Over the weekend, I visited Jyuban Ramen House with my mom. We had heard that they serve not just regular Japanese ramen but also the rarely-heard-of squid ink ramen. It was definitely a place worth checking out no matter how weird the concoction sounds.
The first time we tried to eat here was actually on a Tuesday but it turned out to be the only day of the week that they are closed. When we walked in on a Saturday for lunch, there were two other tables in the small-ish restaurant in the Commerce Gate plaza. The first thing you notice is that their back wall and part of the windows are covered with previous visitors who have left messages of love and contentment about the restaurant’s food and service in writing and cartoons. It was really cute.
As we were a little tight on time, we quickly ordered the squid ink ramen with Combo C which included a pork rice ball and a deep fried red bean bun for $4 extra. It seemed to be a good deal.
The only server there was really friendly and able to explain the details of the menu comprehensively. Actually, I didn’t have such a great first impression of her because, as I’m apt to do nowadays ever since I started seriously food blogging — I tend to take out my camera and quickly take snapshots of the restaurant’s environment, tabletop setting, and the food names and descriptions of what I’m ordering so that I can fully cover and do a detailed review on what I’m eating. Upon seeing me pull out my camera and point it at the menu, the server rushed over and told me — it felt like she was scolding me — that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of their menu. I informed her that I keep a food blog and was only taking pictures of the food names and descriptions for my blog and not taking pictures of the entire menu (it’s a lot faster than typing in the names & descriptions on my phone or using a pen to write down the names…). She quickly whipped out a business card and said that everything about the restaurant would be on their website. Well, I couldn’t argue with that, so I proceeded eat what we had ordered without much complaints. From that point on, I noticed that she gave us extra special attention: coming over to refill our tea, asking us if everything was to our liking, and just making sure in general that we were being served satisfactorily. I’m pretty sure the extra attention was so that I wouldn’t give her a bad review seeing that she knows I keep a food blog.
Anyway! The pork rice ball that arrived was very good. I’ve actually never had something like this in a Japanese restaurant in Toronto before. It seems so authentically Japanese to serve something like this. The rice ball was steaming hot and fresh. It was molded into a shape of a triangle and had bits of pork scattered through it. I really enjoyed this!
The squid ink ramen came with lots of seafood and it looked really nice. The best part of this restaurant is that they claim to use no MSG, chemical, bleach, or preservatives, etc. The ramen in the bowl were black due to the squid ink and the soup was very light. It tasted a little bit like homemade broth but also had a pleasant taste of seafood. The scallops, shrimps, and mussels were all mediocre though. Although the squid ink ramen was very unique, I didn’t like that they were all chopped up. Who chops up ramen noodles? Aren’t you supposed to slurp them with your chopsticks, and loudly too, to show your pleasure at the the food? Anyway. I loved the soup and pretty much ended up drinking up all of it — something that I would never do at other ramen shops because their soup base is usually 99% made up with MSG.
The other ramen that we ordered was the pork tendon ramen; something that is a staple of all ramen shops. This was a little spicy; we had ordered the level 1 spice. I liked how because they didn’t use MSG to make this that the spice was actually grounded from fresh peppers. When you tried a bit of the ramen broth, you feel the heat in the back of your throat. The ramen noodles for this were definitely more “normal” and not cut up like the squid ink ones. It was also okay. The pork tendons were okay as well.
We ordered an ox tongue appetizer to share. There were only four pieces on the plate; a little pricey for $3.95. However, they tasted good. The ox tongue slices were soft but not too strong in flavour. Again, because they don’t use any MSG.
Lastly, I’m very glad that we ordered the Combo C because the deep fried red bean bun that arrived as dessert was delicious! In Chinese, it’s called the “Doraemon bun” even though they called it a deep fried red bean bun in the restaurant. Doraemon is a Japanese cartoon that I used to watch as a kid. He’s a round blue cat who wears a bell on his neck and has the best bag in the world in the front of his pocket! — he can fit anything in it, big or small. Anyway, I liked how this dessert was crunchy on the outside. The shell was hard, but the inside was soft and chewy. It was very good.
Overall, I’m not sure if I would return to this restaurant. First of all, I really didn’t like how the server prevented me from enjoying my time in the restaurant. I’m really OCD when it comes to blogging and I was actually a bit upset that she didn’t let me take pictures freely. I respect the restaurant’s decisions, but if you really think about it, by blogging about their restaurant and telling my readers what I ate, I’m really just providing them with free advertising and promoting. It’s too bad that she wanted to keep her restaurant and menu under wraps. ALSO! I looked up the restaurant’s website after the fact, and they don’t even have a menu of the food that they serve online! She told me that it would… Second, the ramen dishes and food were quite expensive here. Over $11-14 for one bowl and I didn’t even love the texture or the taste of the ramen that much. It’s great that they are anti-MSG and anti-chemical, but I don’t know if I would want to pay that much again for what I ordered.