Santouka Ramen originated in Japan and now has many locations throughout Asia, the US and two in Canada. Continuing my ramen tour through Toronto, Santouka was at the top of my list based on other blogger and friend reviews on the authenticity and delicious broth (my favourite part of ramen, I can overlook ok noodles if the broth is good). I was wary of a line though, since Santouka follows the trend of occupying small spaces in downtown Toronto. After an hour in line from 2pm-3pm on a stat holiday, we finally made it inside. I did notice that we were the tail end of the line. After 3:30pm people were seated pretty quickly.
Atmosphere: We arrived just after lunch and it had a more family vibe than I had expected. Quite a few parties at strollers and small children with them in line. I’ve never had ramen for lunch before though, so this might be standard everywhere. It was also Family Day in Toronto. One unique layout at Santouka are the bar seats facing the kitchen, it would be interesting to watch the food come together. This also meant parties of two were seated faster than larger groups.
Service: Our server was quick to take our order and food came out quickly. On the menu it stated that you can specify thin or thick noodles and how fatty you want the broth, but this wasn’t explained or prompted for when we placed our order which, for first time visitors, or anyone who is new to ramen might be lost. The feeling inside was pretty hectic with tables being cleared quickly. Overall, it wasn’t too hard to flag someone down to get our bill, but service was minimal.
Food: Looking at the appetizers, nothing really appealed. It was pickled vegetables or side dishes with ramen, not really an appetizers for a table to share. Everyone ordered ramen and the boys went with the ramen and rice bowl combos, a negi meshi and a grilled salmon. I had the classic shio ramen with an added soft boiled egg on the side, the ramen normally comes with half a hard-boiled egg on the side.
Although the bowl looked smaller, it was deep and there were a lot of noodles. For the toppings, I really liked the bamboo and the plum and was really happy I ordered the soft-boiled egg, it was much better than the default offering. I wish they included half a soft-boiled egg with the ramen normally because it’s my favourite ramen topping. I liked the texture of the noodles, not too soft and still chewy. The broth was salty, fatty, rich and very flavourful. I drank all of mine then had to guzzle water the next day but it was worth every drop (and swollen fingers). I had a bite of my friend’s salmon don, it was good but nothing amazing. I would pass on it unless one bowl of ramen isn’t enough food.
In my opinion, Santouka’s on par with Sansotei. The two are close. For me though, the cha-shu pork at Santouka wasn’t too memorable and I like that Sansotei’s ramen comes with an egg so given a choice I’d rather lineup for Sansotei. I do plan on re-visiting both restaurants again many times.
Next time: Toroniku Ramen (pork jowl) without a doubt.