51 Baldwin Street
I can't remember the last time I was so excited about a restaurant opening. Oh wait, I do. It was for Guu Izakya, still one of my favourite izakaya's in Toronto. Now enter Kinton Ramen (@KintonRamen). Being run by the same people who brought us Guu Izakya (@GuuToronto) and Guu Sakebar, naturally I was euphoric as I counted down the days to their official opening on May 18.
To be quite honest, I had no idea what to expect. With the astounding amount of Japanese restaurants in Toronto and the GTA, there is still a less than sufficient number of impressive ramen establishments. Was Kinton going to revolutionize ramen in Toronto as we know it? I didn't have a clue. I did however, anticipate two things : 1) the line ups outside would be insane, and 2) it would be a rowdy crowd on the inside.
Unfortunately I was only right about one thing, and that was the line up.
For a two person seating, I waited for a little over an hour. Expect to be waiting impatiently along with a hungry crowd of other people outside the restaurant.
Surprisingly, Kinton Ramen did not have the same boisturous atmpshere as its sibling restaurants. They do greet you as you enter and leave, but the overall atmosphere as well as the patrons themselves were not as energetic. Perhaps it's the lack of a liquor license that is still in-progress of being obtained. Last time I checked, sober people are generally less rowdy.
There are two places to sit in the restaurant. The first, is by the bar next to where the open kitchen was. If you don't handle heat well like me, you might want to request not sitting next at the bar. There are 3 huge vats of soup boiling in your face, and you can literally see the steam clouds. Just standing there for the 1 minute I needed to take this picture, I could already feel my cheeks getting warm!
Lucky for me I was seated at option number two, the one big communal table next to the window at the front of the restaurant. It's far far away from where all the food prep action was, but it's a much more comfortable temperature if you ask me.
Kinton Salad ($4.8) -Kinton pork on garden salad
If you need a salad to start off your meal, the Kinton Salad is a pretty good choice. A nice refreshing mix of corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and sesame ginger dressing, topped off by a disproportionally generous amount of pork.
Gyoza ($3.5) -homemade pork dumplings
I'm not one to really order dumplings when I eat out, and the Gyoza's we ordered that night was a reinforcement of why. The 5 dumplings served were all stuck together, burnt, and the dumpling wrapper just fell apart when you picked it up with your chopstick. I know it's opening week and all, so I'll let this one slide.
Karaage ($4.8) - original or spicy fried chicken
As I suspected, these are the same Karaage that they serve at Guu Izakya. Excellent, I'm a big fan! These are some darn good tender and juicy peices of fried chicken! Interested to see how it would taste spicy.
Shio Ramen ($9.50)-sea salt, kingon pork (pork shoulder selected), beansprout, onion, scallion, nori, seasoned egg
The soup base at Kinton Ramen is pork based, and you have the option of regular or light soup. Anything that comes with Kinton Pork allows you the option of pork shoulder or pork belly. Apparently you can choose half half as your option, I wish I knew this earlier! Always good to have some variety.
To me, a good bowl of ramen is all about the 1) soup, and 2) texture of the noodles. I found the soup at Kinton Ramen to be very light (perhaps it's just the one that I ordered?). Very light in terms of seasoning, and didn't have that rich umami flavour I was looking for. Those looking for flavour might want to order something like the Spicy Garlic Ramen for more kicks. The noodles definitely make up for the soup. I like my noodles al dente and chewy, and this is exactly how they make them at Kinton. Not as good as the ones I had in Japan, but it's a pretty good contender for best noodles in Toronto.
Cheese Ramen ($10.80) -miso light soup, swiss cheese, kinton pork (pork belly selected), bean sprout, corn, basil
I was skeptical about how well ramen and cheese would taste in combination, but the Cheese Ramen at Kinton definitely proved itself as something special. It's pretty much the same as the Shio Ramen except with an overload of shredded swiss cheese on top -- so much that you don't even see the noodles! With the heat from the soup, the cheese melts nicely together with everything else giving a thicker, heartier flavour.
So much cheese!
The bill comes in a bamboo container, and we thought it would only be appropriate to put our bills and change in there too. :)
Despite being from the same family of restaurants as Guu Izakya, I regretfully say it didn't meet my anticipation for it. But that is not to say in anyway that it was bad. I feel like people will either love this place, or they'll hate it. For me, I think the ramen is good, but it's nothing to wait an hour for. Perhaps when all the ramen enthusiasts stop over-flooding the line up, I will return to try some of their other menu items. Let's hope they'll have their liquor license by then too!