Kenzo Ramen has served North Toronto for many years, their location at Yonge and Steeles pulling in steady and loyal business. However, just last year they decided to pack up shop and move their japanese noodles to just west of Dundas Square, a perfect location as its within walking distance from Ryerson University, the hospital district and the political types at city hall. This location is extremely busy; during lunches if you’re not seated by noon odds are you’ll be waiting for a while before you can sit down. I went there during dinner service and it seemed like the line ups were just as long as those at lunchtime. Fortunately, my dinner companion and I arrived just before the evening rush (shortly before 7PM), but still behind two other parties. The location isn’t huge, with seating for approximately 40. The walls are decorated with the standard Japanese fair, bamboo sheets, masks, and porcelain bottles, etc. When it comes to our turn to be seated, we’re not really greeted, we’re only asked how many.
The menu at Kenzo reads like one would expect a Japanese noodle house ought to read. An excellent selection of ramen noodles, from ‘basic’ noodles in soy broths to fancier ones with a greater selection of toppings and broths flavored with miso and chili oils (see selection: http://www.kenzoramen.ca/ramen_special.php). Selections run from 5.95 to 12.95 and up; several of the non-ramen selections (like the pork katsu) are covered up. We order the ‘king of kings’ ramen and a tonkotsu (pork bone broth, I believe) ramen as well as takoyaki balls (a batter fried in a special mould with a piece of octopus in the middle) and a bottle of Kirin to share.
The noodles arrive reasonably quickly and piping hot, which is exactly the way they should be served. Both bowls are decorated with a variety of toppings. Fish cakes (the ones with the blue/pink swirly), bbq pork slices, bean sprouts, half a soft boiled egg, and freshly chopped scallions cover both bowls. The king of kings ramen also comes with pickled bamboo shoots and slices of fried seaweed. The noodles are the perfect texture for me. Tender, but not mushy. The broth of the tonkotsu ramen is my favourite of the two. Rich and savory, with depth of flavor. The spice in the king of kings ramen drown out too much of the flavor of the broth for my liking.
Also, for me, the king of kings ramen was a little too spicy. I’d have problems finishing a whole bowl of this – but I’m a bit of a spice-wuss. I enjoy the tonkotsu ramen thoroughly – the combination of the complex broth the firm but tender noodles and the crunch of the scallions and the bean sprouts is very satisfying. The bbq pork slices have just the right amount of fat. I eat the fish cake too, but I’m a little creeped out by the texture and the pink swirly in the centre of it, but it tastes alright. Overall, an enjoyable bowl of soup noodles. Those with large appetites may find that the tonkotsu is a bit on the small side, the king of kings ramen is probably what you want to order (if you’re not adverse to heat).
The takoyaki arrives almost as we finish our ramen, way too hot to eat. They’re topped with chives, benito, Japanese mayo and what I believe is a thickened teriyaki sauce. The texture of the takoyaki balls starts off firm, almost crisp, but gets creepier as you get closer to the centre. It seemed to me a little underdone. On the inside, the piece of overcooked octopus is accompanied with a little bit of cheese. Despite the creepy texture of the innards, the flavor is pleasing. I ate 3.
Overall, it was a decent meal, but not as cost effective as one might think bowls of soup and starch should be – the bill for the two of us came to a little over 40 dollars, tax and tip in. However, that being said, if you’re a big soup noodle person, I recommend you drop in to Kenzo to give it a try.