Santouka Ramen (91 Dundas St. East, Toronto)

I checked out Santouka Ramen bar as part of my research to find out exactly what this ramen craze is all about. Personally, the Japanese staple conjures up memories of crackling sounds of colorful packages with dehydrated squares of pasta. I’ve made a couple of packs a few times when real food supply ran low.  Not known as the tasty thing out there, but did the job quickly and economically.

So I went for an early lunch just before the hungry rush to Santouka, a popular ramen chain straight out of the Japanese Islands.  The crowd cornered in with amazing speed eager for their tasty treats.  We sat down quickly in the small open concept kitchen dining space and ordered fast.  Get the drift?  Quick in and out, no messin’ around!

Two orders of Cha-Shu ramen and an order gyozo (Japanese dumplings) were taken lightning fast and appeared in front of us even faster!  The portion was significantly smaller than most ramen spots, but one scoop of the simmering rich pork broth made you go in for more.  It had depth other ramen houses lacked.  The flavours were intense, yet not overpowering and the seasoning was spot on.  The noodles were hearty with great texture and the pork ventured leaps and bounds above and beyond other ramen houses.  I had trouble with the pork when I first tried ramen “real Japanese style”.  It was boiled and simply draped on top of the noodles.  Its often bland, dry and leathery with zero caramelization!  I was truly bothered to no end!  Santouka, however, also didn’t caramelize their pork, but it was tender and robust with spices and had great texture.

photo (5)At about $16 a bowl, Santouka’s Cha-Shu ramen was by far the tastiest!  The small restaurant elevated the dish above the others I have tried so far.  Still, it was a unanimous decision that although tasty, ramen is still not on the top of the list of must-go-back-for-more eats!