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.

Quality Noodles at Wuhan Noodle 1950

Wuhan Noodle 1950Location: 3621 Highway 7, Markham
Website: https://www.wuhan-noodle-1950.com/

I actually visited Wuhan Noodle and wrote this post back in December, well before all the coronavirus shenanigans and racism that put this place in the news.  To be clear: no, you won’t get the coronavirus by visiting this restaurant.  I wish I were a bit more positive about it now, but here’s what I originally wrote back in December:

Wuhan Noodle 1950

I think I’ve become spoiled by the abundant availability of hand-pulled noodles in the GTA.  Case in point: Wuhan Noodle 1950.   They serve a very tasty bowl of noodles — but it’s hard not to compare them to the places that make their own in-house.

It probably doesn’t help that the dish I ordered — the Wuhan Dry Noodles — is basically all noodles and sauce, which means that the noodles themselves are front-and-centre.

Wuhan Noodle 1950

And the noodles here are perfectly cooked, with a nice firm bite — but they lack that addictive chewiness that you only get when you make them fresh.

Still, the creamy sesame- and peanut-infused sauce is very tasty; the included spoonful of chili oil gives it a mild kick, and the herbs and pickled veg bring some nice pops of flavour that compliment the creamy sauce.

Wuhan Noodle 1950

It’s probably not reasonable to expect every place like this to make their own noodles, and yet… here we are.

Cheap Eats at Ming’s Noodle Cafe

Ming's Noodle CafeLocation: 3447 Kennedy Road, Scarborough
Website: None

Ming’s Noodle Cafe is a Hong-Kong-style diner; it’s also one of those restaurants with a multi-page menu with literally hundreds of choices.  If you’re not sure what to order, the All Day Special is a safe bet, and an absolutely incredible deal.

Ming's Noodle Cafe

For the almost absurdly low price of 7.45, you get an egg sandwich or an omelette with toast on the side, a main meal, and a drink.  It’s an insane deal.

Ming's Noodle Cafe

Is the food amazing?  No, it definitely isn’t; but for that price how can you complain?

Ming's Noodle Cafe

And it’s certainly not bad.  I started with the egg sandwich, which features a tasty, buttery omelette between two fluffy slices of white bread.  The eggs were slightly overcooked, but it was a respectable sandwich.

Ming's Noodle Cafe

Next up was the beef with satay sauce on vermicelli soup.  This was fine; the beef is tender, and the satay sauce is tasty enough.  Nothing about it particularly stands out… until you add a heaping amount of the chili sauce they have on the table, then it really comes alive.

Ming's Noodle Cafe

I wish that sauce were a bit spicier (it’s surprisingly mild) but it’s otherwise sweet, savoury, and addictive, with a face-punch of satisfying flavours.  You can buy a jar to take home for six bucks, and you’d better believe I bought one.

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.