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Restaurants

Santouka Ramen

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

santouka ramen torontoSantouka Ramen is yet more proof that the Toronto ramen craze is at a steady boil. A Japanese original dating back to 1988 with many international outposts, Santouka is happily profiting from the Toronto hype-machine that has hungry trend-seekers waiting in the cold for hours to sample their famed recipes.

santouka ramen torontoNever a supporter of a line myself, I opted against the wait on my first two attempts to dine there. But on our third try, my friend and I scored a table after a 20-minute wait. Note: by the time our order had arrived there were eager diners stretching the length of the large front window, peering inside and Instagramming in an attempt to quell their lust.

santouka ramen torontoThe staff were friendly and the manager, Hatsuki, thanked us for waiting patiently. At least good customer service didn't come with a delay. Their Toroniku Ramen (pork jowl ramen, starting at $15.90) is the specialty of the house--served with jelly ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onion and their signature pork jowl (cheek) as a side to the rich, creamy tonkotsu broth and bouncy ramen noodles.

santouka ramen torontoWe opted for a couple of their combination sets which include a scaled-down bowl of either Shio (salt), Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso or Kara Miso (spicy miso) ramen, as well as a rice bowl and sides. As an addition, we made sure to sample the renowned Toroniku ($6.90) separately.

santouka ramen torontoSimply fanned out with a hefty pile of shaved green onion, the Toroniku was a serious hit. They wouldn't give up the specific secrets behind their preparation of the dish, but they use only the "rarest of pork cheek" comprising only 200-300g of meat on each pig. The meat is simmered over many hours so that it melts on the tongue, and yields its array of deep, sweet flavours.

santouka ramen torontoMy personal combination was comprised of Kara Miso ramen, Ikura Gohan (salmon roe on rice), and a small side of half a soft-boiled egg and a few strands of Shibazuke (Japanese style pickle, $16.90). Of course, the focus is on the soup itself. The spiciness of the broth is a nice change from the typical sweet and salty that comes along with most other tonkotsu preparations, and the soup is velvety nonetheless.

santouka ramen torontoThe noodles are crinkly and hold the flavour of the broth nicely. The jelly ear mushrooms are cut to precisely 3mm thick (according to the Santouka website), and the bamboo shoots add texture and freshness to the abundance of salt and spice.

santouka ramen torontoMy side of Ikura was delicate and delicious. The light, juicy fish roe was fresh and as pleasing to the eye as it was to the palate. The only disappointment in the combo was the soft-boiled egg. Though well-seasoned and marinated, it was overcooked and more akin to something you'd grab out of the fridge at the grocery store than order for an additional $1.60 at a restaurant.

santouka ramen torontoMy friend's combo featured the much lighter Shio Ramen, Negi Meshi (rice topped with dried bonito, green onions, and soy sauce) and the same small side dish ($14.50). For those who don't like the oil content or fattiness of a miso or shoyu, this is likely the best option. Also, included only in the shio ramen, is Santouka's signature topping--pickled plum--which offers a sour taste and somewhat crunchy texture. I don't care much for bonito, but if that's your thing, then the fishy flakes are nicely done and pair well with the green onion and seasonings.

santouka ramen torontoSo, between the buzz, the somewhat ridiculous lineup, and the potentially impending blizzard season, is it worth it? Well, it's pretty damn delicious--I can't argue with that. But with all the other equally satisfying options around the city, I'll be flocking towards what's convenient and quick until the steam subsides and everyone is seeing a bit more clearly.

santouka ramen toronto

Discussion

31 Comments

Jimmy / November 22, 2012 at 01:19 pm
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MENCHIES!!!
sophy / November 22, 2012 at 01:28 pm
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it's not happening like ...

http://www.youtube.com/user/ramenwalker?feature=watch

the lemur / November 22, 2012 at 02:05 pm
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Overpriced compared to Sansotei and the miso ramen is seriously salty.
Jessy / November 22, 2012 at 03:20 pm
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I agree with "the lemur". My friend & I only had a few bites before we called for the bill. Even the manager noticed our untouched ramen. Two bowls for $25+ wasn't worth it for us. Sansotei is still my current fave.
the lemur replying to a comment from Jessy / November 22, 2012 at 03:28 pm
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I had the miso ramen with extra chashu and aside from the saltiness, the ramen seemed undercooked and the chashu didn't have a lot of flavour. That and a cup of genmai-cha came to $17 and change. Not something I'd do for lunch very often.
Lish / November 22, 2012 at 03:50 pm
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The long line up is due to inexperienced waitress. 8 empty seats were available for 15 minutes and staff didn't bother to sit any customer down until 2 people went up and asked if they could take the seats. A ramen meal should not take longer than 20 minutes.
Paul / November 22, 2012 at 07:59 pm
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I loved the place. I've heard several people complain about the saltiness of it, I have no such complaints. It was perfect.

Wait times aside, I would go back.
Mikey / November 22, 2012 at 09:27 pm
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It's all azn people! What a surprise!! That's totally different from Kinton or Sansotei!!!
Toronto Santouka (Fan page) / November 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm
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Toronto Santouka Fan page!!
Please "Like" us!!
https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/TorontoSantouka
joe mama / November 23, 2012 at 08:44 pm
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No Ramen is worth waiting in line for. Especially when you consider how much it costs and how easy it is to make.

At first glance Vietnamese Pho appears to be very similar to Ramen, except if you've ever looked up a recipe it involves stewing a lot of various bones that can't be picked up at your local grocery store...So why is it that it costs half as much as most Ramen places? Unless these Ramen places are making homemade soy bean paste, their using the stuff from the tubs that we can all get at any Asian supermarket...Or you can just buy a $0.99 pack of instant noodles.
Blake replying to a comment from joe mama / November 24, 2012 at 01:15 am
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Go watch Tampopo and then try to say that (good) ramen is easy to make. I don't even care that Tampopo is a work of fiction.
JL / November 24, 2012 at 01:02 pm
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Clearly Joe mama doesn't know a thing about ramen.

Santouka is quite well known across Asian countries, I guess that's the reason why you see so many Asians dining at this place.

For people complaining about saltiness, Authentic Japanese ramen are much saltier than the ones you can get in Kinton or Kenzo. I believe most restaurants do change the taste to fit in Canadians' preferences. The good side is it's healthier, bad side can be the sometimes blend broth you get. (Kinton)

Noodle wise most ramen restaurants in JP let you decide if you prefer soft or tougher noodles. I think it'll be a great improvement if any ramen restaurants consider to bring this feature to TO.
joe mama replying to a comment from JL / November 26, 2012 at 04:57 pm
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Thanks for contributing absolutely nothing, except to re-state the obvious, that Asian people love Ramen.

I am Asian.

If the noodles are homemade, then I see some value...But paying upwards of $12 for something that's essentially a package of $0.99 instant noodles seems ridiculous to me, especially when you can get Pho, for half the price, and the broth is much more difficult to make (at home) than pouring in a powder seasoning and instant noodles. I still have yet to hear of any Ramen restaurant in Toronto making the broth or noodles from scratch.

Also, please spare me the lesson about how Pho is widely eaten in Vietnam and Thailand. Your point about Asians eating Ramen all over the world doesn't do anything to prove that there's value in paying $12+ for $0.99 instant noodles, not to mention having to wait in line.

bryan replying to a comment from joe mama / November 27, 2012 at 07:35 pm
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if you can't tell the difference between a $12 bowl of noodles or $.99 pack of instant noodles then save your words and consider yourself blessed while the rest of us throw away our money sipping that sweet sweet tonkotsu broth.
treehugger / November 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm
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Went. I'm not an aficionado by any stretch but the bowl of noodles I had last night was pretty damn good. The fattiness of the broth and the pork belly was delicious. The service here needs some ironing out as the turnover could be a lot quicker. Price does seem a bit steep but as someone who has made ramen at home (from scratch) - it's not the easiest thing to do despite what some may think.
Cece replying to a comment from joe mama / November 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm
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I'll be the first to admit that just because an establishment is filled with Asian people, doesn't mean it's necessarily good. Take Ajisen Ramen, as an example, which has got to be the worst ramen I've ever had the displeasure to put in my mouth.

That being said, ramen is NOT instant noodles. If you think that's all there is to Japanese ramen, then you are seriously misinformed. In Japan, a very well prepared bowl of ramen (my favourite being Hakata-style from Fukuoka) starts at ¥1000 (about $13CDN), more if you want extra noodles, meat, toppings, etc. A ramen set with a small bowl of fried rice could cost you about ¥1500 (about $18 CDN).

Instant noodles, which also originated from Japan, come in many different ramen flavours -- the main reason why people think they're one and the same. Trust me, they are NOT.
Joe Pape / November 29, 2012 at 11:51 am
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LOOOOOLZ at Joe Mama.

joe mama replying to a comment from Cece / November 29, 2012 at 06:36 pm
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Not every bowl of Ramen in Japan is made fresh, or from scratch.

Some of them are freeze-dried noodles and powdered soup base, which is (hate to break it to ya) the same as instant noodles.

LOL / November 30, 2012 at 06:02 pm
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http://video.pbs.org/video/2299820860

use hotshield
Sonny / December 1, 2012 at 04:04 pm
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Joe Mama is such an idiot. Wow.
Paul / December 9, 2012 at 08:34 am
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Wow
CHinese people love Japanese food. Wow Chinese people die for Japanese food. All Japanese food is full with Chinese die hards
Paul replying to a comment from Sonny / December 9, 2012 at 08:35 am
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and accurate
JL replying to a comment from joe mama / January 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm
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Just as the others have said, if you can't figure out the difference between proper ramen and instant noodles, good for you on the money saved.
KOH / January 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm
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Just ate here recently. I don't understand why Joe mama thinks this is the same with .99 instant noodles. The broth was clearly homemade (NOT powder or instant noodles)
Yes, there are some ramen restaurants in Japan that uses powder instead of making broth/noodles from scratch, but that doesn't mean ALL ramen restaurants are like that.
wikito / February 7, 2013 at 11:28 pm
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more pics
ttp://www.wikito.org/Santouka_Ramen_-_Toronto
AA / February 13, 2013 at 02:02 pm
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The Kara Miso is great here... though you should get more Kimchi than you do for $2.

I will go back
D_bomb / August 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm
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Yea, first of all, getting the Miso broth at a ramen place is kind of like getting the one vegetarian option at a steak house, It's not really the full experience. The traditional Ramen from Japan is always a rich meaty broth. And the noodles are NEVER freeze dried in real ramen shops, that's just dumb. Miso is a soy-bean paste that gets steeped in water like tea to make broth, but the pork or meat based broths take days to make properly and have tons of complexity's from the bones and aromatic added. IF you noticed it was too salty, it was probably a factor of eating miso broth which would be seasoned instead of stewed.
Hal / December 29, 2013 at 11:05 am
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for the high prices they charge you figure they would hire a couple of pretty waitresses and put them in a pretty dress skirt something.
These prices are too high, they must be turning such a profit
really they are changing the idea of ramen as a cheap meal
Tammy terrific / January 6, 2014 at 09:37 pm
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The prices are way too high. I used to go to a ramen restaurant in NYC and the bowl was huge and the prices were more reasonable. How much does a few seeds a bit of spinach and a hard boiled egg slice cost. Broth, even homemade costs pennies per gallon. There is no reason they have to charge these prices. I like to visit the Northern Chinese restaurants that make their own rice noodles in front of you for their noodle soups (which are also homemade) and these soups cost a fraction of these trendy dining options. Never again for me. I am not a fan.
bouncycastlehire / February 26, 2014 at 01:17 am
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Thomas / April 15, 2014 at 02:55 pm
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first, aaarrggh I hate spam like SEO plugin bla bla request above
second, yes I emphatically agree that these restaurants really do not care. I mean a waitress must be trained, smile, have customer care is mission #1 and have a cute outfit with cleavage or legs or the like to attract customers.
If I understand the hospitality industry it is about what the customer wants not what the customer can get in his own kitchen

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