Konjiki Ramen (Toronto)

There’s no shortage of ramen restaurants in Toronto, but Konjiki Ramen is the first international eatery that arrives with a Michelin status. It first started out as a Bib Gourmand pick, essentially being certified as a good deal for the price, but in 2019 Chef Atsushi Yamamoto’s Tokyo location, Konjiki Hototogisu, was finally awarded a much sought after star.

So much of Japan cuisine showcases ingredients prepared in a delicate form to preserve its natural flavours. Ramen is where things start to deviate as rich stocks are combined with a host of other ingredients to create a bowl bursting with flavours. Chef Yamamoto goes one step further adding even more enhancements (lobster, wagyu, and even truffle) to create really luxurious bowls.

One spoon of their tonkotsu ($13 at North York and $14 downtown) broth and you’ll taste the difference. Their menu explains that it’s made with vast amounts of bones, skins, and other portions of the pig cooked at extremely high temperatures for a long time … the entire process taking two days.

The first sip of the broth blew me away, it has this deep richness that pulls you in and finishes with an almost earthy twist. Of course, it’s also immensely creamy, to the point I’m beginning to think that there must be dairy in it. If there was ever a cream of pork soup, Konjiki’s would make the list.

There’s even a smoky black ($14) version of the tonkotsu taking it one step further adding roasted garlic oil, and smoked cherry tomatoes and ground pork into the mix. Indeed, there’s a smokiness to it, but not to the point that you think you’re dining in the Southern USA, it still tastes like ramen.

Meanwhile, their shio clam broth ($14) ramen is on the other side of the spectrum where pork is combined with clams and chicken to create a clearer base. There is a lightness to the soup, but still an umami essence throughout the broth thanks to the porcini paste and white truffle oil. Even so, these stronger fungi flavours show restraint so that it’s not necessarily the first thing you taste. The bowl is interestingly paired with chopped arugula, basil, red onions, and pea shoot stems to give it a really fresh element as well.

The clam broth garnishes were better chosen than the tonkotsu, which include the traditional scallion, pickled vegetables, and braised bamboo shoot. But, then the regular tonkotsu includes pickled ginger and the smoky version some smoked cherry tomatoes that were both so overpowering that I had to pick them out.

Add a red wine onsen egg ($1.50) to really finish the experience. It’s left whole and the yolk cooked through but still slightly fluid. As you bite into it, the slightly warm molten centre covers the tongue.

In the end, all the bowls were flavourful but not salty, rich but not oily. Konjiki’s noodles are also what you want with ramen, there’s no choice, all arriving fairly thick so they retain a lovely chewiness. Just the way I like it.

Their chashu (sliced pork) is the only thing that makes me pause. It’s certainly tender from being sous vide, but paired with the clam broth seems to have a strong pork aroma that’s not the greatest. I do like the peppercorn rub along the edges, which give it some extra flavour. Perhaps, a bit more of the spice would help to neutralize the porky aroma.

With so much protein, their vegetable spring rolls ($5.50) is a nice way to start the meal. They are the best meatless spring rolls I’ve tasted - the filling made from julienned tofu, bamboo shoot, celery and mushroom creates a lovely combination. Although they are not overly large, the wrapper is kept thin so the vegetables flavours are front and centre. It’s paired with a mango sauce that I can’t say I love, but is a nice change from the typical sweet Thai that’s so thick and sugary.

With every visit to Konjiki, there’s a new taste to experience. Alas, I know I’ll have to eventually return during the week as Mondays and Tuesdays are when their downtown location has a special wagyu option and Wednesday a lobster bowl in North York. With their regular menu offering already such powerful flavours, just how much more intense can it get?

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5051 Yonge Street and 41 Elm Street

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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!

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