Friday, January 4, 2013

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Plenty of ramen action in Toronto right much so that I can't seem to keep up. Then again, this is probably due to the fact that ramen just doesn't entice me all that much. Yeah I know. I'm Asian. By default I should be deliriously happy and going completely gaga over the opening of all these Japanese noodle shops. But nope, it's just not happening for me. I don't feel the rush, nor the urge, to hit up every single ramen spot in the city. Hey. Kudos to people that do. It's actually more of a personal issue; I simply detest lining up for anything, especially for food, in the bitter cold (all these ramen joints are so damn small!) It is this point alone that really deters me from trying them out.

Having said that, I do very much enjoy a nice, hot, tasty bowl of ramen. And because I've been hearing really fantastic things about Santouka (with the latest praise coming from a Japanese couple), I decided to suck it up and go. My friend Gizelle and I went one Friday night. We had a plan: in order to avoid massive line-ups, we decided to go around 10pm. This was actually quite a mission given that both our work day ends at 5pm. With so many hours to spare in between, what did we do? What we do best, of course! Eat and drink, and eat, and drink..until it was 10pm :)

Well, well. Lookie here. The scene at Santouka at 10:15pm. No line-up! Oh wait....a mini line up inside (keyword being "inside").

After about a 15 minute wait, we got a table. This is a shot of the bar which overlooks the kitchen.

It took us awhile to decide what to order. Santouka's menu was larger than I expected. One part due to selection, the other part being the sheer number of different combos they offer.

Ikura Gohan ($5.95)
"A bowl of rice topped with Ikura (salmon roe)"

Yaki-nori ($1.60) and sweet corn ($2.20). 

Our two bowls of ramen with added soft-boiled flavoured egg ($1.60).

Shio Ramen ($10.95)
"Our pork broth is seasoned with salt to make a very mild and creamy soup"

Kara-Miso Ramen ($11.45)
"Our pork broth seasoned with hot spices and miso (fermented by soy bean paste)"

Photo credit: @TorontoEats

My thoughts? Well, I had the shio ramen. In terms of the broth, although it had great flavour, I thought it was a bit on the oily side and maybe a tad too salty, even for shio. The egg was slightly overcooked for my liking (in comparison to the flowing yolk at Kinton). Likewise,  I prefer the bouncier, chewier noodles at Kinton too. I really enjoyed the roast pork here though; it was sliced to a nice size with a cut that was fatty enough without being overly fatty. Actually, the highlight at Santouka for me was the ikura gohan. The slightly salty, small yet plump salmon roe on a bed of shredded egg and warm rice was quite delicious. I would go back to Santouka just for the ikura.

This may be a personal preference, but I'm not too crazy about all the "extras" at Santouka. Two things. First, what kinda irked me was that the nori and corn came about five minutes before my ramen. This had me just looking at them...staring...wondering if I should nibble at the corn or just wait patiently for my ramen. Maybe I'm just used to way Kinton does it with the extras already placed in the bowl before being served (although I understand that separating the extras create the illusion of a lot more food on the table haha). Second, the fact that we had to order so many extras. Have I been spoiled by Kinton? Not sure. The ramen bowls we ordered at Santouka had the "basics" namely ramen, broth, roast pork, a bit of seaweed and bamboo shoots. Anything else cost extra (unlike Kinton where some bowls includes an egg, while others include corn, or nori, etc). And because Gizelle and I both like egg, nori and corn, we both ordered them along with our ramen. The result? A pretty steep bill. With tax, our bill came to $45, or $50-$55 depending on how much you tip. Not sure if I like spending so much on ramen, or more specifically, on the "extras". Heck! That sweet corn cost us $2.20 each!

Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon

Santouka Ramen at