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.

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).

Extremely Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar

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

After my recent disappointment with Canada’s so-called hottest burrito, I found myself craving extreme spice.  That burrito was a complete buzzkill.  You can’t get me all hyped up to eat something stupidly spicy and then serve a regular burrito with a little bit of hot sauce on the side.  That’s not cool.

The Very Extremely Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar was just what the doctor ordered.

I knew it would be; I tried it a couple of years ago and found it to be quite tasty, but spicy enough that I needed a year or two to want to eat it again (especially when there’s so much good stuff on the menu at the Noodle Bar).  But enough time had passed for me to go for round two.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

It is definitely as advertised.  It’s extremely spicy, but not so ridiculous that it’s inedible.  It’s a very, very spicy dish, but it’s clearly designed to be delicious, and not to be something you’d only eat on a dare.

It’s an explosion of flavours; it’s spicy, garlicky, fermented, and funky.  It also has that numbing heat from Sichuan peppercorns, which helps to balance out the extreme spice.

The explosive sauce and the chewy noodles are a great combo.  Assuming you have a decent tolerance for spice, it’s seriously delicious (and the glass of soy milk that comes on the side does a decent job of cooling down the inferno in your mouth).

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I also tried the hot cocoa soft serve, which the menu describes as “chocolate, coffee, ancho, cocoa cookie”; this wasn’t quite as good.

I think the main issue is that it’s clearly mislabeled — it tastes way more strongly of coffee than chocolate.  It’s basically coffee ice cream with mild chocolatey undertones, and a surprisingly restrained level of sweetness.

I don’t particularly like coffee, but if you do I’m sure you’ll find this delicious.  The ice cream has an amazingly smooth and creamy consistency, but the coffee flavour was way too intense for me.

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.