Quality Noodle Soup at Big Beef Bowl

Big Beef BowlLocation: 8362 Kennedy Road, Unionville
Website: None

Big Beef Bowl is another place that serves fresh, chewy noodles, which means I’m pretty much going to love it by default.  I’m very easy to please when it comes to a big bowl of delicious noodles.

Big Beef Bowl

I got the braised beef brisket noodles, which comes with your choice from six types of noodles: round or flat, with three thicknesses each.  I got the round noodles in a medium thickness.  And they were great — they might have been ever-so-slightly too soft, but they were otherwise hearty and chewy and satisfying.

Big Beef Bowl

The soup itself wasn’t anything too special, but it got the job done.  It was a bit spicy by default, but was improved immeasurably by a few hearty spoonfuls of the chili oil they’ve got on the table.  You always have to be careful with that particular condiment, because depending on the place, its spiciness ranges from a moderate tingle to volcano hot.   The one at Big Beef Bowl isn’t particularly spicy, but it has a satisfying toasty flavour that really improves the soup.

There were also several chunks of fatty, immensely tender beef brisket.  I could have eaten a whole pile of these.

Satisfying Noodle Soup at GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

GB Hand-Pulled NoodlesLocation: 66 Edward Street, Toronto
Website: None

I’ve mentioned before that chewy hand-pulled noodles are basically the best thing ever.  That continues to be true.  That’ll be true forever.  Hundreds of years from now, when the robots complete their bloody uprising and have wiped out the human race, it’ll continue to be true.  Even robots will enjoy hand-pulled noodles.  Because they’re the best.

And if you’re craving hand-pulled noodles and don’t feel like venturing out into the ‘burbs, you could certainly do worse than GB Hand-Pulled Noodles.

GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

They have a few things on the menu, though the main attraction here is the noodle soup.  You can choose your noodle thickness from seven (!) different options, which range from “super thin” to “extremely wide.”  I went with narrow thick, which is right in the middle.

The soup itself is fine, though it is a bit one-note salty (no one around me finished their broth, nor did I).  The prodigious amount of tasty chili oil that they serve it with certainly helps, but it’s clear that the soup is more of a vehicle for the noodles than something anyone would particularly enjoy on its own.

GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

Aside from the noodles, the other highlight is the thinly-sliced beef, which is tender and flavourful.  The beef at noodle joints like this tends to be hit-and-miss, so I appreciated the level of quality here.

But of course, the reason you’re here is those noodles, which get expertly pulled in full view of the dining room.

GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

The narrow thick noodles that I picked basically look like a particularly weighty spaghetti.  They were chewy, toothsome, and outstanding.  Even by the standards of hand-pulled noodles, these were particularly firm and substantial; I was on the fence about them at first, but they quickly won me over.

Cheap, Satisfying Eats at Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ho Garden Chinese RestaurantLocation: 9255 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
Website: None

If you’re looking for bang for your buck, you’re not going to do much better than Ho Garden, a delightful Hong Kong-style diner in Markham.  I ordered the egg sandwich, which comes with a generous bowl of noodle soup with beef, and a mug of milk tea.  The price?  Seven bucks.  Delightful.

I was a little bit skeptical about the egg sandwich, but aside from the fact that it’s a Hong Kong comfort food staple, a friend strongly recommended it.

Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

I’ll admit it — I was wrong to be skeptical.  It was surprisingly delicious.

It’s the definition of simplicity: it’s just a plain omelette served inside of crustless white bread.  No mayonnaise, no condiments — just eggs, salt, and untoasted bread.  Sounds way too plain, right?  Wrong.

Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

The eggs were fluffy, creamy, and perfectly cooked, and the slightly sweet, light-as-a-cloud bread complimented them perfectly.  Considering its utter simplicity, it was shockingly good.

The noodles — which feature a generous amount of toothsome noodles in a flavourful, slightly spicy broth, topped with tender beef — were quite tasty as well, but it’s that egg sandwich that was clearly the star of the show.

Delightfully Cheap (and Delicious) Noodles at Manpuku

ManpukuLocation: 105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.manpuku.ca/

I just got a bowl of curry udon noodles from Manpuku, and they were both super cheap and super delicious.  What’s better than that?  (I’ll answer for you: nothing.  Nothing is better than that.)

For six bucks, you get a very generous amount of udon noodles in a rich, curry-flavoured broth with some tender potatoes and a heaping pile of sliced pork.  It’s an almost suspiciously good deal; for that little, it really shouldn’t be all that good, right?  But it’s so good.

Manpuku

The broth is rich and delicious, the sliced pork is super tender and infused with that great curry flavour, and the noodles are chewy and perfectly cooked.  The noodles are maybe a little bit bland, but other than that I honestly don’t have any complaints about this bowl.

Manpuku

It’s not the type of thing that’s going to blow anybody’s mind, but it’s rich, hearty, and delicious.  I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more satisfying meal for under six bucks in the GTA.

Ramen Disappointment at Kinton

Kinton RamenLocation: 4026 Confederation Parkway, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.kintonramen.com/

Over the last several years, Toronto has seen an explosion of restaurants serving ramen ( a ramenaissance, even?  No?  That’s the worst and I should delete this blog immediately?  Fair).

Despite this, Mississauga remains almost entirely sad and ramenless.  There’s Kenzo, and… that’s about it.  Kinton opening a location here is kind of a big deal.

Their grand opening is today, and to celebrate, they’re offering 50% off all of their ramen.  I showed up a few minutes after they opened, and not surprisingly, the line-up outside was intense.

Kinton Ramen

It’s a nice day, so I figured sure, why not?  It’s been a while since I’ve had the ramen at Kinton, but my recollection was that it was some of the best in the city.

About 40 minutes later, I had a steaming bowl of original shio (salt) ramen with pork.

First, the good: the noodles were great.  You can choose between thick and thin; I went with thick, and they were top-notch.  They had just the right amount of heft, with a nicely firm, springy texture.  I saw some people eating the thin noodles, and they looked way too delicate.  Thick is clearly the way to go.

Kinton Ramen

The pieces of pork were also exceptional; they were super tasty and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  And while the egg wasn’t great (it was undercooked and runny), it was also quite tasty.

Alas, great noodles and pork does not a great bowl of ramen make.

The broth — a.k.a. the heart and soul of a bowl of ramen — was lacking.  Kinton serves tonkotsu ramen, in which pork bones are boiled down for hours and hours until you get a thick, creamy broth.  And they had obviously done something right: the rich broth was indeed thick and creamy.

Kinton Ramen

But the flavour just wasn’t there.  It was bland.  It wasn’t bad at first, but the deficit of taste gets more and more blatant as you go, and by the end of the bowl I was sick of eating it.  I actually left some soup in my bowl, which I pretty much never do.  Not because I was full, but because it was getting monotonous.

The thing about a great bowl of ramen (or even just a good one) is that every mouthful seems to unlock something new; it’s like a symphony of flavours.  Meanwhile, the bowl at Kinton was more like one sad tuba.

It’s literally their first day in existence, so it’s possible that they’re just working out the kinks — but since they’re a chain with nine other locations, I have my doubts.