Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ramen Showdown - Toronto Vs San Francisco

From top left, clockwise: Kinton, The Ramen Underground, Sansotei, Suzu Noodles

Within the past couple years, there's been an influx of great Japanese restaurants in Toronto. From okonomiyaki, to izakaya and ramen, Toronto has become a great city for lovers of Japan's cuisine. Although I have to admit that I wasn't initially wooed by some of the ramen I had at the beginning of this local food trend (bowls that looked picture perfect, but ultimately lacked in flavour), recently, Kinton and Sansotei have won my heart.

So how does ramen in TO compare to that of San Francisco, a food city with an established Japanese community? On a recent trip to SF, I was determined to find out. According to some notable local foodies, Suzu Noodle House and The Ramen Underground are two of the best under-the-radar spots in town. Without hesitation, I visited both these restaurants and happily slurped-up my bowls of noodles and broth. But ultimately, how did they compare to our TO fare? To keep things objective, I'd chomped and slurped with the following criteria in mind:

The Noodles:

Good ramen noodles should be fresh and toothsome. Although I found Suzu's noodles to be a bit more al dente than expected, both cities had all-around great noodles. It's too close to call, so this one is a tie.

The Add-Ins:

All four restaurants serve well cooked and seasoned meats, and all but Ramen Underground had a nicely cooked egg; hard boiled, but not over cooked to the point which the yolk becomes flaky. At Ramen Underground, the bowls can be customized with a number of proteins and veggies (spinach, corn, or kimchi to name a few), and at Suzu the karaage fried chicken gives it the ultimate comfort factor. For this reason, San Fran wins by a hair in this category.

The Broth:

The broth is considered by many to be the heart and soul of this dish. Whereas the meat, veggies, and noodles can be prepared relatively quickly, the broth requires hours to cook and stew, in order for the flavour to develop. Although the broths at Ramen Underground and Suzu Noodles were quite tasty, there was a noticeable depth and richness of the broths at Sansoitei and Kinton, that had me craning my neck back to tilt the bowl and enjoy every last drop. Without a doubt in my mind, TO has the best ramen broth.

So although SF ramen was delicious, it's just missing that extra bit of care and soul that TO Ramen possesses. Let's be honest folks, it's all about the broth, because the love is in the liquid.

Happy eats,

- LC

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