Kinton Ramen 1 (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 51 Baldwin Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

The crowd of people at the door may scare you off at first.  But, it must be good if people are willing to wait 30 minutes to an hour for a bowl of noodles?  Luckily, although Kinton looks small, given its narrow layout, with efficient seating and quick turnaround the line actually moves pretty quickly.  But, as a warning, in keeping with this get in and out quick philosophy you cannot, under any circumstance or amount of negotiation, be seated until your entire party arrives.

Similar to most ramen places the seating consists of many bar stools and high top tables.  Décor is kept simple with the focal point being the cooking area in the middle of the room where two chefs deftly showcase their preparation skills.  Aside from cooking, the chefs also lead the way in shouting greetings and so-longs to people.  Kinton, like all the restaurants under the Guu chain, has an upbeat and friendly environment. 

On their drinks menu, they have an interesting section titled the “beer cocktail”.  Normally, I don’t like beer, but decided to try the Panache ($6) which is Sapporo mixed with lemonade.  The concoction was refreshing and reminded me of having a Hoegaarden except lighter, sweeter and more lemony.  This would definitely be a great refreshing summer drink!

Kinton’s menu allows customers to personalize their broth intensity – light, regular or rich.  I opted for the regular broth in hopes of avoiding another ultra-salty experience; luckily it worked out as I hoped.  Regrettably, intensity is also linked with the richness of the broth as I found the soup weak compared to Momofuku and Santouka.  It seems like they just dilute the “rich” broth depending on what you order.  What I would like is a broth that is as flavourful as “rich” but as salty as “regular” - is that too much to ask?

This time, I opted for the “shio” or salted broth and am happy to announce I found the version I like.  Although the miso (fermented bean paste) and shoyu (soy sauce) based broths are good, I find both agents overpowering so it ends up masking the natural ingredients present in the broth itself.  Shio, conversely, allows the taste of the pork and chicken bones to shine through.  I also tried some of my friend’s spicy garlic ramen broth; for those who like it spicy this one sure has a kick to it.  But, you definitely wouldn’t want to order this on a date as there is an overwhelming amount of garlic in the soup. 

Kinton’s noodles are thicker than its competitors, so they are chewier and not as “springy” in texture.  Neither is better, but rather a matter of preference.  I prefer the springy bite of the medium width noodles, but also liked that these thicker noodles stayed at the al dante texture longer than its thinner counterparts. 

Where the competition outshines Kinton is in the meat.  Given a choice of shoulder or pork belly, neither is that good.  I prefer the shoulder cut which is surprisingly more tender and also enjoyed the seared smoky exterior. The pork belly, on the other hand, was disappointing.  Cut into long, thick bacon-like strips it was difficult to eat.  Additionally, it wasn’t cooked long enough to render the fat to a melting point. In the end, I just ate the meat and left all the fat as it had a tough and gross texture. 

The distinguishing aspects of the ramen were perhaps the “fixings” that come with it.  I liked that there were scallions and pieces of nori, things that are sometimes left out at other restaurants.  But the unassuming egg triumphs all – fully cooked on the outside but wonderfully soft-boiled and oozing on the inside, the timing that must be required to achieve this is remarkable.

Overall, I liked Kinton but found it lagged behind its competitors.  To be fair, their price ($9.50) is less the bowls from Momofuku ($15) and Santouka ($15.95) that I’m comparing it to.  But, if I was going to wait half an hour to eat some noodles, I’d rather splurge an extra $5 and get something that’s better quality. 

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!