This summer, a number of new ramen restaurants—from Japan and Vancouver—are scheduled to invade the city’s arguably lacklustre alkaline noodle scene. The first to make it to opening day: Kinton Ramen,a long and narrow noodle shop by the same group that introduced Guu to Toronto (along with its boisterous greetings, also present here). It opened last Friday in Baldwin Village, and has already seen lineups out the door. Managing the 46-seater is chef Nobuaki “Aki” Urata, who started as a ramen chef in Japan at the age of 19, before spending the next 15 years in Canada, seven of them managing Kintaro, a well-known Vancouver ramen restaurant (the upcoming Raijin Ramen on Gerrard Street is from the owners of Kintaro).
Bennett Loof Dialogue 38(Guu Izakaya, Spring Rolls) designed the natural wood–clad space. At the entrance, light from the windows spills over a long wooden tachinomiya (standing bar)—the first of its kind in Toronto, but common in Japan. Tall wooden stools surround the kitchen bar, and at the back, a gleaming steel kitchen is equipped with a gyoza machine and ramen noodle boiling stations imported from Japan. There’s also a communal table that (tightly) packs nine. We’re told Kinton’s mascot, a golden pig, is associated with prosperity; it adorns the wall behind the bar and its illuminated presence in the washrooms is a constant reminder of the restaurant’s porcine devotion. Even the dining room’s eye-catching textured walls—made up of the cut ends of raw wood, tiled at angles—resemble cut slices of chāshū pork.
The restaurant relies on executing two things well: the ramen noodles themselves and the variety of soup combinations they come in ($9.50-$12.80). The fresh noodles are custom made specifically for the restaurant using Alberta flour and brought in three times a week. Kinton’s broth, meanwhile, is rich in collagen, the result of pork bones, chicken, fish and vegetables slowly simmering for 20 hours. Four soup bases are available: Miso (soy bean paste), Shio (sea salt), Shoyu (soy sauce) and spicy (with chili pepper), all of which can be served light or chacha (i.e. fatty, with added pork back fat that’s whacked through a sieve over the noodle bowls). Toppings range from the traditional (spicy garlic) to the decidedly unconventional (Swiss cheese), although the two types of chāshū (shoulder and belly) and Kinton egg (soft boiled with an oozing golden yolk) stand out. There’s also miso garlic oil made from pan frying garlic in back fat to the point of becoming burnt like charcoal. Vegetarians beware: while Kinton does serve vegetable ramen ($9.80), it’s not actually vegetarian, as it’s cooked and served in Kinton’s meat-based stock. Non-soup options include small plates ($3-5), like gyoza and fried chicken, and donburis (rice bowls, $5.80); look for specials, such as cold ramen salad during summer months. A liquor license is still pending (several kinds of beer and beer cocktails will be available), and like Guu, it’s open seven days a week but does not, naturally, take reservations. As at Guu: expect line-ups.