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What’s on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto’s first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz

By Liza Agrba| Photography by Joshua Best
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz

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Name: Crafty Ramen Contact: 217 Ossington Ave., craftyramen.com, @crafty_ramen
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods Previously: Ossington Canteen Owners: Jared Ferrall, Miki Ferrall and Khalil Khamis Chef: Jared Ferrall Accessibility: Not fully accessible

Husband-and-wife team Jared and Miki Ferrall met at a language exchange centre in Vancouver. The pair eventually moved to Tokyo together, where they ate their fill of ramen as Jared worked as a chef and Miki ran a language school. All the while, they wanted to open their own ramen restaurant but needed more start-up capital. Jared got a job cooking on a superyacht, Miki joined the below-deck crew and the duo spent the next few years sailing the world with their ultra-wealthy client.

crafty ramen
Left to right: Jared, Miki and Kahlil

Having finally saved up enough money, the couple made their way back to Jared’s hometown of Guelph and, in 2017, opened the first location of Crafty Ramen and city’s first dedicated ramen restaurant. They focused on friendly, accessible branding meant to introduce Japan’s number one comfort food to the uninitiated; the result was snaking lines and serious fanfare. They teamed up with one of their regulars, Khalil Khamis, who happened to come from a restaurant-franchising background. With his help, they opened a second location, in Kitchener—then the pandemic hit.

Inspired by at-home cocktail kits, the trio started selling at-home, some-assembly-required ramen kits to make up for lost revenue. They sold like hotcakes and became a fixture of the business even as dine-in restrictions lifted. Doubling down on the retail side, Crafty Ramen now also makes heat-and-eat frozen ramen pucks, which you can find in a freezer at their brand-new Ossington outpost.

crafty ramen
The food

During their ramen research days, Jared and Miki travelled from northern Sapporo to the southern island of Kyushu to pick up as much regional inspiration as possible. Paying homage to ramen’s versatility, each bowl on the menu is loosely inspired by a particular region.

Crafty Ramen makes three types of broth: two chicken broths (one light, one rich) and a stellar vegan variety made with kombu and shiitake mushrooms. Their noodles are thin and satisfyingly chewy—quite a feat given that they purposely excluded eggs from the recipe to make the noodles accessible to vegans (half the menu is completely plant-based). Their tare—a concentrated seasoning mixture that literally translates to “sauce”—goes in each bowl first and comes in five varieties including miso, black bean and sesame. Toppings range from traditional to whimsical, like miso gochujang butter in tiny humanoid-shaped moulds).

crafty ramen
Chewy, bouncy noodles made with Canadian hard wheat flour. Most ramen noodle recipes contain eggs for that signature bite, but Crafty Ramen keeps theirs vegan (and somehow still miraculously holds onto said bite). This is a Hakata-style noodle—that is, thin and light-coloured—designed for maximum slurpability

 

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crafty ramen
Here we have the spicy chicken tan tan ramen. Rich sesame tare forms the flavour base, dissolving into a light Tokyo-style chicken broth. Ground chicken breast cooked down with ginger, garlic, soy and sake is topped with ito togarashi (superfine threads of dried chili). It’s all finished with bok choy and Szechuan Tears, a house-made chili oil infused with Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, bay leaf and cinnamon. $17.25

 

crafty ramen
This is the vegan version of the Kaizen Warrior (the non-vegan version of which comes with pork chashu). Crafty Ramen’s vegan broth is no afterthought: it’s made with cold-infused kombu, shiitake and cherry tomatoes for a satisfying umami trifecta. The tofu is marinated in soy, rice vinegar, ginger and garlic and coated in crunchy sesame. The tare is made from a flavourful combination of red, white and local aged barley miso. $17.25

 

crafty ramen
Tender, crispy pork gyoza adapted from a family recipe Miki has been making since she was six years old. They’re served with a classic soy vinegar dipping sauce. $7

 

crafty ramen
Bright and full of veggies, the spicy Negi is topped with a tangle of chili oil–laced green onions and ito togarashi. Underneath that: pickled shiitake (upcycled from the vegan broth), dried tomatoes, sesame-crusted tofu and noodles. This is the vegan version, but it’s also available with chicken breast and chicken broth. $17.25

 

crafty ramen
Korean fried chicken, adapted from Miki’s mother’s recipe. The gochujang-glazed karaage is served with pickled shiitake. Fun fact: this dish started life as a staff meal at their OG Guelph location. $9.95

 

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crafty ramen
This is the Northern Warmer, inspired by the city of Sapporo. Corn, miso and butter are classic components of ramen from this region—accordingly, this bowl features all of the above, alongside cabbage, menma (lacto-fermented bamboo shoots) and adorable little moulds of gochujang miso butter. The protein is house-made pork chashu, cooked for 24 hours with soy, ginger and garlic (though guests can also opt for chicken breast). $17.25

 

crafty ramen
Flanking an array of ramen accoutrements—all available in the restaurant’s small market section—are two house-made hot sauces: an anise-infused chili oil dubbed Szechuan Tears and the aptly named Liquid Fire

 

crafty ramen
Take home your favourite bowl with a some-assembly-required meal kit or a heat-and-eat freezer option
The drinks

A tight selection of soft drinks, canned cocktails, kombucha and a variety of local craft brews. “Craft beer and craft ramen are a match made in heaven,” says Jared, looking fondly at a lineup of cans from Bellwoods, Godspeed and Burdock.

crafty ramen

 

The space

A colourful collage of Japanese cultural iconography, designed by Miki, runs along the restaurant’s dining area. (Look closely and find a few Crafty Ramen easter eggs, like the University of Guelph griffin and their first shop’s phone number.) Under an awning lined with fairy lights, six bar seats look out on a black-and-white graphic depicting the inside of a ramen food truck—a homage to Japanese yatai, a mobile food stall dating back to the 17th century. The quirky decor gets a warm, homey feel from walls lined with upcycled wood and exposed brick. And, at the front, a small market area sells heat-and-eat ramen, meal kits and two kinds of house-made hot sauce along with other ramen accessories.

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crafty ramen
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
What's on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto's first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz

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