Konjiki Ramen is a world-famous Japanese operation that does the classic noodle soup to Michelin standards.
In fact, Konjiki has received the Bib Gourmand four years in a row, a special category the Michelin Guide created for outstanding moderately priced food. This Toronto location is their first overseas outpost.
You have to enter Konjiki through Japanese dessert cafe Saryo, who they’ve partnered with here in Canada. The long narrow space with elevated seating in the middle and low tables around the edges evokes the noisy, cozy confines of a typical ramen shop, though it’s a far cry from the eight-seat original in Shibuya.
A big part of what makes Konjiki’s ramen so good is that every single step is painstakingly considered. Noodles are made off-site at a central kitchen out of special flour and ingredients using special imported Japanese machinery, then stored in boxes made in Japan. Even spoons and bowls were shipped from there.
The basic steps of ramen making take place in the back, where enormous pots of broth boil, and then finishing touches are put on up front: you can even have a front row seat for the action at a small bar.
Signature clam broth ramen ($14), comes in two styles, shoyu (soy based, more intense) or shio (salt based, lighter and milder). We opt for the shio, and the flavours of clam, chicken and pork that make up the base are full of comforting umami flavour as seafood sweetness.
The broth is made using cherrystone clams and pork bones that are cooked for over ten hours. The shio ramen comes with tender sous-vide pork, porcini mushroom sauce, white truffle oil, diced arugula, pea shoot, basil, red onion, braised bamboo shoot, leek, and a crumbled pancetta garnish that highlights the salty clam even more.
Spicy red tonkotsu ramen ($13) is one of three ways to have their other meat-based broth, a more opaque, rich style of soup. Mixed spiced red chili oil delivers on spice without overwhelming, accompanied by marinated pork, beans, beef, veggies, braised bamboo shoot, leek and spring onion.
Vegetarian ramen ($14) provides a last unique meatless option, and Toronto is the only place to get it. The broth is a creamy potato soy milk base, with roasted corn, yam, pickled beet, tofu nuggets, spinach and a little olive oil drizzle to finish.
Gyoza ($5) are made in house and provide a pleasantly greasy companion to any ramen meal.
The karaage ($5) is pretty exemplary, the breading light and crispy.
Chef and owner Atsushi Yamamoto himself journeyed here to set up shop, so it’s legit. Avoid busy evenings and weekends if you don’t want to wait in line to try.