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: 1 Byng Avenue, North York
Sang-ji bao are basically like a traditional soup dumpling’s (a.k.a. xiao long bao) more rugged cousin. They’re pan fried, with a slightly thicker skin and a dark brown crust on the bottom. Soup dumplings are delicious, but if you want something a bit more hearty, sang-ji bao’s got your back.
And as you’d probably guess from the name, Sang-ji Fried Bao specializes in the stuff. I was pretty excited to try it.
We started with the scallion oil noodles, an absolutely delightful flavour-bomb of oily (but not overly greasy) noodles topped with peanuts and fried scallions. The crunchy peanuts offer a nice crunchy contrast to the chewy noodles, and the imposingly dark fried scallions are packed with flavour and immensely satisfying.
I liked this dish even more than the fried dumplings.
The sang-ji bao were certainly nothing to scoff at — they’re pleasingly porky and packed with scalding hot soup. The wrapper is a bit too thick, however, and the whole thing is a touch on the bland side.
Still, it’s got that satisfyingly crispy bottom, and the whole thing is tasty enough, even if it’s not the best version of these things that I’ve ever had.
Location: 4350 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
I’ve had a lot of noodles over the course of my life, but — until now — I don’t think I’d ever tried potato noodles.
As the name implies, potato noodles are made with potato starch, which gives them a much, much chewier consistency than the norm.
Though I’ve heard good things about the cold noodles Potato Noodle Soup of Bai, I decided to go with the noodle soup — mostly because “noodle soup” is right there in the name.
I got the plain potato noodle soup, which comes with noodles, meatballs, fish balls, half an egg, and various odds and ends in a fiery broth.
The noodles are really interesting. There’s a Korean dish called jjolmyeon that features noodles that are so incredibly chewy you have to cut them with scissors before you start eating. These kind of reminded me of a thicker, slightly less chewy version of those.
The broth was a bit saltier than I’d like, but it was otherwise quite tasty, with a spicy kick and an almost creamy richness that you only get from a stock that’s been simmered for a long, long time.
The whole thing was fairly tasty, though with Sun’s Kitchen just a few steps away, I don’t know that I’d ever eat here again.
Location: 646 Queen Street West, Toronto
I don’t need a whole lot to convince me to try a new ramen joint. Ramen Misoya is a Japanese ramen chain that’s been featured in the Michelin guide, with locations all over the world.
Michelin-featured ramen? That’s pretty much all I need to hear. I’m sold.
(Though the last Michelin-adjacent ramen joint that opened in Toronto, Konjiki Ramen, was pretty disappointing.)
I ordered the gold kome special, which is a pork- and miso-based soup that comes with chasu, half an egg, ground pork, and a couple of potato wedges.
It’s a solid bowl of ramen. The broth has a decent amount of complexity; it’s got a porky richness and a nice miso flavour, and it’s livened up by a mild gingery and garlicky bite. The level of salt is a bit too intense, but it’s otherwise above average.
The noodles were also quite satisfying, with a perfect thickness and a nice firm texture.
The add-ins, sadly, were hit-and-miss. The egg was tasty, with a great gooey yolk. But the chasu was so tough I could barely even bite through it, and had a vaguely gamy flavour.
The potato wedges were just weird; even if these had been perfect I’m not sure they would have worked. And they were undercooked and crunchy, so they definitely didn’t work.
Location: 4040 Creditview Road, Mississauga
A good bowl of noodle soup is just the best. It’s the best. If you disagree, then I’m going to have to respectfully inform you that you’re wrong and that the way you’re living your life is wrong.
And Wonton Chai Noodle’s noodle soup game is strong. Not only that, but it’s delightfully affordable.
Seven bucks gets you a very large, steaming bowl of noodley, shrimpy goodness. The ultra-thin and ultra-firm noodles are really satisfying, and the simple-but-flavourful broth is imminently slurpable (especially when you add a heaping spoonful of the inferno-hot chili oil) — but it’s the wontons where this bowl really shines.
The filling of each wonton is crammed with whole pieces of perfectly cooked shrimp. Shrimp is easy to overcook and turn rubbery, but these were spot-on. And the flavour was just as good, with a rich seafoodiness that makes me want to order a whole pile of these and eat it like a bag of popcorn. The wrapper was ever-so-slightly mushy, but aside from that they were seriously tasty.