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Restaurants

Sansotei Ramen

Posted by Jason Finestone / Reviewed on September 22, 2012 / review policy

sansotei ramen torontoSansotei Ramen is a new Dundas St. hot spot for salty, sensuous, steamy bowls of traditional Japanese soups, and it's a bold move to open up in the shadow of recent Japanese heavyweight Momofuku. But apparently, they're doing just fine--arriving at the modest dinner hour of 7:45pm, we're greeted at the door by a bad sign: "sold out! Sorry!" These are never words you want to hear, nor read, when you're hungry.

A server apologetically informs us that there were only two bowls of pork bone broth still available, and without hesitation, we make sure those were making the beeline to our table while we browse the rest of the one-sided menu.

Sansotei Ramen Menu We settle on one bowl of tonkotsu ramen ($9.25), one bowl of miso ramen ($9.50), gyoza ($4.50), zangi (fried chicken) ($4.50), chasu don (pork belly on rice) ($5.50) and cha-haw (fried rice) ($5.50). We're ravenous with yearning as we twiddle our chopsticks, letting our eyes dart from the bamboo tables, to the slivered stone wall, to the giant fisherman's rope hanging overhead.

sansotei ramen torontoLuckily for us, the service is speedy and the soups are sensational. From the tender texture of the noodles, to the perfectly soft-boiled egg, to the soft, sweet pork belly, and down to the last drop of smooth, bold broth--this was a ramen to be reckoned with. After all, this is the piece de resistance of chef and owner, Michael Zhang, who high-tailed it out of the quick service restaurant industry after eight years, and enrolled in the Yamato Ramen School in Japan.

sansotei ramen toronto"I've always been obsessed with Japanese food," Zhang tells me. "I've traveled to Japan a lot with my wife, but this time was more about understanding the country, the culture, and the art of the ramen."

Ramen in Japan, and increasingly in Toronto, is serious business. The Yamato School, actually located in the udon prefecture of Japan, taught Zhang everything from proprietorship, to noodle-making (he uses his own recipe at the shop, but needs to contract out the manufacturing due to space constraints in the kitchen), broth boiling, and how to prepare the perfect toppings. "There is no exact science behind the perfect bowl." Zhang admits. "The school is actually like a lab with over 150 ingredients to choose from. It's impossible for two recipes to yield the same taste."

sansotei ramenThe cha-haw is the least exciting of the dishes. While it's by no means a disappointment as far as the smokey flavour and the texture of the rice, it's underwhelming in comparison to the other dishes.

sansotei ramen torontoThe chasudon sees the return of the same supple pork belly and soft-boiled egg as in the ramen, and it's executed well. Be forewarned about the pickled ginger, however--I was anxious for a bit of a palate cleanser, these tiny pink strands were like sucking on a salt cube.

sansotei ramen torontoWhile the ramen itself is a hit--my friends and I also enjoyed the salty kick of the miso ramen, with crunchy niblets of corn over the velvety creaminess of the tonkotsu--we were talking about the zangi long after we left. Marinated overnight in soy sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic, then dredged in flour, fried golden and served with a simple lemon wedge, these karaage were otherworldly.

Sansotei RamenWe left with a pleasantly full stomach, and our palates were satisfied. I'll be making my way back to Sansotei Ramen soon, and hopefully before they run out again.

Discussion

25 Comments

Ken / September 22, 2012 at 01:04 am
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Exciting stuff. I've not yet been wowed by any ramen in Toronto, but it seems like that time will be coming real soon, with the surge in ramen shops.
Great review of a variety of dishes, great descriptions too.
Connie / September 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm
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Seems that being sold out is a problem at this restaurant. We arrived before 7:30pm on a Saturday night only to find out from the server that "the food ran out". How can you be out of food by 7:30pm on a Saturday evening???
Erika / September 23, 2012 at 03:56 pm
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Hey, do you also write a blog called "That's So Tasty?" I think I've come across your work before! Great job!
Greg / September 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm
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Time to rewatch Tampopo.

http://youtu.be/kbp5xm8R2VQ
Lauren replying to a comment from Erika / September 25, 2012 at 08:11 am
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Yeah, it's definitely the same guy... but I think it's Now That's Tasty. I've read it before too!
naomi / September 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm
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The fried rice is actually called "cha-han", as spelled out in the Japanese katakana characters, not "cha-haw". Looks like the "n" is a "w" on the menu. Looking forward to trying this place out!
B / September 25, 2012 at 01:24 pm
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Delish & service was great too! Pass by this place everyday & it's sold out by 8pm... Line starts at 6/7 so if you don't want to wait be sure to be there @ 6!
Ben / September 25, 2012 at 05:33 pm
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What on earth is the "udon prefecture?" There are different varieties of udon in various places in Japan. Kagawa Prefecture, where the school is located is known for "sanuki Udon."
pomoBoho / October 4, 2012 at 01:27 pm
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is this place open for lunch??
JAy / October 8, 2012 at 04:54 pm
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GIVE PEOPLE THE CHOICE OF SHOULDER AND BELLY.. i do not like the belly in my ramen.. i like shoulder. Kinton Ramen offers you the choice, so until Sansotei does the same i will be eating all my ramen at Kinton
Writer / November 18, 2012 at 06:33 pm
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Toronto loves ramen. Its passe restauranting but hey, like fashion, Toronto isn't cutting edge. It's too easy to swindle foody hipsters here. If you eat around the world, you'll see that ppl who line up for places like these are an unsophisticated bunch who herd along for something to talk about.
Sandra / November 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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Why review a ramen shop when you don't even talk about the ramen?!?!?!?! Seriously....one sentence about how you enjoyed the ramen and that's it?!?!?!
Sezme replying to a comment from naomi / November 29, 2012 at 05:17 pm
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Actually it looks like Cha-Han is spelled correctly on the menu, but the the reviewer misread it as "Cha-Haw": not the restaurant's fault. Pro-tip: HAN means rice in Chinese (at least as rendered in Japanese), and Ramen after all is considered quasi-Chinese food in Japan, hence the fried rice.

Anyway, look forward to trying Sansotei.
Sezme replying to a comment from Writer / November 29, 2012 at 05:27 pm
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What kind of nonsense is this? Ramen restaurants are passé? Oooh, shame on us for being three years behind NYC! I guess that makes Ramen inedible. No seriously, trends be damned, some of us love Ramen and have been crying out for good Ramen in the city (sorry Kenzo and Ajisen), and don't give two gyoza how out of fashion it may be. Oh sorry, you were trolling? Never mind.
Adam replying to a comment from Writer / December 8, 2012 at 04:38 am
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If you travel the world, you'll find that it's not unusual to encounter people like Writer who think it's sophisticated to point out that cities smaller than New York are not New York.
Sarah / January 18, 2013 at 02:52 pm
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Novice, novice, novice here. So easy on the hate people. This place is across the street from my office, always jammed at lunch, and I want to give it a try. But for lack of a review on the actually RAMEN can someone tell me whether there are any veg options?
Sahar / March 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm
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Hey Sarah. You can ask them not to have any pork belly, but they told me all their noodle broths are pork based, so unfortunately I can't take along any vegetarian or non-pork eating friends. ;(
Pattaya From Bangkok / April 27, 2013 at 01:19 am
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Having read this I believed it was rather informative.
I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together.
I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and
leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!
abeshinzo / November 14, 2013 at 08:30 pm
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UDON prefecture?? lmao.

a lot of ramen shops in japan stay open until the day's broth is done... 7:30pm on a Sat seems a bit unreasonable however. more commonly though they stay open really late-night, to catch the post-drinking crowd at 2-3am etc. for example, Santouka in Shibuya is open until 4am seven days a week.

also the problem with a lot of Toronto ramen-eaters is that they seem to think that the little slice(s) of meat on top is the main ingredient. the chashu or yaki-buta (roast pork) or pork-belly is just one of the toppings, a small piece of the overall pie. if it's done well it's a bonus but experienced ramen eaters would not pick and choose their shops based on that. it's not a meat dish FFS! go to a steak house if u want meat.
adh / December 3, 2013 at 06:42 pm
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Why do these shops close so early?
I mean Jesus you COULD stay open past your bed time!
It is a business and MY bed time comes much later
no business sense
Saam / January 1, 2014 at 12:39 am
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these places are too expensive for the normal price of ramen.. it is acceptable to pay more when there is beautiful waitresses and showing you beautiful skin but boring pants? no thanks
will / January 19, 2014 at 01:14 am
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the reviews are correct good ramne closes early and really mom and pop. Waitress is not attractive but it is a $10 shop what do you expect? Some customers are pretty and wear nice clothes
Abe / January 22, 2014 at 07:31 pm
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^what a superficial prick this guy is...who gives a crap as long as the food is good.
Nash / July 29, 2014 at 02:17 pm
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Tried this for lunch today and asked the server to make me a recommendation, totally great stuff and kind genuince service too! I always notice line-ups in the evenings and the fact that most of the folks inside are Oriental or of such descent means that it is the real thing and good too!

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