Jinya Ramen is a new player in Toronto's fast-expanding ramen scene. This Church and Carlton restaurant is quickly gaining popularity with its flavourful noodles and wide array of snacks.
Walking in, I am greeted (rather loudly) by all the staff, something that's becoming de rigueur at new ramen places. With dark walls, modern fixtures, and loud music, I can't help but notice immediately that the atmosphere ramped way up.
As it turns out, this is just the first Toronto location of a large group of Jinya Ramen restaurants. Japanese-owned but originating from Los Angeles, the chain prides itself on providing quality ramen noodles and snacks with a modern twist in a "loud and proud" atmosphere.
Intrigued by its reputation for providing excellent tapas snacks, I start with the Jinya Bun ($4.50). A succulent thick braised pork belly inside a white fluffy bao, it's a great way to start the meal.
I also get the Brussels Sprouts Tempura ($6.20) and the Crispy Chicken ($10.80 for 10 pieces). The tempura is delicious, with a light drizzling of truffle oil that gives it an extra depth of flavour.
The chicken is essentially a form of karaage , and while the pieces are a tad too large for me, the meat is tender and well-seasoned.
Finally, the Takoyaki ($6.80) here is excellent. The fluffy batter nicely soaks up the sauces, the octopus pieces are chewy without being tough, and the mashed egg base complements the flavours beautifully. It's quite possibly the best takoyaki I've had in downtown Toronto.
Ramen-wise, the best seller here is the Spicy Chicken Ramen. ($13). Served with thin noodles, I find the broth to have a pronounced yet smooth chicken flavour, with just the right amount of spice.
If you're looking for bolder flavours, try the Cha Cha Cha Ramen ($15.25). Chock full of garlic, this is definitely one for those with a more adventurous palate. The flavour profile is more complex, with the chopped onions and pork-garlic broth proving to be a good match.
Jinya also offers a small selection of desserts. I try both the Mochi Ice Cream ($3.50) and Panna Cotta ($4.50). The ice cream comes in a variety of flavours, of which my favourite is mango. The neutral flavour of the mochi casing tempers the strong sweetness of the mango, which is nice.
The panna cotta has a creamy finish that doesn't get overly indulgent. Both desserts are light and a bit restrained, which is perfect after such a heavy meal.