Friday, October 26, 2012

Kinton -- Don't Eat Before Going There

Line up early!
Friday October 26, 10:54 p.m.

Well, after hearing anecdote upon anecdote via newspapers and friends about this place, I finally got to go to the ramen-ya en vogue, Kinton on Baldwin St. downtown. The Anime King, Automan and The Egg have been down there already, and they gave thumbs-up.

I found the right time to go since my parents were out for the day and I had no pressing translating assignments or classes to sub (even luckier, since I was given the assignment to teach all week next week). Yesterday was all mine to do as I pleased.

With the opening time of 11:30 a.m.,  I got down there by around 11:20. There were already about five folks waiting in front of me, and during those ten minutes before opening time, even more got in behind me. When it did open promptly at 11:30, I had a paranoid second in which I thought everyone was gonna steamroller toward the narrow doorway just like whenever I had to renew my Re-Entry Permit down at Tokyo Immigration. But luckily, everyone acted perfectly politely.

I got seated right in front of the kitchen crew boiling their noodles and searing their pork. My impressions of the place is that this was the Guu-ization of a typical ramen-ya. Guu is that izakaya that I have yet to go to that's just become the cool joint to get a drink. It's an izakaya that seems to be made out as a downtown nightclub for the young and me, that sounds like the complete opposite of the clientele for the real thing back in Tokyo. I've heard that the owners of Guu started Kinton, so no wonder. There was some cool jazzy stuff emanating from the speakers, a bar which provided cocktails at the front, and staff which seemed to hyperbolize the typical banter in a ramen shop. It was all cap letters coming out of everyone's mouths. But whereas ramen shops are virtually located on every corner in Japan, the ramen phenomenon is very much virgin territory even in foodie-conscious Toronto, so a bit of showmanship a la Benihana's teppanyaki is probably not a bad idea.

Extra Pork Ramen....WOW!
As I said, Kinton seems to be a ramen-ya on steroids...perhaps not Lance Armstrong steroids...but still. I ordered an Extra Pork Ramen (probably equivalent to the cha-siu men back in Japan)...had to give the waitress my grocery list of what kinda soup, its richness and what kind of pork (belly or shoulder). She was fortunately unaware of my need to curb my cholesterol, so she suggested having a mix of both. I agreed innocently. When I was back in Chiba, I used to make it a custom to order a plate of gyoza and some seasoned rice with pork flakes. I was somewhat tempted to order at least the gyoza. But I later thanked my enryo in just sticking to the ramen only.

The wait time for the ramen was no different from my time at places like my old haunt of Foo Foo or the Kagetsu Ramen right under my subway station in Ichikawa. When the ramen came out, it looked like a regular bowl of ramen. There was the nori, the kotteri soup, the soft-boiled egg, and of course, the round shoulder cha-siu. But there were also the long bacon-like strips of fatty belly. Wow! I was cannibalizing myself. And the noodles were a bit more al dente than I've had at other places...but no problems there. I've always liked noodles with a bit more bite to them (always cook my Sapporo Ichiban for 2, not 3, minutes).

But I gotta tell ya. I am glad that I didn't order the gyoza or any other side dishes. The Extra Pork Ramen was, if I can go into geek speak here, the TARDIS of ramen....bigger on the inside than on the outside. It must've been the combination of the gorgeous pork and the really rich soup. I slurped and slurped noisily like a proper eater of ramen. Usually back in Japan, I had no problems finishing off a bowl, along with that gyoza and seasoned rice. But I started hitting that wall at about the two-thirds mark with this one...I was actually feeling mucho stuffed. And of course, it's good form to drain the soup despite doctors going apoplectic; I could usually do that with no problem but I ended up leaving a couple of millimeters at the bottom....grounds for court martial in the army of noodles. And I only had cereal and toast for breakfast....honest. Yup, I was feeling my 90 kg there.

I couldn't say it was an inexpensive lunch at $20 although I was pretty generous with the tip. But ramen in Toronto is still a relative culinary new arrival. And it was a good bowl of ramen....would like to try it again during Winter, but I think having a Kinton is something that I only need to do once every few months....that richness will last that long. And I have to say that it's about as close to authentic Japanese ramen that I've had since getting back.