Showing posts with label Kinton Ramen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kinton Ramen. Show all posts

Kinton Ramen 4 (North York)

Location: North York, Canada
Address: 5165 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

If line-ups aren’t your thing, head to Kinton Ramen’s North York location after 10pm. At the later hour, plenty of tables available but there's still enough people mingling that it doesn’t feel empty.

Kinton’s fourth location offers a combo menu made up of a ramen, side dish and drink. Being a financially savvy person, I had to analyze the pricing to see whether it's actually a deal. My verdict is that although you save money, the savings of a $1 is negligible thus fairly worthless. Strangely, the lack of savings is due to Kinton charging more for the side dish as part of the combo than off their regular menu. Thus, this works to negate savings from adding a drink. In the brackets below, I list the combo and a la carte menu prices as a means of comparison.

I stuck with the pork original ramen ($10.90 for both combo and a la carte menu) as a means of comparing the uptown recipe to their Baldwin outpost (you can read about experience with the later here). Made with a shio (salt) base, I went with ‘regular’ strength as I found the ‘light’ one too watery. It was nice, not too salty or oily and had a light pork flavour coming through. So, it’s worth trying the regular first before you opt for the lighter choice.

The thick noodles were just a springy and the pork shoulder having a smoky quality as I enjoyed in my last visit. There’s also bean sprouts, green onions, a piece of nori and my favourite – the egg. Kinton still gives a full egg and at the North York location it’s even more soft-boiled, just look at the gooey brilliant yellow colour!

During another visit, I tried the spicy garlic ramen ($10.90) which really packs some heat in the broth. Following my friend's advice, I removed the ball of garlic on top and gradually added it into the broth to control how garlicky the broth became. In the end, about a third was enough for my taste.

Accompanying the combo, was a pint of Sapporo ($3.80 for combo vs. $5.80 on the a la carte menu). And this, my friends, is where any of the savings actually occurs.

The gyozas ($4.80 for combo vs. $3.80 on the a la carte menu) were deep fried arriving piping hot. Interestingly, they were topped with a zippy Miracle Whip sauce rather than being accompanied by soy sauce. It’s a nice change, but Kinton should consider listing the sauce on their menu as some people may be put off by the creamy sauce if they were expecting naked dumplings.

I wanted to know more about said sauce, but our waiter was no help: simply noting he didn’t know what was in it. Frankly, for a place where there’s such a limited menu, it’s sad for someone who works there to actually tell a customer they know nothing about the dishes. At the very least, they should offer to check with the chef or someone else who would know what’s being served.

Which brings me to the biggest difference between Kinton’s Baldwin and North York location – the service. Sure, everyone still shouts as you enter/leave, dishes arrive quickly and generally everyone is cheerful and friendly. But, it’s the small things that are not quite as polished.

The first, as already mentioned, is the lack of knowledge of their menu (at least the person who served us that night). Another example, was when soup was spilled as the table was cleared. Our waiter warned us about the spill (that he caused) but then chose to ignore it rather than cleaning it up. Normally, it wouldn’t matter. However, in this case, the soup was dangerously close to the edge of the table and could drip onto my fellow diner. Moreover, since all our napkins were taken away, we couldn’t even clean it up ourselves.

All in all, the slight service slip aside, I was satisfied with the food. Indeed, compared to other options available in the Yonge and Empress area, the ramen is better. Thankfully, the taste and quality is in line with Kinton’s downtown location; the serving size may even be slightly larger. If only their employees were better trained and their combo pricing strategy reevaluated than I’d be even happier.

Overall mark - 7* out of 10

* You may notice that I’ve given Kinton’s Baldwin location a “6” and the North York location a “7”.  The uptown location is by no means better than its downtown location. But, due to the uptown branch being so conveniently located and wait times being less than Downtown, I know I will likely return (thus, rendering the 6 as untrue).

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!

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!