Ramen. Yep.

I can’t recall if I’ve professed my ridiculous affinity for sushi previously (let’s just assume yes, or at least assume me bringing it up is professing enough). I adore all the various textures and flavours of fresh sashimi (though FYI, stick to salmon in low-end places-they’re probably not moving as much eel or somesuch), all the various topped rolls, and the staple negiri sushi. I’m also aware this merely a facet of Japanese cuisine, and I like extending my culinary horizons bit by bit, so when I was made aware of a decent Ramen joint near Yonge & Dundas Square (Toronto’s Times Square in the making-give it another decade or two), I needed to hit it up (though from what I’ve read/been told, ramen is based on chinese noodle soups of a similar nature, and these also share a lot in common with Korean soups as well).

So, Kenzo Ramen, my first impression was sheer excitement at seeing the exterior sign (my initial visit was during a downpour, so imminent shelter warmed my soul a tad), but this was tamped down slightly when we went inside; the interior is fairly typical of cheap ethnic restaurants of varying flavours, but the chairs were those awful things you expect to see in a library somewhere-low backed and upholstered in what looks to be old carpet samples, with those horribly lacquered legs that look like they have a half inch of varnish on them. It gave the place somewhat of a hasty, thrown together look. That’s fine. When it’s around $15 for a pop and a half-bucket of soup, I’m not going to be letting the decor affect my opinion too readily.

Taking NOW weekly’s advice, I tried the King of Kings Ramen, and it sure as hell delivered.  It has an array of toppings adorning its crown (5, according to the menu!)-a few slices of pork, nicely cooked, and fairly tender, a kamaboko fishcake (with the naruto swirl. It tastes like pressed ham), a soft-boiled egg (the center is gooey, it was awesome), scallions, and some seaweed.

It's 5am, and this image still makes me want more, right now!

The toppings are merely a little treat to snack on during your trek to the bottom of the bowl (comparable to the ones you get at Thai places-seems like a litre of liquid or more), as the true star of the show is the broth. Spicy, sweet, savoury, the broth has a nice array of flavours too it that mingle and linger on your tongue. It’s one of those piquant dishes though, where the heat seems almost negligible with your first slurp, and slowly builds up until you realize you’re sweating. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be kept in mind by Spice Wimps.

You can almost smell it...

Lurking under the toppings in the broth are the noodles, which…are noodles. Sorry, not enough of a pasta fan to really care about elucidating further about them. They were noodley and I ate them. There were also sprouts, which I adore, mushrooms…which I don’t adore, and some sort of strange black rubbery thing that may have been another variety of mushroom, or may have been the hide of some alien creature known only the waters of Japan. Those last two ingredients were avoided (and possibly shared with more willing recipients at the table with me. Well, the black things were just discarded entirely).

Same dish, different visit. Colour difference is do to lighting

Now, given my last post (quite a while back, jeez) was all about the woes of service, what was it like here? Well, the first visit was around 50 minutes before close, and was fairly prompt and pleasant enough, though I was a little miffed when with nearly 20 minutes to go, our bill was handed to us, and we were told to come pay as soon as possible as they closed promptly at 10…so when 2 different couples were sat by the hostess at 9:55…yeah. The waiter was admittedly quite brusque with them, but I still found it slightly at odds with the notion that the door would be locked behind us at 10:00.

My second visit was at lunch a few days later (and where the much better shots of the food come from, thanks, Natural Lighting!), and again, I had the KoK ramen. It was still delicious. The afternoon waiter was a lot more laid back, but still managed to bring our bill when we seemed to have idled for a few minutes, but didn’t really pester us about it, so it was more of a convenience to pay at our leisure.

I need some sort of small baby to sit next to this, to demonstrate the scale of the bowl...

Both times, I actually managed to only make it through around 3/4ths of the soup-whether leaving broth or sprouts and errata veggies behind. This is a thoroughly hearty, filling meal in a small tub, and I don’t begrudge anyone who feels they’ve eaten their fill long before they hit the bottom.

I plan on returning again soon, but I may be daring and try more of the menu, as everything looks tasty.

Until next time.


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