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.

Surprisingly Tasty Carbonara at Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese

Bobbie Sue's Mac + CheeseLocation: 162 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://bobbiesues.com/

I was pretty much completely blown away by the carbonara at Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese.  It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but in all the best ways.

I sort of figured it was going to be some kind of bizarre mash-up of mac and cheese and carbonara, but it definitely wasn’t that.  It was actually a legit bowl of carbonara, and it was delightful.

Bobbie Sue's Mac + Cheese

The menu describes the carbonara as “pancetta + Grana Padano + egg yolk.” I really enjoyed it.

The diced pancetta (and yes, it was pancetta, as it should be — not bacon) was abundant and nicely crisped up — it was crispy, salty, and porky.  The sauce was rich and creamy from the egg yolks, with a nice cheesy kick from the Grana Padano (an Italian cheese that’s very similar to Parmesan).  And the pasta was perfectly al dente.

Bobbie Sue's Mac + Cheese

It was maybe slightly too dry, but aside from that it was shockingly good.  You’re barely expecting a bowl of carbonara from an actual Italian restaurant to be that delicious, let alone a mac and cheese take-out window that doesn’t have a seating area.  It’s a really delightful surprise.

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.

A Simple but Tasty Sandwich at Cluny

ClunyLocation: 35 Tank House Lane, Toronto
Website: https://clunybistro.com/

Cluny is a French bistro in the Distillery District that also has an attached bakery where they sell various pastries and sandwiches.

Cluny

The bakery has the requisite sweets, of course, along with a handful of tasty looking sandwiches and savoury pastries (the quiche looked good, as did the tourtiere).  I went with the ham and brie sandwich.

I got it toasted, though I think untoasted might be the better option.  Toasting gets the bread a little too crunchified, and melts the fat in the ham, making the sandwich a drippy, greasy mess.

Cluny

Even so, it’s a tasty sandwich.  The bread, even in its over-crunched form, is top-notch, and the speck ham and brie work nicely together.  It’s a simple sandwich, but if you’re dealing with high quality ingredients that compliment each other well, further ornamentation is unnecessary.