Kenzo Ramen – A hop, skip and a jump away

I was in the mood for comfort food when I woke up today and what could be more comforting than a bowl of warm noodles.  Kenzo Ramen opened up last year and quickly became one of my “go-to” places.  The food is good, the food is cheap (almost all the items are under $10) and the place is right across the street from where I live.  Win, win, win.

The first item that appears on the menu is the Sho yu Ramen.  The menu description reads, “Super noodles in tasty Japanese soy sauce”.   The menu descriptions sometimes describe the noodles in different ways but I’m pretty sure the noodles are the same in all the dishes.  The noodles, made in house, are pretty good.  They have a nice texture, have a little bit of bounce to them and have a good flavor.  They give you quite of a bit too.  In comparison to the place my sister took me to in Vancouver,  I wouldn’t say they are as good but would still fall in the same class.  The broth for this variation is simple, not overly salty (which I was expecting from a soy based broth) and quite tasty.  They also throw in some tofu, seaweed, onions and sprouts into the mix.  The pork slices added can be hit and miss though.  Most days it’s cooked to be fairly firm and the meat itself is relatively lean.  I have gone some days however where they give you a really fatty piece of pork.  The meat really begins to soak the flavor of the broth so I usually eat around it for a little while so it can soak up more flavor.

One of the other basic ramen dishes is the Miso Ramen which is described as, “Tasty noodles spiced with special Misotare, Japanese soybean paste”.  Again, the broth is fairly simple but is quite flavorful.  They throw the same kinds of extras in as the sho yu ramen (pork slices, veggies, etc).  I personally like the miso ramen over the sho yu ramen but every once in a while I like to mix it up.  I usually opt for the fancier ramen dishes too since there is more too them.

My “go-to” ramen dish is the Orochong Ramen which is described as, “Hot and tasty Hokaido ramen.  The most popular amongst Japanese youths”.  The “most popular amongst Japanese youths” was the real sell here…just kidding.  This dish has a nice spicy broth that actually packs a bit of heat.  I start to sweat a little  if I start consuming too much broth too quickly.  I also like that they throw in a lot more vegetables like mushrooms and peppers.  I find everything in this dish just works well together.  I like the heat of the broth, the texture of the noodles and the taste of the veggies and meat.  I just really like spicy food which is why this really hits the spot for me.  I also like hearty dishes so this is satisfying for me on several fronts.

One of the heartier ramen dishes is the Ji Su Men Ramen, described as, “Magnificent thick ramen with sliced chicken”.  The broth is a little thicker (they throw in a scrambled egg) than the others which makes it a little more filling.  The experience is very different of that of the basic ramen and spicy ramen.  The basic is a little more light and refreshing, the hot is …hot and these feel more like comfort food.  The taste of the dish is smoother (almost velvety) and mixed with the noodles, provides a very satisfying dish.

In addition to the soups they also have some sides.  I haven’t tried the gyoza yet but I have tried their Takoyaki, battered balls of octopus with Japanese mayo.  When they brought the dish out I was a little shocked with the size.  They are quite big!  I usually expect takoyaki to be bite size pieces.  I did fit the whole thing into my mouth but it was pretty difficult to chew.  It also didn’t help that is was piping hot (I burnt my mouth).  Eating it in two bites is probably a better idea which is what I started doing after the first one and letting it cool off for a bit.  In terms of taste, the Japanese mayo gives it a lot of flavor and compliments the batter and octopus.  The batter itself was really chewy.  I think it would have preferred the batter to be a little firmer.  The octopus inside was really small in proportion to the rest of the bite so it’s almost unnoticeable.  The octopus that you do taste however is good, a little too rubbery for my liking (I think all octopus is really rubbery though so I’m not sure if I can really complain about that).

If you’re not in the mood for noodles, they also have rice dishes like gyu (beef and onion) and katsu (battered deep fried chicken) dons.  Pictured below is the Tonkatsu (battered and deep fried pork cutlets).  It also arrived with a side salad, miso soup and a small bowl of rice.  The dark sauce on the side is mixed with the pork.  They grind something in a small bowl (I have no idea what it is but it’s some sort of hard spice) and add the dark sauce to it.  The sauce itself is very sweet.  The viscosity is somewhere between water and teriyaki sauce.  It sticks nicely to the pork pieces and nicely balances the saltiness of the batter.  The other sauce is thousand island dressing.  I think it’s for the salad since it didn’t taste that good with the pork.  After having my first bite of the salad the first thought that went through my mind was “Big Mac”.  DAMN YOU BIG MAC FOR RUINING THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING FOR ME!  The shreds of lettuce were fresh, crisp and an enjoyable side to the heavier and slightly greasy pork cutlets.  The pork cutlets themselves were actually a little on the dry side but when mixed in the sauce you don’t really notice.  In terms of quantity, they give you a lot of pork but I was kind of hoping for this since it is one of the most expensive items on the menu (~$12).  The miso soup was good, better than an all you can eat sushi place and probably on par with a good sushi place.  Overall, the elements of this dish work really well together and it is generally well executed (I wish the pork wasn’t as dry but maybe I caught them on a bad day).

For a place that specializes in ramen, they have a lot of options on the menu.  I love the varieties of broth that can appeal to any sort of mood I’m in.  The side dishes are tasty and the elements of the rice dishes work well together.  With the summer rolling around, I probably won’t be in the mood for hot soup as often (unlike the winter months).  I can assure you though, my laziness will take over from time to time and I’ll opt to simply walk across the street for satisfying noodles instead of venturing further for something else.

http://www.kenzoramen.ca/

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~ by jlowjlow on May 9, 2010.

One Response to “Kenzo Ramen – A hop, skip and a jump away”

  1. nice blog about kenzo! i like their tonkatsu ramen!

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