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Restaurants

Kinton Ramen

Posted by Emily Burke / Reviewed on June 18, 2012 / review policy

Kinton RamenKinton Ramen opened in Baldwin Village last month, upping Toronto's noodle ante, a food trend that's been all the rage in New York City for a few years now. With David Chang of Momofuko fame set to open shop in Toronto at the end of July, this city's ramen scene is likely in for a serious shake up. If Chang's Toronto spots live up to his reputation, will Kinton be relegated to second fiddle?

The latest restaurant from the owners of Guu Izakaya and Guu Sakabar, Kinton doesn't seem to have much to worry about, as it's been packed since opening. On the night of my visit, it's pouring rain but that doesn't deter the crowd assembled out front for the 45 minute wait (unsurprisingly, there are no reservations here).

As with the Guu restaurants, Kinton's staff hollers out enthusiastic greetings in Japanese as guests enter, setting a friendly vibe before we've even sat down. We take a seat along the bar facing the line of frenetic and hustling kitchen staff who are labouring over huge vats of noodles in boiling water and pots of ochre-coloured soup stock.

Kinton RamenHip hop blasts through the restaurant, lending upbeat energy to the already fast-paced environment. The rich, meaty smells wafting up from the open kitchen has us excited and hungry. Some of that excitement wanes when we learn that despite having a selection of Japanese beers printed on the menu, the restaurant isn't actually licensed yet — egregious false advertising, I would say.

Settling for glasses of water in lieu of Sapporo, we contemplate the mains. Seeing the enormous portions at the tables around us, we decide to forego appetizers in order to save room for the big noodle bowls. But when our food arrives, we find ourselves underwhelmed. The noodles are a little undercooked and each dish is defined by an overabundance of starch and salt.

Kinton RamenI decide on the spicy garlic ramen ($9.80). The soup's chili spice colours the stock a bright, rusty red and the strips of tender pork shoulder coating the bowl are topped with crisp bean sprouts, onion, scallion and a hefty scoop of freshly grated garlic. The spice adds a very welcome intensity, but the dish is fairly one-dimensional, with the heat and the garlic doing most of the heavy lifting.

Kinton RamenMy companion's bowl of shoyu vegetable ramen ($9.80) is also underwhelming. After a few bites, the broth started to cool and the dish turned out to be rather bland with a tinge of metallic aftertaste. On a more positive note, the hefty serving of well-cooked vegetables and the delicate hard-boiled egg, give the dish a healthy kick and a welcome variety of textures. The spicy vegetable ramen (also $9.80) didn't suffer from any unpleasant aftertaste and was naturally less bland, but I wouldn't call it a show-stopper, either.

We went in with high hopes, but left a little disappointed. Perhaps the long wait built our expectations up a little too high. Each of our meals were hearty and warming, and there's certainly no skimping on the meat and vegetable servings. Next time I'm in the neighbourhood and in the mood for noodles, I'd definitely give Kinton Ramen another shot.

Kinton Ramen

Discussion

51 Comments

Fred / June 18, 2012 at 02:57 pm
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Well, it certainly looks delicious.
moo / June 18, 2012 at 03:12 pm
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great photo of the interior, with the patrons on one side, kitchen on the other, and the piggy all blurred.
the general sentiment about Kinton seems to be "good but not amazing, but still the best ramen in Toronto"
will / June 18, 2012 at 03:18 pm
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Paying close to $10 for a bowl of ramen is a bit ridiculous, especially when you can get it in Seoul or Tokyo (where the living standards are considerably higher) for even less.
Toronto Ted / June 18, 2012 at 03:29 pm
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Don't go, no-one's forcing you, fly to Tokyo and save $2

Pikey
Lindsay replying to a comment from will / June 18, 2012 at 03:33 pm
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Will, I'm sure you can get poutine and maple syrup cheaper here than in Seoul or Tokyo. What's your point?
Shana / June 18, 2012 at 03:34 pm
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I went there before their grand opening, waited about 10 minutes for a seat. It is definitely the best ramen in Toronto, the broth is moderately rich, and the pork was amazing - it feels like it melts in your mouth. I thought the noodles were a bit undercooked. I've had much better ramen in New York, hopefully better places will show up, but in the meantime Kinton will be my go-to.
tk replying to a comment from will / June 18, 2012 at 03:35 pm
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I can't comment on Seoul, but ramen in Tokyo isn't all that much cheaper. A good bowl of ramen still costs 700-1100 yen depending on what you're getting in it/etc... With today's exchange rate that seems about the same. I guess if you consider that in Toronto you're going to pay tax and tip on top of the ramen then it will end up a few dollars more...

Quality-wise, that's a different story.
melissa / June 18, 2012 at 03:38 pm
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I agree that Kinton was kind of meh, especially the broth. But it's still better than other options in Toronto. The price is is reasonable though -- at my favourite ramen place in Shibuya, a bowl of chashu ramen is 900 yen, which is almost $12 CAD.
Dave replying to a comment from will / June 18, 2012 at 03:40 pm
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This is a Toronto restaurant, what's your point in comparing it to restaurants in other countries? How often does the average person have the opportunity to visit Seoul or Tokyo? Stupid comment.
Dan replying to a comment from Lindsay / June 18, 2012 at 04:07 pm
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It's cheaper for me to get a whole Pizza in Italy than it is for me to buy on of your Gourmet Toronto Slices.
Toronto Ted replying to a comment from Lindsay / June 18, 2012 at 04:08 pm
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my point is that certain products are cheaper in their country of origin and where more is consumed . not complicated is it or is it ? ...
duder replying to a comment from will / June 18, 2012 at 04:15 pm
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Also don't really understand the Seoul comment. I've spent a lot of time in both cities and have never seen decent ramen in Seoul (in fact Korean ramen, called ram-yeon, is basically just jazzed-up Mr. Noodles with a few vegetables and an egg thrown in).
lol / June 18, 2012 at 04:20 pm
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More excited for the kintaro ramen from Vancouver by ryerson opening soon that is the best
Hungry traveler / June 18, 2012 at 05:00 pm
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The ramen there is OK, nothing to write home about. I still think that Kenzo has the best ramen downtown - so far.
Potato Jr. / June 18, 2012 at 05:28 pm
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The broth is pretty salty, it clearly needs more potatoes. Otherwise I highly recommend ordering with a light soup base. Not amazing but is likely one of the best ramen options in T.O. Better than Ajisen cuz Ajisen sucks. And better than Kenzo because of value (quality + portion / price)
will / June 18, 2012 at 09:27 pm
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My point is that we overpay on a lot of food here in Toronto because we're suckers.
will replying to a comment from tk / June 18, 2012 at 09:33 pm
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Just in general, I think eating out is overpriced Toronto. Usually it's the Asian places that are the cheapest, and rightfully so. With noodles and rice being the cheapest staples for restaurants to purchase/prepare, it makes sense (however that's not the case at any Italian restaurant). This review makes no mention of whether or not the noodles are "handmade" but if they're not, then they're no different than the $0.99 instant noodles you get at your local grocery store.
handfed / June 18, 2012 at 09:35 pm
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Any options for less-starchy or gluten-free noodles, e.g. buckwheat?
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RaMeN / June 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm
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Noodles r not undercooked. Real Japanese ramen noodle is like that. Noodles at Chinese owned ramen restaurants are overcooked and people here are misunderstood that's how ramen noodle must be. Also ramen is not supposed to be eaten with 10 mins,20 mins. We should eat it within a few mins, before it gets cold. Kinton is the best ramen in Toronto so far.
Sky replying to a comment from RaMeN / June 19, 2012 at 12:09 am
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Agree with RaMen. The noodles are supposed to be al dente. Delicious!
j-rock replying to a comment from will / June 19, 2012 at 08:24 am
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Not sure what your point is, but I lived in Japan for nearly a decade, and there are a lot of restaurants where it costs between 800-1000 yen, which is very close to the $10 range.

I'm looking forward to trying this place out. This impending "noodle war" can only be good for ramen lovers.
m replying to a comment from will / June 19, 2012 at 01:26 pm
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Great point, Will. In fact, let's not eat Thai food in Toronto either, because a phad thai in Bangkok costs less than $2. Never mind Chinese food, where in Beijing a plate of dumplings costs $1. And forget Indian food; in Delhi, you can eat an all-you-can-eat thali (2 curries + rice + pickles) for a buck or two. You get my point.

Perhaps this ramen costs a bit more than what you might pay in Tokyo. But it's not typical food here. Just like you would pay more for spaghetti and meatballs in Japan, or a baguette sandwich in Korea.
Annie / June 19, 2012 at 02:16 pm
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The presentation was amazing and the interior design is great. There is definitely Brand consistency within Guu ( not sure if this was intended? ).

We went after 9pm on a Thursday and there was no wait. I thought in general all is good, but we all agreed the broth is not flavorful enough. Service is always great.

Noodle 9/10
Broth 6/10
Pork 8/19
Drinks 8/10
Presentation 9/10
Service 9/10

Annie | Arc & Co. Design (www.arcandco.ca)
will replying to a comment from m / June 19, 2012 at 06:01 pm
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Meatballs cost more in Korea and Japan because it's more expensive to raise cattle there due to the lack of land for grazing.

will replying to a comment from m / June 19, 2012 at 06:05 pm
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You're making the same point as me. Smaller economies should pay less (or at least not the same) as larger economies, especially when all of the products can be produced here or when it's $0.99 instant noodles.
kook / June 20, 2012 at 09:55 am
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why, this place is full of girl eaters!
hoorf / June 20, 2012 at 10:47 am
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lets talk about the cost of food in other countries some more
joanne / June 22, 2012 at 11:54 am
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The only thing I have to complain about is the wait for food. It took more than 30mins for my ramen to arrive after I ordered. I don't care about the cost but ramen get served a lot faster in Japan. And a full house is no excuse because broth is already done. The chefs only have to cook the noodle and assemble all the vegetables in the bowl. Not sure why it took 30mins to do that...

After I tried my spicy garlic ramen, it did not make the wait worthy at all. The broth was not flavorful and all I could taste is the spice from the garlic. Overall, not great and won't be back if I have to wait.
Th / June 30, 2012 at 09:51 pm
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What type of restaurant in Toronto doesn't have a vegetarian option? We called them to ask, and they said that the cheese ramen was vegetarian without the pork, only to discover when we arrived, after an hour waiting in line, that there was pork oil in the soup! This is a cosmopolitan city, not a small town. Those of us who are devout Jews and Muslims are appalled.
m replying to a comment from Th / July 4, 2012 at 10:22 am
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There is a veggie option: tofu nuggets and rice. Yes, it sucks. Yes, I may order this tonight while my pals slurp on their meaty noodles. But ramen isn't a ramen without broth made with bones. It's like going to a steak house or Korean BBQ and expecting veggie steak or veggie short-ribs.
F / July 30, 2012 at 04:17 pm
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*goes to butcher shop* "can i get the veggie option?"
joe / August 4, 2012 at 02:00 am
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If u like a looooong wait and get rude service, this is one perfect spot for u. The food is so so with lots of MSG, overall this place is a hype. Very disappointed.
KOH+ / September 13, 2012 at 09:21 pm
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The noodles are tasty, and the pork is just great. However the broth is underwhelming which left us a bit disappointed. Given that Toronto doesn't have a good selection of ramen restaurants, Kinton Ramen already tops the neighborhood.
Jaime aka The Tomato Snob / September 20, 2012 at 10:13 am
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Cool vibe! Delicious kimchi as I woul have expected. Gyoza also tasty. Spicy garlic ramen not spicy enough or all that flavorful. Unfortunately the stock is also laden with MSG which for me is like consuming poison. I will not go back and was sick to my stomach after dinner.
Ziona / November 22, 2012 at 08:19 pm
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More food talk from around the world: avoid pizza in Brazil. There are slices of cucumber on it.
sezme / December 1, 2012 at 08:02 pm
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Pretty good ramen, but I wouldn't go back. The noise level was way too high for me. And by noise level I mean music played at levels only slightly below a disco. Fine if that's your thing, but it sure ain't mine.

Also, the waitress approached me after I'd finished my bowl and told me that they take pictures of people who finish their ramen and put them on their Facebook page. Yikes! Anyway, she tried to argue with me when I said I wasn't interested. Strange! Suddenly I feel so old.
Mike / January 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm
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Ordered the Spicy Garlic ramen and aside from all the garlic it was a big let down. The broth was really bland and the only thing the pork belly had going for itself was how tender it was. Otherwise it just tasted like pork, no seasonings to be found anywhere. I wouldn't go back
Betsy / February 5, 2013 at 04:38 pm
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@Ziona Huh? I was born and raised in Brazil, and in my 18 years of living there, I haven't ONCE seen pizza with cucumber slices in it.
Brandon / March 6, 2013 at 04:19 pm
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Absolutely amazing! I recommend opting for the extra meat, as you get triple the default amount. I got the spicy garlic with extra pork belly, and I'm drooling now just thinking about it.
Sam / March 8, 2013 at 08:38 am
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Still the best ramen in the city. The pork rocks!
Not a racist / March 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm
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I attempted to come here twice but this place had a line up out the door full of new to canada Asians. Must be good since you have to wait an hour to get a table.
Trung / March 20, 2013 at 05:12 pm
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Waited in line for over an hour, only to be told that they couldn't acccommodate us because they didn't have a high chair. Awful service. Totally overrated and would never go back again.
MAC / May 22, 2013 at 05:33 pm
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The greeter at the door is supposed to be welcoming, right? Not so much. I asked if two of our party of three could be seated and order for everyone, since we were pressed for time. I was told no. I explained we were pressed for time but that I would place all the orders upon being seated. I was flatly told that he "didn't care if I was in a hurry, I have to wait until everyone arrives". The tone could not have been ruder. I will spend my money elsewhere thanks. Service is part of the deal.
Stephen B / June 6, 2013 at 07:57 pm
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Went there today, had the shoyu ramen, rich broth with the pork shoulder. Should have ordered extra shoulder. Also had the karaage. The bowl was out of control. The richest stock, a perfect egg, al dente noodles (can I say that?) and not enough pork as I was hungry. I'll be back real soon. Plus, the hippiest little house beats, which took about five minutes to get used to, were a cheery background to a great visit. Nice.
dan / November 12, 2013 at 10:51 pm
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service here is NOT kind
waitresses are NOT pretty
NOT worth waiting
NOT returning
al / January 6, 2014 at 02:20 pm
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bad service: simply do not tip. I don't with bad service, no eye candy, long wait etc
vera / January 11, 2014 at 04:03 pm
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my second time dining there food is really good reasonable price and good service .
Hungry Michie / September 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm
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The worst ramen place ever! There was something is the ramen bowl that was not edible. I didn't notice right away because it was small. When I have expressed a complaint to the manager, he demanded us paying 50% for one of the ramen. We order two bowls of ramen and they both had **** in it. I never returned to Kinton Ramen.

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