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.

More Delicious Pasta at Shiso Tree Cafe

Shiso Tree CafeLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ShisoTree/

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.”

Shiso Tree Cafe

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.

Shiso Tree Cafe

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.

Passable Taiwanese Food at Chi Chop!!

Chi Chop!!Location: 2352 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: http://chichop.ca/

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!!

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.

Chi Chop!!

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.

Chi Chop!!

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.