A good friend of mine was craving ramen and asked to go to Kenzo in Waterloo. Given that Waterloo isn’t the best place for ramen, I decided to take him to one of my favourite ramen joints in Toronto. As an early birthday present (March 19th, you know who you are!), I treated him to Kinton ramen instead. How did he like it? I quote: “If this place were opened right across my house, I would go every day.”
Despite it being one of the best ramen restaurants, ever since the first time I had a bowl, I always felt like a dimension of flavour was missing from the soup base. I’m embarking on a journey to find the missing element~
On a side note, this is a pretty personal question, but did anyone’s pee turn bright yellow after having Kenzo ramen? Mine did, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because their ramen has Vitamin B… Comment below if you know the reason or if you’ve experienced it, too!
I noticed that Asians have a tendency to just get water at restaurants. Maybe we live longer because we consume less pop and sugar? Be that as it may, I always get Kinton’s homemade lemonade. The house lemonade is the perfect balance between sweetness and tartness. Made with real lemons and not from concentrate, it’s a healthy and refreshing option with no artificial flavours! Lemon also aids with digestion and gives your immune system a boost. Anticipating the ramen’s rich broth, Kinton’s homemade lemonade will prepare your tummy for a heavy meal.
As my friend is vegetarian, I ordered the second vegetarian appetizer on the menu (the other one being edamame). Just as I had remembered from my last visit, tofu furai was fried to perfection – crispy yet crunchy in some parts, with the tofu still tender on the inside. It is essentially fried tofu with edamame, carrots, and corn, but what made this dish stand out was the slightly spicy homemade mayo sauce. The silky and creamy texture of the mayo, paired with a slight sourness, indicating the use of the famous Japanese mayo – Kewpie mayonnaise. I have to learn to make it someday, or else I’ll be spending big money to get enough of this fried tofu!
All right, if you don’t like garlic, steer clear of this bad boy. Definitely not a first-date dish, the spicy garlic pork ramen is for hardcore garlic lovers.
With a scoop of grated garlic (that pale yellow round ball in the picture), extra scallions, and a seasoned egg (very similar to onsen tamago), my customized bowl appeared delicious and appetizing. The egg was thoroughly marinated; the yolk had the right gooey texture – not slimy and raw, but smooth and just cooked enough to consume. It reminded me of an onsen egg I had at Iozan (Sulphur Mountain) in Akan National Park, Hokkaido. How do you know something is authentic? It brings back memories from the place of origin.
The broth, though wholly garlic-y and spicy with a subtle pork bone soup taste, lacked seasoning. There was a gap between the spiciness and the rich soup, like a flavour that would bridge the two together was missing. Don’t get me wrong, the ramen was still savoury and luscious, but with every bite, I became more and more keen to figure out how to fill the gap.
Undeterred by this small flaw, the caramelized flavour of the browned pork belly embodied my experience of umami incarnate! This is why I can never be a vegetarian… Since I don’t believe in meat without fat, I always order pork belly instead of pork shoulder. The fat in the pork belly, upon being heated by the torch, melts and lubricates the meat, and makes it moist and juicy. Kinton in kanji means “Golden Pork,” and the pork belly truly lives up to the name!
Unlike the Kinton in downtown Toronto, the branch on Yonge did not offer different levels of richness to choose from. And to my surprise, there was no Kinton Bowler pictures taken at this branch! Part of their marketing campaign is to take photos of customers who finish their bowls of ramen without leaving one drop of soup behind, and these “bowlers” are posted on their Facebook Wall of Fame. I got my friend all excited for the bowler experience, only to find that they don’t do it at this branch 😦
One bowl of ramen was two meals for me, so I enjoyed the leftovers again the day after. The problem with the missing flavour in the soup had been running in the back of my mind and I finally figured out how to improve the broth – rice vinegar! With just one teaspoon of rice vinegar in half a bowl of ramen, the broth was finally at the peak of umami. The acidity broke down the richness of the broth and brought out flavours that were once overwhelmed by garlic and spices. I guess I have to bring rice vinegar with me like a crazy lady next time I dine there. Regional: 8.2/10; Worldwide: 7.4/10
Compared to the other ramen giant, Sansotei Ramen, Kinton has larger portions and higher prices. The two cannot compete: Sansoutei excels in the seasoning of the broth, and Kinton specializes in toppings and appetizers. I would say the two need to get together and open a brand new restaurant that only preserve their strengths. Interested in reading my review on Sansotei Ramen? Which ramen joint do you like more? Comment below and let me know!
Until next time!