Introducing: Ramen Raijin, the new Toronto outpost of a Vancouver ramen pioneer
In the city’s ongoing ramen revolution, the two most recent players are both long-standing Vancouver favourites: Santouka, which opened two weeks ago, and Ramen Raijin, owned by Daiji Matsubara, who’s known for his Vancouver ramen emporiums Kintaro and Motomachi Shokudo. Named after the Japanese god of thunder, Raijin occupies the 3,500-square-foot former Creasians space—it’s much bigger than most noodle joints—on Gerrard Street just east of Yonge. Designed by the same team that outfitted Motomachi, Raijin’s decor blends Japanese and Western styles with warm woods, cool slate tiles, bright splashes of painted accents and ample lighting (as well, a six-foot statue of Raijin is at present on its way from Japan). But of course the restaurant’s raison d’être is found in the back stock-boiling kitchen, which prepares up to 300 litres of salty, fatty broth every day.
Raijin offers Tokyo-style ramen ($9.50–$10) made from creamy tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, as well as the rarer toridashi (clear chicken) broth, in shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) or miso flavours. However, it’s the grey-tinged bamboo-charcoal dark miso ($11), a signature of Motomachi, that will draw the true acolytes (noted for its putative toxin-cleansing abilities, the charcoal powder adds smoky depth to the miso chicken broth it’s blended in; it will be available starting in December). As at Kintaro and Motomachi, Raijin imports its three types of noodles—thick, wavy and thin—from California, and each is paired with a select type of broth. Toppings include seasoned boiled egg, bamboo shoots, corn, black fungus, nori, bean sprouts, cabbage and char-shu (barbecue pork) made from pork shoulder. Among the sides are pan-fried gyoza ($2.50 for five), pork buns ($7 for two) and Poutine du Japon ($5), which is just what it sounds like: fries topped with teriyaki sauce, mozzarella cheese, green onions and nori. The restaurant is currently in soft-opening mode, without a liquor licence, but when the full menu is launched, expect vegetarian-friendly ramen ($11), tsuke-men (soup with noodles for dipping on the side, $11) and cheese miso with soy milk ($11).