Showing posts with label Touhenboku ramen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Touhenboku ramen. Show all posts

Touhenboku Ramen (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 261 Queen Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner 

As the weather starts dipping lower, the opportunity for bowls of hot soupy noodles is welcomed once again.  Luckily for us, another new option has just opened up so that the lineups will hopefully lessen if not cease. Touhenboku differentiates itself by offering a chicken soup base, perfect for those who have previously shied away from eating ramen due to the pork components.

Right away what makes this place great is their accommodating friendly service.  Sure, at competitors you’re always greeted in cheerful unison but at Touhenboku they never try to force you to wait outside (ahem Kinton) and actually talk to their customers.  From the hostess to the owner/manager (?) they reached out to ask us how we were doing, kept us informed about our position in line and ensured we were being satisfied. These little touches really add to the experience and somehow make waiting bearable (we went at about 7pm on a weeknight and were seated in approximately twenty minutes).

Their main offering is ramen ($10.50) with the following choices:
  • Soup base: white (regular chicken), red (spicy), black (garlic infused) or light (calmed down version of white)
  • Meat: lean pork, rich pork or chicken
  • Noodle width: thin or thick
  • Salt preference: shio (sea salt) or shoyu (soy sauce)

Being my first visit, I went with the white, lean pork, thin noodles and shio flavoured ramen. The base is very different and is much like condensed chicken soup; not only is it rich but there’s a creamy smooth texture to it.  Normally, the richness comes from oil, however, in Touhenboku’s case I think it’s likely from the collagen off of chicken cartilage as you get the silkiness without seeing a layer of oil on top. My first few tastes were heavenly but soon it became too much and the saltiness became overwhelming. I certainly enjoyed the soup but need to opt for the “light” version next time.  If you generally find ramen too salty, do yourself a favour and just order the light to begin with.

The noodles are slightly softer than competitors likely on account to them making them fresh in house.  Overall, these weren’t too bad but its doughiness probably added to the fullness of the meal as the thick soup just clung onto the noodles! The meat does need some improvement and in my opinion the worse of the bunch.  Maybe it’s because I went with the lean version but it was pretty dry and tasteless.  My friends that ordered the rich version felt it was much better and to be honest didn’t really have that much fat on it anyways. But, the half of soft boiled egg that sat upon everything was amazing – I loved the fully cooked exterior and creamy yolk.

Sharing with a friend, I also had the opportunity to try the black and thick noodles version. To be honest, any difference between thin and thick is pretty slight so both were good to me.  You certainly could taste the garlic in the broth but what made it nice was they used a garlic oil/liquid rather than pieces of garlic so it wasn’t too in your face.  I even liked the small touches like the black noodles coming in a bowl with a black stripe (the red has a red stripe) making it easier for the servers to distinguish.

We decided to share the karaage ($4.50) which was great with the dark chicken meat being very tender.  The crispy coating wasn’t overly battered and was lightly salted so that it went well with the flavourful ramen.  Sometimes I find karaage very heavy but Touhenboku’s version was lighter tasting, which could also be on account of it not drowning in mayo.

Sadly, the gyoza ($4.50) was not as successful.  The wrapper was hard and pork filling dense and dry.  Some scallions or green vegetables are needed in the filling to give it some juice and the wrappers definitely need to be reformulated to allow them to become thinner. Additionally, there was either a thin layer of oil on the dumplings or in the soy sauce making it impossible for the sauce to actually stick onto the gyoza – we had to resort to biting into it and then pouring some into the middle.

A pretty extensive dessert menu was available but sadly on the night of our visit only three were actually on hand.  The restaurant prides themselves by offering Japanese desserts made by a pastry chef from a Japanese Hotel.  Nonetheless, the chiffon cake ($5.50) we had was pretty lackluster and store bought tasting.  The cake was airy and light but lacked any flavours (even some vanilla bean would be nice), while the whipped cream came out of a can and the glaze just drizzles of syrup.

In the end, I liked their ramen (but likely will opt for the light, rich pork option next time).  But, what really makes me want to go back is Touhenboku’s friendly all female staff (at least on the evening we visited).  I heard Tonhenboku sometimes means a person who pretends not to understand to get their way.  So, maybe the gyozas need work and the desserts aren’t as great as they claim, as long as the ramen is good and people keep coming back, isn’t that all that matters anyways?
Overall mark - 7 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!