Nope, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That ain’t a pile of noodles the delicious pork shoulder is leaning against. It’s shredded cheese. Shredded Swiss cheese in fact. But don’t worry, the delicious fresh ramen noodles are immediately below. So feast your peepers on a steaming bowl of Cheese Ramen ($10.80) found at the recently opened Kinton Ramen (51 Baldwin St.) by the good folks at Guu Izakaya.
After some careful plunging, scooping and stirring, the cheese melted easily, adding a smoky flavour and gooey texture to my bowl. It may seem unconventional, but not to this trooper who’s discovered processed cheese in a Korean Hot Pot before. I love melted cheese, so I was game. The broth was light, not too salty (one of my gripes with Kenzo Ramen) and the pork shoulder was incredibly tender. The cheese did cling together in large lumps and the chopstick skills required to separate them into edible bites left my hand crampy. But it’s all in the name of adventurous ramen eatin’.
The fresh noodles are custom made for the restaurant (hence the signature wooden box the come in) and are easily the best ramen noodles available in Toronto right now. (As a side note, I am expecting Hokkaido Santouka to snatch that crown once their much-anticipated Toronto location opens. This is based on my experiences at their Vancouver and Hong Kong locations.) Kinton’s noodles are thicker (than Kenzo’s) with more bite resistance as they’re cooked to order. No Mr. Noodle mushiness here.
Four large vats of soup broth are constantly on rolling bowl in the open kitchen. You can actually see the pork bones bobbing up and down in the mixture of chicken stock, pork bone stock, fish and vegetable broth. Warning: try not to sit at the stools directly in front of these pots. While I imagine it’ll be the coziest spot in the winter, during the summer Toronto’s currently having they are basically the hottest three seats in the city.
The only benefit of those seats is the great vantage point into the open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs assemble each bowl. They pour the broth through a strainer, whisk it, add the noodles, tenderly separate the noodles with chopsticks so they don’t clump together, then carefully add meat, corn, bean sprouts, scoops of raw garlic and other condiments.
If you’re not interested in a little Swiss with your Japanese, there are other options besides the Cheese Ramen. Here’s the Miso Ramen ($9.50) with an extra order of pork ($2) which allows you to try both the pork shoulder (seen poking up around the perimeter) or the pork belly (seen in the centre of the bowl). You must normally make a choice of pork and I recommend the pork shoulder as the belly is quite fatty. The double swine order did prove to be too much meat for its hungry owner. The size of a normal bowl is quite impressive and most will struggle to finish.
Much like Guu, line-ups are a given at Kinton but table turnover is high. Arriving at 6pm meant a 20-minute wait, and by 7pm there were at least 40 people milling out front. Definitely give Kinton a go this summer, I feel confident proclaiming it’s Toronto first real ramen restaurant.
Kinton Ramen / 51 Baldwin St.., Toronto
647 748 8900 / Hours: Mon-Sun 11:30am-3pm, 5-10:30pm