Thursday, 2 June 2011

Kenzo Ramen

After reading through some of my blogs from April, I noticed that I tend to start all my blogs with "hello hello". Seeing how annoyingly repetitive that seems, I've decided to start each blog post with a greeting in a new language. SO!

こんにちは(konnichiwa) everyone! Moving on with today's blog...
After visiting the fresh cherry blossoms at High Park with S and C, we were extremely tired and hungry. S had researched earlier of a good new ramen place that just opened on Bloor and was itching to try it out.

Kenzo on Bloor; image taken from Google
With those unfamiliar with the term ramen, ramen is a Japanese noodle dish. The noodles in ramen are not your typical Western spaghetti noodles though, rather they are wheat-noodles, so (as I feel) they have a more chewy texture. The broth that comes along with the noodles are usually meat or fish-based, and flavored with soya sauce or miso. Miso and soya sauce are the most basic ramen broths, but there are many different kinds of ramen, depending on the locality of Japan. 
There are actually three locations for Kenzo Ramen; Dundas, Bloor, and Yonge. The Dundas and Bloor locations can be spotted on GoogleMap, but for some odd reason, I can't find the Yonge one. The only reason I even knew about the Kenzo on Yonge was because C had gone there many times beforehand for ramen. I have never visited the Dundas location, so I'll only be reviewing the Yonge and Bloor locations. 
                              BLOOR LOCATION
  Sho-Yu Ramen
Both C and I ordered this type of ramen. Sho-Yu is considered as one of Kenzo's most basic ramen, consisting of wheat noodles in a fish or meat based broth and seasoned with A LOT of soya-sauce. The noodles were served with two pieces of seemingly lightly seared pork, half a boiled egg, a seaweed strip, and a naruto! No, I do not mean the anime Naruto, but rather that little pink/white thing placed beside the seaweed strip. A naruto is basically a processed sliced fish cake and is also commonly called kamaboko in Japanese. The noodles served at Kenzo are definitely different than the ones I've tried at other ramen places (e.g. Ajisen Ramen...). Not only did they possess a favourable chewier texture, the noodles retained more flavour in them than other places. The pork served with the noodles were extremely tender, and literally fell apart into thin strips in your mouth when you ate it, making it very easy to separate the fat portion of the pork slice from the desired meat. As for the taste, the pork did not have much distinction from the soya-sauce broth it was immersed in, it was only slightly more savoury and salty. Nevertheless though, the pork was a great addition. What I liked most from the dish was the egg. I feel that many people tend to overlook the half-egg served with ramen, considering that it just simply looks like a hard-boiled egg. What they fail to realize, though, is that quite a bit of preparation is necessary to make a perfect "ramen egg". Since the perfect ramen egg will have a creamy yolky-centre, temperature is very important, since over-boiling the egg leaves the yolk dry, yet if you don't boil it long enough, the yolk tends to be..well, too yolky. Even after boiling, the egg shell has to be peeled off (which is extremely tedious), and then the egg-whites have to be seasoned with a bit of broth and a dark-soya sauce/light-soya sauce/ pepper concoction to give it that adorable brown color. Kenzo's ramen egg, I feel, captured the whole idea of a ramen egg. The yolk was extremely creamy, and the egg whites were wonderfully fluffy and distinctive in taste. It was truly...eggcellent!
 Tonkotsu Ramen
This was S's order. Labelled as one of Kenzo's Special Ramen, this dish was truly least according to S's reaction (which I highly trust considering how she's also an avid food-lover). The bowl consisted of the same wheat-noodles as the Sho-Yu ramen, and was also served with seared pork, a half hard-boiled egg, seaweed, a naruto, and garnished with green onion slices. The type of broth used was, as the title says, tonkotsu. Tonkotsu is basically a thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen for a long period of time to come out with a cloudy white broth with a creamy consistency able to battle butter.
Since S and I cannot (absolutely cannot) resist takoyaki, we jumped at the option of ordering the dish when we saw it on the menu. As stated in my Guu Izakaya post, takoyaki is basically soft and chewy batter balls filled with octopus pieces, drizzled in takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise, and garnished with super chopped green onions and curling bonito flakes. Compared to Guu, I felt the takoyaki served at Kenzo were better. This was partially due to the fact that their octopus pieces were larger (way larger!) and their addition of a small ingredient that surprisingly added a lot of flavour; cheese. Both C and I felt the creamy and stretchy cheese in the takoyaki was a great addition because it added a more savoury and memorable taste to the dish, that not only kicked it up in flavour, but also kicked it out of the generic takoyaki ball-game making it the winner. S, on the other hand, did not enjoy the cheese inside the takoyaki and would have much preferred the dish without it, so the cheese addition is rather a subjective experience.

                      YONGE LOCATION
C and I went to visit the Yonge location of Kenzo on another occasion before we got down to do some hard-core studying at Starbucks (sigh summerschool). Sadly, S did not accompany us on our ramen venture this time, but I will surely bring her here to try this location sometime. The decor of the Kenzo located along Yonge was not as modern and aesthetically appealing as the Bloor location. In fact, their cash register/ food prep area reminded me of a residential kitchen. I felt slightly intrusive...BUT, as people say, never judge a book by its cover. Though the decor of the store was not as great as the location along Bloor, the ramen was definitely better, both taste-wise and portion-wise.
Karashi Ramen
This was the ramen that I ordered from Kenzo and is considered one of their "Hot" ramen, with "hot" in the most literal term.  The bowl consisted of doughy wheat-noodles, a bed of bean sprouts, seaweed slices, shiitake mushrooms,  2 seared tender pork, one tamagoyaki, and (of course), a naruto! The broth was different from the one I tried last time, for it was mixed with karashi japanese hot sauce, making the overall soup supposedly spicy. The spiciness was not an acute one, mind you, but was rather accumulative. Alongside that, it was also the deadly type, you know, the type that if you swallowed down the wrong tube (such as the breathing tube, instead of your eating tube *damn connected pharynx..*) it would cause much pain and gagging. I honestly loved it. From eating this one bowl of ramen from the Yonge location, I could already tell the difference in quality compared to the location on Bloor. The shittake mushrooms served with the noodles were very juicy, and had an odd, yet wonderful, sweet taste, a characteristic acquired from soaking the mushrooms in mushroom stock+mirin+soya-sauce+sugar mixture.Not only were the portions bigger, but the soup quality, pork, and vegetables tasted fresher, the noodles though had no real difference. The seared pork slices were noticeably thicker and larger, and had a more distinctive seared and 'ashy' taste, totally complementing the noodles and broth. The egg (yellow rectangle) served with the dish, is called tamagoyaki, and is basically a bunch of sweet egg layers. The sweetness is derived from combining the eggs with rice vinegar, and sometimes sugar and soya-sauce. Tamagoyaki is most commonly seen in sushi, such as niri, but it tasted just as good served with the spicy soup. I am not usually a fan of taste combinations, especially sweet and savoury. But, seeing that the chef(s) added two sweet side-dishes to the spicy soup leads me to actually slightly change my perspective and opinion on odd combinations like so. But, don't get me wrong, I'll always hate foods along the same tangent as Hawaiian pizza. Beyond the addition of the tamagoyaki and sweetened shiitake mushrooms and the spicy broth, the only major difference between the Kenzo on Yonge and the Kenzo on Bloor were the seared pork slices (as mentioned above).
Sho-Yu Ramen+Pork Cutlet
First of all, I would like to apologize for the vertical photo-placement, for some odd reason the silly photo refused to be horizontal...anyohw, this was the dish that C ordered for the day. The Kenzo location along Bloor actually did not offer this pork cutlet and ramen combination, leading me to speculate that the combination was a franchise difference based on management. The sho-yu ramen, as mentioned above, is basically a basic meat/fish based-broth with a lot of soya-sauce added inside, and served with wheat-noodles. The major difference between the sho-yu ramen served at Yonge and the one served at Bloor are basically, the size (Yonge is more generous), the seared pork, and the addition of a small pile of corn. The seared pork at the Yonge location is a lot more distinctive in flavour and is thicker, but is equally as tender as the pork served on Bloor. Beyond the pork, though, I didn't find any substantial differences. The pork cutlet that was served with Katsu sauce, was, as I felt, just standard. There was nothing really to set the pork cutlet apart from other places that serve cutlet. It was though, successful in satisfying a crunchy pork cutlet craving.  

Again...delicious takoyaki! This time, C and I mostly tried out the takoyaki to see if there were any noticeable differences. Actually, considering that C has been to this Kenzo many times, it was mostly just me doing the trying hahah. The location along Yonge had a wider choice selection of which type of takoyaki you wanted, whereas the location on Bloor on provided the most basic and common takoyaki. Seeing that both  C and I enjoyed the cheese in the takoyaki last time, we decided to order it here. The batter and set-up of the takoyaki were more or less the same as the ones served at Bloor. The cheese inside was what seemed to be a mix of cheddar and mozzarella slices. Unfortunately though, the cheese was not very stretchy and was actually somewhat hard. The batter to cheese ratio was grossly unfair. Don't get me wrong though, the takoyaki were delicious, but in comparison to the ones served at Bloor, I would say I lean towards the ones along Bloor. This preference, though, could possibly be due to the fact that they were different takoyaki types, rather than the cooking style. 

katsu sauce, i thought the little pear was cute :)
S eating the moving noodle-display at the location on Bloor

Kenzo along Yonge; image taken from Google

     Conclusively.  .   .. ...
                                   BLOOR                                   YONGE
  food:                           8/10                                          9/10
atmosphere:            9/10                                        7.5/10
service:                  8/10 (very busy place)        7/10 (need more staff)
portion:                moderate
                           towards the large side
 price:           reasonable (< $10/dish)     reasonable (< $10/dish)

**yonge location is cheaper

Located at: 372 Bloor St. West                                6180 Yonge St.
Phone Number: (416) 921-6787                              (416) 229-4526

  happy eating!


Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon yonge

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon  bloor


  1. I went to the Dundas one, the line up was quite long, but it didn't very long to get seats. The turnover was pretty fast. The place was soo small, but the food was great. I got the seafood ramen..huge! But it's awesome :)

  2. Very niceeeee!!!

  3. Omg ramen!!! Actually, to be honest, I don't like ramen! There's only one place in my city that I will actually eat ramen because it tastes sooo good! lol Maybe I'll do a post on it sometime =P I also love cha shu ramen and I don't like funky cheese flavored ramen etc. ><

    Omg I totally know what you mean about the "ramen" egg! The restaurant I go to call it golden egg hahaha but it's soooo delicious! If my bowl of ramen doesn't come with one I order one full egg on the side! It's delicious!!! *drools* now I wanna eat it! MmmMMm takoyaki! Sooo delicious but sadly I can't eat a lot in one sitting = bf's gotta eat the rest hahaha, while I was in Tokyo I had "authentic" takoyaki there but it tasted totally different! Well....not totally but there was a difference! I didn't like it but bf did and I had no idea there were soooo many different types! Bf and I just randomly pointed to one hahaha and they also have giant takoyaki! Like just one, giant ball in the box!

  4. I love this food.We are so lucky in New Zealand to have people from Asia. They realy brought fanatstic dishes and herbs to rather dull diet staple of Kiwis.Mind you there are in between 78 nations living here and we are rich, rich with people and their colourfull traditions and food:)Great post.

  5. i only go to the yonge location since it's closer for me and it never disappoints...luv their broth it's so flavorful...always satisfy my craving for noodle soup

    great post as always;)

  6. Maybe I'm a little late (haha^^) but I visited the Bloor location today for the first time. My boyfriend and I ordered Tonkotsu ramen, and my mom ordered the Nagasaki Champon ramen. I personally LOVED my food (except for the red ginger, and I wasn't too crazy about the naruto). I will definitely check out the Yonge location within the next month or so for sure (bigger portions? yes please), and eventually I will try the Bloor takoyaki ^^