Visited: Early dinner Sunday Apr 21, 2013
Company: Had planned to go after the Jays game with group of 8
With the popularity of ramen growing as rapidly as it has in Toronto the last year, I knew I had to go big for my first experience. I had heard about the hype of Santouka from +Gisele and +Mohan both recently, a noodle bar with people lining down the street to get in and raving reviews everywhere. I was rather excited to taste the epic-ness of this crazed ramen finally, and to experience it with both foodies and non.
When we arrived, there was only one group in front of us, but it was always a worry to be in a group of 8 going to a restaurant with very limited seating. We were told it would be a wait of 5-10 minutes, but really depended on how fast people would be. Waiting in line was quite an interesting time, being asked for money by strangers and getting chirped by someone on the bus for waiting in line to get into the restaurant. The anticipation was building, as were our appetites Luckily, everyone stuck it out and waited to be seated rather then getting sushi instead :P.
You can tell from the menu that they aren't messing around, with only four ramen choices and some rice dishes, it's pretty obvious what you should be getting. I decided on a combo to try both. I chose the Shio Ramen which is their signature dish and because I like creamy broths, paired with the Negi Meshi Rice Bowl which I had found out that is topped dried bonito which is a fish (not a vegetable as believed by +Mohan). There is also a minimum order of about $10 in case you were interested in waiting in line just to get an ice-cream. +Jérémie also requested that I point out that butter is $1 on the menu.
Ok, now on to the ramen... They were actually pretty quick with the orders and were presented quite appealingly. I was so excited but had to take a few photos for the blog first... but with that wait, that first spoonful of broth was just heavenly. The taste was very rich with flavour and not too creamy, I don't even know how else to describe it. The temperature was so perfect though, they have that down to a tee. The noodles were good but nothing special, and the toppings were an interesting combo but fun to try with the group discussing what things were. I got quite full from it after a few bites though, maybe it was the salt? I know others had complaints of the fattiness of the meat and in the soup but I think that just comes with Asian cooking. The rice was...rice but I didn't quite enjoy the bonito flakes, it was a lot more fishy then I had hoped so I was basically just having rice with green onions, and that's just weird. I would just go for the ramen next time, the portion was decent sized for myself and didn't stuff me but maybe for others it was too small. I couldn't see myself coming for a meal here, maybe when you're only a bit hungry.
So that was my first ramen experience... I think after a few more go's, I'll enjoy it more and may have better reviews? Just like all foreign foods, you have to acquire a taste for it and even though I enjoyed the ramen, I don't understand the hype for it. Maybe all the other ramen places are bad and I just don't know because I went straight for the best, but I guess I will find out eventually. Looking through the photos, I definitely crave ramen but it didn't leave that much of a lasting impression on me. What did everyone else think?
Food: 3.5/5 - Good ramen, okay rice.
Decor: 4/5 - Clean, simple, tight, super Asian.
Service: 4/5 - Very friendly staff, I was actually surprised they weren't stuck up and were really nice to us noobies.
Likeliness to come back: 1.5/5 - Would like to try the other broths, but wouldn't wait in line for this.