessert, which the menu very helpfully describes as “yuzu, lemon, lime.”  It’s basically a lemon meringue pie.

It’s tasty enough; the desserts here are generally not on the level of the savoury dishes, and this was no exception.  The creamy, citrus-packed filling was actually very good, with just the right amount of tartness that doesn’t overwhelm.  But the crust was a bit on the soggy side, and the meringue was unpleasantly grainy.

Amazing Ramen at Nobuya

NobuyaLocation: 285 Royal York Road, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Ramen-Restaurant/Nobuya

Generally speaking, if Suresh Doss recommends a restaurant, I immediately add it to my list of places to check out.  The man has an almost supernatural gift for sniffing out unsung gems, and his recommendations are always stellar.

But I was particularly excited after reading his write-up on Nobuya, in which he raves about the ramen and calls the karaage “some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever have.”

Nobuya

Nobuya is an interesting place.  The restaurant is decked out in sports paraphernalia, and is entirely a one-man show.  It’s staffed entirely by the owner, who shuttles back and forth between the small dining room and the kitchen.  As you might expect, the service is leisurely, but very friendly.

I started, of course, with the karaage, which was a bit of a let-down.  It’s well seasoned, with a nice light crispiness on its exterior.  But the best versions of karaage are made with juicy dark meat; this was made with dried-out white meat.  It certainly wasn’t bad, but the dryness was a bummer.

Nobuya

But of course, the ramen is what you’re there for.  They have a few varieties on offer, but the owner identified the Tokyo ramen as his favourite, so that’s what I ordered.

Tokyo-style ramen is very, very different than the rich, hearty tonkotsu ramen that’s so omnipresent in the city; it has a much lighter consistency and a delicate flavour which makes it a very refreshing change of pace.

Nobuya

It’s also seriously delicious, with a complex meatiness, a very mild fishy funk, and a subtle sweetness to round things out.  It pulls off that delightful magic trick you’ll find in the best bowls of ramen, where every spoonful seems to bring something new to the table.

The many toppings — things like garlic, green onion, and pickled ginger — only amp up the already delightful flavour.  It’s fantastic.

Nobuya

But then there’s the noodles.  I’m assuming this was a one-time mistake (the bowl was too delicious for it to be anything but an unfortunate glitch), but the noodles in my and my dining companion’s bowl were overcooked to the point of mushiness.  Given how good the rest of the bowl was, this was particularly unfortunate.  But I guess if you’re one guy running an entire restaurant on your own, little slip-ups are bound to happen.

The chashu wasn’t great either, with a slightly tough texture and a gamy flavour.  But again, that soup was so damn good that it really didn’t matter.

Mediocre Khao Soi at Imm Thai Kitchen

Imm Thai KitchenLocation: 651 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Immthaikitchen/

Khao soi is one of those dishes I have a hard time resisting.  The combo of the creamy and vibrant curry soup, the chewy noodles in the bowl, and the crispy fried ones on top add up to a dynamite mix of flavours and textures.

Imm Thai Kitchen

At Imm Thai, I tried a few of the starters before I got to the soup: spring rolls, fresh rolls, and fried sweet potato.  The two types of rolls were both about what you’d expect, but the sweet potato really stood out.  The thin strands of potato were crunchy and addictive — they were basically like a freshly-fried version of Hickory Sticks, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Imm Thai Kitchen

The khao soi, on the other hand — i.e. the reason I wanted to visit the restaurant in the first place — wasn’t the best.  It was fine; I certainly didn’t dislike eating it, but it is absolutely, positively not in the same league as the best bowls of this particular dish.

Imm Thai Kitchen

The “soup” itself is the biggest issue.  And yes, in this case, the word soup definitely needs to be in quotes — the thick, sludgy liquid here was at the consistency of a particularly hearty gravy.

Imm Thai Kitchen

Of course, the broth in a bowl of khao soi is supposed to be a little bit richer than a typical bowl of soup, but this version took that two or three (or four or five) steps too far.

Imm Thai Kitchen

The flavour, too, was a bit one-note, with none of the delightful complexity that makes the best bowls of khao soi really sing.  The crispy noodles on top were nice, if not quite as abundant as you’d like, and the pieces of chicken (you can also pick tofu, shrimp, or lobster) were all dry, personality-free chunks of white meat.

Tasty Noodle Soup at House of Gourmet

House of GourmetLocation: 484 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: http://houseofgourmet.blogspot.com/

Wonton noodle soup is one of those dishes that’s basically always delicious.  I’ve certainly had bowls that are better than others, but I think it’s just fundamentally appealing.  It’s kinda like pizza; it’s hard to mess up, and even when it’s bad, it’s good.

House of Gourmet

And the bowl at House of Gourmet is quite good.  It’s not the best I’ve ever had, but it’s a solid bowl of noodle soup.

House of Gourmet

I was clued into this place thanks to this article, which specifically called out the wonton brisket noodle soup as being the thing to order here.  The addition of fatty, tender, flavourful beef suits the bowl quite well.

Everything else is just as it should be; the soup has a savoury punch, the noodles are nice and firm, and the chunky wontons are quite satisfying.

House of Gourmet

And of course, you’ve gotta add some chili oil to the bowl.  Unlike the stuff I recently had at Ming’s Noodle Cafe, which was crammed with flavour but surprisingly low on spice, a heaping spoonful is all you need to give the bowl a nice kick.

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.