The inside is narrow with the bar and kitchen on one side and customers on the other. It’s loud, but not Guu-level loud (thankfully) since the staff members at Kinton Ramen aren’t consistent with their greetings and goodbyes. The noise comes from track after track of Japanese singers belting out America’s ghastliest pop tunes you’ll hate yourself for bobbing your head to.
Communal tables are found at the front and back of the restaurant, but requesting a single seat at the bar is the way to do it. Just you and your ramen. Have you tried slurping noodles that wiggle and flick broth while maintaining eye contact with the person across from you who also happens to be sucking noodles hard? It’s weird. Eating ramen is a solo activity. It ups your chances of bypassing the line, too. There’s almost always one vacant seat to reward one very secure dinner.
The ramen menu lists eight options: miso ($9.80), shio ($9.80), shoyu ($9.80), spicy garlic ($9.80), vegetable ($9.80), cheese ($11.80), extra pork ($12.80) and chicken ($9.80 and limited). Whatever you set your sights on, you can choose your broth’s level of intensity – light, regular or heavy on the salt and fat. You also get to select between pork belly and pork shoulder for pork-based orders – go for belly. Every bowl is garnished with different toppings to complement each stock and add-ons will cost extra.
Feast your eyes on the shoyu ramen with regular broth and pork belly. Thick, wavy, homemade wheat noodles were submerged in pork broth flavored with soya sauce, while snappy bean sprouts, green onions, a whole egg with a viscous yolk, a piece of nori and a giant strip of pork belly floated at the top. The stock was hit with a good dose of sodium, but I longed for a deeper pork-bone profile. By no means a flop – I just don’t see myself gravitating towards it again, even if I go with the heavier option. I liked the resistance of the noodles. Kinton Ramen removes them from boiling water a little before they’re al-dente so they don’t turn soft sitting in a hot pool of broth. As for the pork belly and its alternate layers of moist flesh infused with an element of smokiness and succulent fat? Delicious.
The spicy garlic ramen was a winner. In the bowl were the same thick and chewy noodles, crisp bean sprouts, green onions and my choice of pork shoulder marbled with fat (more tender than the belly). Despite the alarming lava-esque appearance of the soup speckled with red chili flakes, the heat only kicked into high gear once I swirled in the scoop of fresh, grated garlic. It overwhlemed everything else, but in a good way if you love garlic. My tongue and mouth throbbed with every sip...and I enjoyed every bit of it.
Had Kinton Ramen opened it in Montreal, I’d be all, “Oh my God, you guys. I'M IN LOVE.” But in Toronto, where strong contenders like Sansotei and Santouka exist (both within minutes of Kinton Ramen), I’m like, “Yeah, it’s good and I’d go back...but there’s better.”
51 Baldwin Street | map