Yes, it’s true… the crazy ride that is Project Food Blog finally came to an end when the results were announced for Challenge #8. I’m a little disappointed, to be sure, but mostly I’m just damned proud that I got as far as I did and happy to have met so many amazing bloggers through the whole process.
I’ve decided to look on the whole adventure the same way I would a marathon (a metaphorical one, that is… I’m the first one to admit that attempting a real marathon at my current fitness level would probably kill me, and I don’t mean that metaphorically). So yeah, I may not be the first one across the finish line, but I still made the Top 24 and that’s pretty freakin’ awesome in and of itself.
Speaking of other bloggers who are totally awesome and wonderful, why not check out the other eleven bloggers who were cut to give them some love. Needless to say, they’re incredibly talented folks that inspire me and make me hungry on a regular basis:
Eat, Live, Run
Eat Live Travel Write
The Front Burner
I Am a Feeder
Korean American Mommy
Brie le Grand Fromage
Spicy Green Mango
You Fed a Baby Chili?
Z Tasty Life
In case you’re curious, the task for Challenge #9 was to write a restaurant review. A few of us decided we’d go ahead and share anyways, just to keep the fun going a little bit longer. Plus, it gave me an excuse to eat out… and well all know I rarely say no to that! :)
Even though Sunday started off bright and sunny, it soon turned into the kind of day when no one wants to be outside – cold, blustery, with flurries coming in fits and starts for the better part of Sunday morning. I’d much rather have stayed in bed with a big mug of hot chocolate, but necessity dictated that we head out to buy some new mittens for The Boy and eventually make our way uptown to have a Chanukkah dinner with his folks (mmmmm… latkas). So, we bundled up and hopped on the streetcar to eat the best possible thing one can eat on a cold wintry day: Ramen.
Located on Dundas just a little west of Bay, Kenzo Ramen is smack dab between the Ryerson and University of Toronto campuses, which makes it hugely popular with the student crowd. No surprise, when you consider that all but one of the menu items are less than $10.
When we walk in around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, the restaurant is only half-full, though it’s not unusual to see a lineup of customers during the peak lunch and dinner hours. The servers all shout out a pleasant greeting in Japanese, then promptly seat us at a table in the corner.
We order two cups of green tea ($2) to tide us over while we look over the menu. It’s not extensive, by any means, but there’s something to be said for picking a specialty and sticking to it – which in this case is a handful of ramen soups combining different broths and toppings.
If your only experience with ramen involves the little packets of instant noodles that are a staple of every student’s diet, you’re in for a big surprise. Kenzo’s soups bear little resemblance to the rehydrated noodles with their MSG-laced broth and a few token slivers of freeze-dried green onion and carrot – these are giant bowls of fresh handmade noodles swimming in a savoury broth and topped off with all manner of delicious toppings. This is the real deal.
The Boy’s bowl of Netsu ramen ($7.95) is dropped off first, a combination of spicy broth garnished with minced pork, finely julienned carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts and thin slivers of green onion. The chili-spiked broth is substantial and not overly spicy, and within seconds he’s happily slurping up the house-made slightly chewy ramen noodles that fill the bowl to the brim.
Right behind it comes my bowl of Tonkotsu ramen ($8.95), a creamy pork-bone broth garnished with three slices of fatty roast pork and the same al dente noodles. It’s pure perfection. The pork is meltingly tender and salty, a perfect counterpoint to the tender-crisp baby bok choy and a handful of bean sprouts and shredded green onion that accompany it, while a thin slice of pink-swirled fish cake and a halved egg with a sunny yellow soft-cooked yolk round things out. A small shaker of shichimi togarashi (Japan’s answer to seasoning salt) is provided on the side, so I give the bowl a hefty sprinkling before digging in – it’s savoury and complex, but not particularly spicy, despite its bright red colouring.
A word to the wise: the portions are HUGE. Despite our best efforts, neither of us manages to polish off our bowls. On the other hand, neither of us has a student’s appetite any more, so I guess some of their patrons might be able to manage to polish off an enormous bowl and still have room for more.
For those folks, there are a couple of appetizers on the menu – namely gyoza ($6.95) and octopus-stuffed takoyaki ($7.95) – but we don’t bother ordering them this time around. By all accounts, the gyoza are absolutely delicious, though if your taste runs to the theatrical, it’s worth ordering the takoyaki simply to watch the topping of paper-thin bonito flakes twitch and dance atop the piping-hot doughy balls.
The service is a little perfunctory but otherwise pleasant and speedy, though some reviews I’ve seen suggest that it can be downright terrible at times, as is almost always the case with student joints.
We don’t seem to have much trouble, though… our ramen appears within ten minutes of our order being taken, and our bill shows up without any prompting as soon as it’s obvious that we’ve eaten our fill. Better yet, we’ve just stuffed ourselves to the brim for just $25, tax and tip included. Sure, it’s a bit more than I used to pay for my instant ramen as a dirt-broke university student, but still plenty reasonable now that I’ve got a grown-up job and the budget to go with it.
Finally, warmed up from the inside out and fortified against the elements, we venture back outside, ready to do battle with the ravening hordes at the
maul… errr… mall. Domo origato, Kenzo.
138 Dundas Street West