Showing posts with label tonkotsu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tonkotsu. Show all posts

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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Menya Musashi 麺屋武蔵 (Hong Kong)


Menya Musashi is a Japanese ramen chain that hasn’t entered the Canadian landscape. Widely known in Tokyo, it started in Shinjuku and have won various awards since. While it’s a relatively new entrant compared to a host of other noodle shops in Japan, Menya Musashi was one of the first to offer customization options adapting their offering based on local tastes – using the same soup base in white (plain), red (spicy), and black (scallion oil) versions. Yes, it may seem like something that’s done widely now, but before the turn of the century, when it opened in 1996, stores had little choice.

To try the original base, you’ll want the shiro bukotsu ($78) that leaves the soup plain. It’ll allow you to truly taste the creamy tonkotsu broth, which combines pork bones, chicken, and bonito into a rich flavourful soup. Oh yes, I could taste the pork, but despite being thicker, Menya Mushahi’s broth is not oily and didn’t taste heavy.


Meanwhile, for a bit more flavour, the kuro bukotsu ramen ($78) adds a scallion, onion, and garlic oil into the broth. While I was a bit self-conscious that the black particles would be all over my teeth, it still didn’t stop me from finishing the fragrant soup.


Indeed, Menya’s soup base steals the show, but the other elements are good too: their noodles thick enough to have a soft chewiness and the half egg a lovely soft boil. I would prefer the pork to be thicker as it becomes lost in all the other toppings (green onions, spinach stems, and a sheet of nori).

Compared to the strong creamy ramen, the Musashi dumplings ($38) are delicate; the pork and cabbage filling lightly bound together so there’s an airy quality to the gyozas. They’re good, compared to the typical frozen variety.


With a host of Japanese ramen chains making their way into North America, it’s just a matter of time before Menya Mushashi joins the group. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try their signature tonkotsu broth without the lines.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
 Address: 30 Harbour Road

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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!


Sansotei Ramen (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 179 Dundas Street West
Website: http://www.sansotei.com/
Type of Meal: Lunch



Having two unsuccessful attempts to eat at Sansotei, I finally got a table after returning on a weekday for lunch (albeit still waiting ten minutes). For my first experience, I opted for the tonkotsu ramen ($9.60), which had a creamy soup base packed with pork flavour – whether you like it is dependent on your palate as I can see some may find it a tad "porky". Personally, I found it enjoyable, especially since it wasn’t too salty so could be enjoyed with the noodles. Thinly sliced black fungus and green onions added a nice crunch and freshness to the overall dish.


With a choice of thick or thin noodles, I went with the thick ones as they generally are more al dante. Sansotei certainly disappoint as they retained their springy bite. The chashu (roasted pork) was perfectly marbled with alternating layers of meat and fat that made it very tender; likely only second to Santouka’s famed pork jowl.

Sansotei's egg arrives still runny in the middle. Admittedly, I prefer a soft boil where the yolk is cooked through, but it didn’t detract from the ramen. If everything was a tad hotter, the dish would have been better as it cooled down quite quickly. But, the lower temperature appears to be how its traditionally served as even in Japan they were just slightly above warm. Perhaps, ramen places do this so customers can eat faster and promote quick turnaround. 

All in all, this is one of the better bowls of ramen in Toronto – possibly tied with Santouka.  If only the wait wasn’t so unbearable I can return one day and try some of their other offerings such as the shio or spicy versions.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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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!

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