Location: 421 College Street, Toronto
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Location: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
I mentioned recently that I generally prefer checking out restaurants I haven’t tried over revisiting ones I have. There are, however, exceptions to that rule, such as: Shiso Tree Cafe, a restaurant that fuses Japanese and Italian cuisine with some seriously delicious results.
On this visit I had the shoyu mushroom spaghetti: “shimeji, enoki, king oyster mushrooms in mentsuyu butter sauce.”
It’s so good. It looks a little bit dry in the photo; a lot of the sauce is at the bottom of the bowl, but once you mix it up, it becomes creamy and amazing (and the sauce is rich enough to cling perfectly to the pasta — there wasn’t any left in the bowl when the spaghetti was done).
It has an incredibly satisfying buttery/savoury flavour, and the various types of mushrooms add a nice variety of textures and flavours. It’s a top-notch bowl of pasta.
It’s also an incredible deal; every pasta on their lunch menu costs twelve bucks and comes with a salad, soup, and a slice of garlic bread. The salad looks a little sad, but features a sesame-infused dressing that’s a cut above the standard Japanese-inspired salad dressing you’re expecting. The creamy seafood soup is rich, flavourful, and packed with tasty chunks of seafood — it’s way better than a free soup has any right to be. The garlic bread is quite tasty, too.
Location: 2352 Yonge Street, Toronto
You wouldn’t particularly know it from what they’re serving at Chi Chop (sorry — Chi Chop!!), but Taiwanese food is pretty great. It has a lot in common with Chinese cuisine, but it’s also got its own thing going on in some very delightful ways.
Chi Chop (!!) serves Taiwanese-style fried chicken, and it’s fine. I got the Ninja crispy chicken bento box, which comes with a generous piece of boneless fried chicken, rice, a salad, three small spring rolls, and miso soup.
Nothing particularly stands out. The fried chicken isn’t bad, but it’s made from white meat, and it’s predictably dry. It’s also a bit too aggressively battered, with an overly thick exterior.
Still, I didn’t dislike eating it. It’s nicely seasoned, and there’s nothing blatantly wrong with it. It’s missing the sauce from the photo on their menu (which would have been nice), but… I don’t know. It didn’t offend me. It’s a shrug. An edible shrug.
It probably doesn’t help that the set is a bit muddled; the chicken is Taiwanese, the soup is Japanese, and the spring rolls taste Filipino (they have a separate section of the menu dedicated to Filipino cuisine). It definitely feels like a “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation.
Location: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Bun Rieu — a Vietnamese crab noodle soup — is one of those dishes that’s everything at once. It’s alternately sweet, salty, savoury, meaty, fishy, and sour. It’s quite rich, but vibrant enough that it never feels overly heavy.
The version at Bong Lua isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s quite tasty. The broth lacks the rich complexity of the best versions of this dish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
There’s a great interplay between the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the fishy funk from the crab. That’s not the mention the chewy rice noodles, which suit the dish perfectly. It’s a solid bowl of soup.
Location: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Sometimes, I just don’t have all that much to say about a particular dish. When something is fine — not particularly good, but not particularly bad — it can be difficult to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about it.
The tonkotsu ramen at Santosei is one of those dishes. The only exceptional thing about it is how exceptionally middle-of-the-road it is.
There are some things about it that I liked, however. You can choose thick or thin noodles — I went with thick, and they were chewy and satisfying. And the broth has a rich porkiness that’s pretty tasty. But it’s a bit one-note in its flavour, and it’s intensely salty.
The chasu wasn’t bad, but I think it needed to cook for slightly longer, as it had a vaguely rubbery texture. The egg was nice, but ice cold.
Even by the standards of ramen in Toronto, what they’re serving at Santosei is quite ho-hum. But… I don’t know. It’s fine, I guess?