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.

Mediocre Khao Soi at Imm Thai Kitchen

Imm Thai KitchenLocation: 651 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Immthaikitchen/

Khao soi is one of those dishes I have a hard time resisting.  The combo of the creamy and vibrant curry soup, the chewy noodles in the bowl, and the crispy fried ones on top add up to a dynamite mix of flavours and textures.

Imm Thai Kitchen

At Imm Thai, I tried a few of the starters before I got to the soup: spring rolls, fresh rolls, and fried sweet potato.  The two types of rolls were both about what you’d expect, but the sweet potato really stood out.  The thin strands of potato were crunchy and addictive — they were basically like a freshly-fried version of Hickory Sticks, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Imm Thai Kitchen

The khao soi, on the other hand — i.e. the reason I wanted to visit the restaurant in the first place — wasn’t the best.  It was fine; I certainly didn’t dislike eating it, but it is absolutely, positively not in the same league as the best bowls of this particular dish.

Imm Thai Kitchen

The “soup” itself is the biggest issue.  And yes, in this case, the word soup definitely needs to be in quotes — the thick, sludgy liquid here was at the consistency of a particularly hearty gravy.

Imm Thai Kitchen

Of course, the broth in a bowl of khao soi is supposed to be a little bit richer than a typical bowl of soup, but this version took that two or three (or four or five) steps too far.

Imm Thai Kitchen

The flavour, too, was a bit one-note, with none of the delightful complexity that makes the best bowls of khao soi really sing.  The crispy noodles on top were nice, if not quite as abundant as you’d like, and the pieces of chicken (you can also pick tofu, shrimp, or lobster) were all dry, personality-free chunks of white meat.

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).

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles at Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle

Gol's Lanzhou NoodleLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://lanzhou.ca/

There’s something both delightful and bizarre about the presence of Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle in Square One’s food court.  It’s hard to imagine a place serving legit Chinese hand-pulled noodles — nestled between a KFC and a cheesesteak joint — being able to exist in a suburban shopping mall like Square One even just a decade ago.

But it’s here now, and it’s surprisingly great.

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

I had the beef noodle soup, and I was shocked at how good it was.  It’s not the best bowl of noodles you’ll ever eat, but it’s seriously tasty for something in a mall’s food court.  It’s not even in Square One’s fancy new “Food District” — it’s in the plain old food court, right near places like A&W and Manchu Wok.

(Sorry, I know I’m harping on its location, but it kinda blows my mind.)

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

And yes, they serve real-deal hand-pulled noodles; they’re freshly pulled to order, and you can watch them do it (which is always an oddly hypnotic display).

It’s a tasty bowl.  The soup is a bit too salty, but it has a clean beefy flavour with a nice hit of freshness from the cilantro.  It comes with a healthy amount of chili oil on the side; I wish this stuff were spicier (it’s just barely hot), but it has a fantastic smoky/savoury flavour that really kicks up the flavour of the soup.

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

The sliced beef had a slight leftovery flavour, but was otherwise tender and enjoyable.

And the medium-thick noodles are great.  They were ever-so-slightly on the soft side, but they were nice and hearty, with a satisfying level of chew.

Tasty Miso Ramen at Ramen Isshin

Ramen IsshinLocation: 421 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.ramenisshin.com/

Ramen Isshin is a beloved ramen joint on College near Bathurst — so beloved, in fact, that my phone popped up with a notification out of the blue to recommend it to me, and told me there’s a 97 percent chance that I’ll like it.  97 percent!  It’s hard to argue with that level of certainty.

Ramen Isshin

And yeah, I liked it.  My phone was correct.

I went with the miso ramen: “Isshin Red Miso blend, wok fried pork, onions, bean sprouts, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, chives green onions, pork belly cha shu & thick twisty noodles.”

Ramen Isshin

It’s quite tasty.  The tonkotsu broth has a vibrant flavour that’s a bit one-note in its salty/savoury intensity, but still quite satisfying.  It’s not the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had, but even average ramen is better than most other dishes.

Ramen Isshin

Aside from the broth, all of the add-ins are quite tasty: in particular, the bean sprouts add a nice fresh crunch that helps to balance the bowl’s richness, and the ground pork amps up its meaty flavour.

As for the noodles, they’re thick, chewy, and satisfying.  It’s a tasty bowl of soup.