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Introducing: Santouka Ramen, the new Dundas Street outpost of the Japanese noodle chain

Introducing: Santouka

(Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

It’s hard to say when Toronto’s ramen wars began, but they’re clearly now raging in earnest. Opening on the heels of David Chang’s frenetically anticipated Momofuku Noodle Bar and the more unassuming Sansotei, Santouka Ramen is the latest emporium to offer ever more authentic versions of the cult Japanese noodle soup. This 36-seat location, on Dundas just a couple of blocks east of Yonge-Dundas Square, is the second Canadian outpost for the Hokkaido, Japan-based chain (the first opened in time for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver). Hiroshi Asada, who oversees both Canadian operations, tells us that consistency is key to the brand’s success: “What sets us apart is that we’re a chain, and we stick to the same recipe that got us here.” It’s clearly working: the place opened quietly over the weekend and is already facing surging lineups at both lunch and dinnertime.

Santouka’s ramen is built from a tonkotsu-style broth that’s made by simmering pork bones for two days. The base is paired with medium-sized noodles that come from a factory in California (we’re told that shipping Japanese noodles over for the North American locations wasn’t feasible). Although the broth is supposed to taste identical to the stuff being ladled out in Japan, the head office has apparently determined that the flavour of the Canadian version actually trumps the Japanese one (Asada attributes it to the quality of the water). Santouka’s mainstay is its shio—or salt-flavoured—ramen, which features roast pork, fermented bamboo shoots, jelly ear mushrooms, cured surimi and a single Japanese pickled plum ($10.95). (For the cognoscenti, that’s chashu, menma, kikurage, kamaboko and ko-umeboshi.) Other options include shoyu (soy), miso and kara-miso (spicy miso) ramen ($10.95–$11.45). The restaurant is currently serving a condensed menu until its official grand opening on November 23, at which point it’ll start serving its famous toroniku ramen, which features a dish of pork cheek on the side.

Santouka Ramen, 91 Dundas St. E., 647-748-1717, santouka.co.jp

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  • Sensei

    Unfortunately, the cult known as ramen in Toronto is an weak attempt at the famdom that’s better established in other cities around the world. Ramen wars were waged in other areas long before they were here (see: SOCAL). It just isn’t that good here. And it won’t be for long time because the people here simply lack the sophistication. They only desire novelty.

  • PC

    Well, la di da.

  • H

    Hmm pork broth…know if there will be any veg-friendly options? (I.e. not just vegetables in pork broth)

  • SP

    I guess I like to eat novelty then. Fine by me.

  • hmmm

    @Sensei look at you with your nose held up high, you must be so proud of yourself. Now go and be with your people – see you never!

  • I love food

    @ Sensei…I know what you are saying. Ramen does have a cult following. The reverence is high, mainly due to the painstaking process is making the noodle. It will never get like that here, I totally agree. But do Torontonians demand that? I’m not sure. Time will tell.

  • gogogo

    Gaijin, gwai lo recipes here only. That’s the food biz folks.

  • mmm

    Sensei is right, folks. Visit other great cities and see for yourselves..

  • Peter

    Unauthentic ramen is served because no one knows any better. Just telling people it is an authentic chain (contradictory) gets them saying good stuff. Anyway, it is full of Chinese so it must be not authentic.

  • http://twitter.com/Greg_DaSilva Greg Da Silva

    For Toronto this is a fantastic joint, I thought i was in Shinjuku for a second. I don’t spend much time in NA these days but this was a welcome respite from the usual chinese in TO, this is 100% J. Don’t listen to the other comments, it’s easy to tell they have an axe to grind (all kinds of kid like issues here). Btw, I live in Japan, Sing & Brasil with an infinite budget for more than a decade now. That being said i did get the most expensive item one the menu + a super dry Asahi.. my fav.

 

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