Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ramen on a Cold Day

Thursday December 27, 10:42 p.m.

Boxing Day is always the biggest day for those sales, and two of my dining companions were taking advantage of that fact early yesterday at Best Buy, etc. For me, it simply ain't that important. Instead, I asked around a few days back and got my two friends, The Automan and his wife, plus The Anime Bishop to come to Kinton on Baldwin St. to partake in some good ol' hearty (and heart-ripping) ramen.

Now, if you ask any ramen fanatic in Japan, and there are millions of them, he/she will say that ramen is an all-year, all-weather dish. Perhaps, but I go for the more romanticized notion that ramen was ultimately made for Winter ingestion. Ramen is still sold in the Japanese neighbourhoods via mobile carts as well as in the established restaurants. And what better way to get that Japanese flavour by partaking in a bowl of those slurpy noodles and savoury stock outside seated at a cart under that portable roof?

And so at about 11 yesterday morning, I showed up as the very first person in line at Kinton. I was a bit surprised since Kinton's reputation as one of the most popular ramen joints in town had made me think that there would already be a fairly long snake of people, but things didn't get interesting until about 11:20 when the ramen pilgrims started showing up and lining up. It almost looked like the typical scene in Sapporo at a particularly popular ramen joint. Fortunately, my buddies were prompt.

By the time Kinton opened at 11:30, it didn't take long at all for the entire place (not that the restaurant was ever all that big) to fill up to the brim....I'd probably say that the seats were filled within 5 minutes. Luckily for the four of us, we were able to get the counter seats so that we could see the cooks in action. The staff was primed and ready....before the door opened, I heard them inside doing their customary rah-rah chant for psyching themselves up for their first big day after Xmas. I've only been to Kinton twice, but I can imagine that currently, it's probably the liveliest place on Baldwin St.

The first time I went to Kinton at the end of October, I had ordered the Extra Pork Ramen with the broth set at Rich. Great stuff but I almost literally bust a gut downing that bowl. So, I played it a bit more conservatively this time around, and ordered the Shio Ramen with regular broth. One other reason was that I also wanted to try the karaage....the Japanese-style fried chicken. As you can see, it came out with a few leaves of lettuce, a wedge of lemon to spritz on the golden clumps, and a dipping sauce. Several days earlier, I'd had the karaage teishoku at Ajisen, and mentioned that the pieces there were a bit too rounded. No such problem at Kinton. Good crunch and juicy thigh meat....yep, this was about as close to the authentic karaage that I've had since I came back home to Canada. Me so happy.

The shio ramen came soon afterwards with the topping of shoulder pork, soft-boiled egg, finely chopped green onion, bean sprouts and very chopped salty pork. The broth was indeed savoury but not too salty....this wasn't a Sapporo Ichiban instant mix. The ingredients worked together to bring that salt in. This ramen plus the karaage helped to balance things out for my lunch, and drove away the cold from my bones. The hot green tea helped also in trying to break up the fat that accumulated in my body....or so I tell myself.

The Anime Bishop actually went for the big guns in the form of the Extra Pork...but with the spicy broth. He could finish it....barely. He was quite happy with it, but I'm fairly sure that he probably thought the same thing that I'd thought on my initial visit....once every couple of months is sufficient.

With tax and tip, my bill came to about $20; another reason that I won't be going to Kinton with nearly as much frequency as I used to back in Japan. As we left, there was a sizable lineup. Don't let this picture fool you, the line extended further inside like an ingrown toenail. Not sure how the folks sitting at the front end table felt, but having waiting customers breathe down your neck as you eats is also a true thing that happens at some of the smaller ramen joints in Japan.

There is a postscript to this entry, and that is the Yakitori Bar exactly at 1 Baldwin St. I believed it opened up sometime in November. There are already a few Japanese places on the street, but Kinton and the Yakitori Bar are the two specialists....just like the places back in Japan. The four of us are wondering about when to tackle this place next.

Took a look at some of the menu. The Yakitori Bar seems to follow the same hours as Kinton, although it didn't open yesterday until the evening. I have to say that I am alternately intrigued/terrified of the thought of Kimchi Poutine, but hey, that's why I'm a foodie. Gotta try new things. It might be something when The Anime King gets back from his Asia odyssey.

The weather was cold but the big snow came several hours later. Can't imagine what it must've been like on Baldwin today.