Classic Pork Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

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

Apparently Momofuku has been open in Toronto for eight years.  I was under the impression that it was more like three or four years, which doesn’t seem like a huge difference but kind of shook me to my core.

Well, maybe that’s overstating it, but seriously: where does the time go?  It’s like one second you can comfortably call yourself young, then the next second you realize that you’re practically middle-aged, and when the hell did that happen??

But I digress.  We’re talkin’ about noodles here.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried the classic bowl of pork ramen at Momofuku back when it opened, and my recollection is that it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly special.

It’s better than I remembered.  I don’t think anyone is going to call it the best ramen in the city, but it’s a top notch bowl of noodle soup.

The broth is quite tasty, with a nice porky flavour.  It comes with a scoop of sweet chili paste on top; the bowl really gets going once you mix that in.  It adds a nice sweet/savoury punch that does a great job of complementing the porkiness of the broth.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The noodles are nice and chewy, and the toppings are all great — in particular, the delightfully fatty thick-cut chashu is super tender, and the egg (which is a Japanese-style soft-boiled egg — a.k.a. onsen tamago — rather than a standard ramen egg) adds a silky richness that compliments the slightly sweet broth quite well.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried a couple of other things.  There was the fried calamari, which is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a tasty mayo-based dipping sauce on the side.  And it’s hard to go to Momofuku and not get one of their buns; I tried the shiitake buns, which feature meaty mushrooms tossed in hoisin sauce.  Hoisin is one of those things that could make basically anything taste good, so yeah, it was good.

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.

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).