Kinton Ramen (North York)
Kinton Ramen North York opened last month at Yonge and Empress, marking the fourth location in the local ramen chain. The tight, compact interior is much the same as the towering condo units that soar above it. Kinton took over after Jetsun's Juicy Burgers, a long time occupant of the spot closed up shop earlier this summer.
Well known around the city for their popular bowlers (giant bowls of ramen), Kinton started off with their infamous Baldwin street location, and when that quickly became notorious for long lines and no reservations second and third locations were added, respectively, one on Bloor West, and one on Queen West. The design at their northern sibling much the same, modern stainless steel touches mashed up with honey wood slabs for stools dotting the bar area and communal tables.
Although stung by two yellow cards doled out by the Dine Safe health inspectors swiftly after opening, the restaurant looks clean and absolutely packed by lunchtime. Homemade lemonade ($3) and Japanese hot tea ($2) are good responsible lunch time beverages, but their drink menu had some tempting libations as well, the standard Sapporo on tap, of course, as well as nifty Sapporo based cocktails. Sake and wine round the list out.
The Kinton Ball ($4.50) is a deep fried and breaded pork scotch egg slathered in a sweet chilli mayo and makes a decent starter, albeit impossible to share equitably. Tofu Furai, ($5.80), on the other hand, come four to an order: The nuggetlike morsels of tofu, battered and deep fried, come topped with more sweet chilli mayo and finely diced scallions. The outside crispy shell coated the gooey inside, creating a perfect balance of textures.
The blustery snowy weather outside made the Spicy Garlic ($10.90) with pork belly a safe bet. Those that have been to Kinton before know that the menu reads almost like a 'Choose your Own Adventure' book, starting with broth (chicken or pork) then flavour (Shio, Shoyu, Miso or Spicy) then soup (light, regular or rich) then adding meat (pork belly or shoulder in this case) and finally adding additional toppings (eggs, swiss cheese, more nori, garlic) for those looking to turn a $10 bowl of soup into a $20 bowl of soup.
The Pork Belly Spicy Garlic comes dressed with hits of chilli pepper, bean sprouts and scallions, with a mound of shredded garlic on top. The garlic is an almost a lethal dose though - definitely enough to kill a vampire, or any chances of a second date. The tender pork belly holds its shape in the salty broth allowing you to pull it apart. The noodles maintain their texture until the bitter end, while the flavours hit you in different folds, first a mild dose of heat, then a wave of garlic and onions followed by a kick from the chilli peppers.
Spicy Jalapeno ($11.90) Chicken comes loaded with jalapenos, jalapeno paste, white onions, a sheet of nori and punchy scallions. The broth was straightforward and honest; an exact replication of what the menu promised, but was basically a one note dish and lacked any dimension or undertones that the Spicy Pork delivered. No shock here, I guess - pork beats chicken every time.
Bowler-happy ramen fans in North York are packing this place in tighter than a sardine in a tin can, so opt for eating at off times to secure a table. There's not much space inside for lingering while you wait for one to come free.