After our inaugural visit to Toronto’s first cat cafe, TOT The Cat Cafe, the three of us headed for dinner nearby. Since we didn’t stay very long at the cat cafe or ate or drank anything too substantial, it was the perfect cold night for a bowl of ramen. We walked about 5-7 minutes from the cat cafe to Ramen Isshin and for Alice, Anh, and I, it was our first visit to another one of the ubiquitous ramen houses in Toronto.
.Ramen Isshin is located on College street near Kensington Market and Chinatown. It has a simple storefront and when you enter, you are welcomed with the traditional loud Japanese greetings from the staff. It was quite busy here on a Friday night already so the three of us were directed to sit at one of the long tables facing the wall. Already, I could smell a strong dose of the Japanese bamboo shoots in the restaurant.
The name Ramen Isshin means “One Heart One Ramen”. Their mission is: “Bringing true authentic Ramen to the city of Toronto. Our happiness is your happiness & we always want to make you smile.” Cute! Their twitter profile picture also shows a bowl of ramen with the words “No Noodle No Life”. Haha… 😄
We each ordered a bowl of ramen with an appetizer and shared all the appetizers together. Yay for getting to try out more variety of food! 😀
I ordered the Chicken Karaage (what a surprise, haha), Anh ordered the Takoyaki, and Alice ordered the Gyoza. It took a little bit of time for the appetizers to arrive.
The Deep Fried Pork Gyoza came in five with an Isshin “Umami” sauce to dip. The gyoza was actually very good! I liked how the skin of the gyoza was very crispy and the pork meat inside was tasty. I liked it. 🙂
I was disappointed with the Chicken Karaage because it only came in four pieces. They were large and chunky, but I wanted more lol. Although the chicken meat was very moist and tender inside, I found that it also contained a lot of fatty deposits and actual oil inside the meat. Thus, it was just so-so for me.
There were five Takoyaki on the plate and I really enjoyed this! As per usual on takoyaki, there were the dry bonito flakes flying on top of the hot takoyaki as if it were alive. The takoyaki looked very authentic! I was excited to try. 😀 Happily enough, these did taste authentic! I have had the ones made on the street in Tokyo before and these were very reminiscent of those. They were big, filled with octopus chunks inside, and it was very smooth texture with a perfect takoyaki sauce drizzled on top. Yum! 🙂
Then, our bowls of ramen arrived on individual trays.
Alice ordered the Garlic Shoyu Ramen which contained Isshin roast garlic oil, bamboo shoots, nori, marinated soft boiled egg, pork belly cha shu, green onions, and thin wavy noodles. It looked good!
Anh ordered the Red Dragon Ramen (menu showed three pepper symbols next to it meaning really spicy and hot!) which takes the “Red Miso Ramen to another level”. It contained “Red Dragon Chili sauce that combines 15 different spices that packs this bowl with flavour”, and also has pork belly cha shu, whole soft boiled marinated egg, and thick twisty noodles. It sounded very intense and looked very intense too! There was a whole small chili pepper right on top of the ramen! 😄 Anh liked it in spite of the heat, but afterwards found it very, very salty and difficult to continue eating it. She asked the server for a bowl of plain soup to add into the bowl in order to reduce the saltiness, but even then, it was a lot to handle!
I had a similar experience. I didn’t order any spicy ramen though. I ordered the White Sesame Shio Ramen which contained 100% natural sea salt, bamboo shoots, green onions, wood ear mushrooms, soft boiled marinated egg (there was actually a whole egg there — pleasant surprise), pork belly cha shu, thin wavy noodles and also you can grind your own white sesame seeds! It looked great and I look copious numbers of photos. However, I found that the thin wavy ramen noodles were not to my liking at all. I didn’t think they tasted that great and the soup base was very thin and mostly salty. Hmm… what I did like though was that it came with your own separate dish of white sesame seeds with a small pestle that you could use to grind it up and put into the ramen bowl. It was pretty fun! It was a little difficult to grind the small seeds up thoroughly against the bamboo mortar though haha.
What I also didn’t like was that the bamboo shoots smelled really, really intense. It made the whole experience of finishing the bowl of ramen somehow really difficult because it smelled more and more unpleasant by the minute and I was already really full. Anh said that the higher quality the bamboo shoots, the stronger the smell. I can definitely appreciate that.
I really, really liked the pork belly cha shu because it was so incredibly soft and tasty. I didn’t like that there were only two slices of it though. 😄 The soft boiled marinated egg was also so-so. I think most of all, I didn’t like the soup or the ramen noodles. Add the unpleasant smell of the bamboo shoots in the entire restaurant, and I really couldn’t finish the whole thing. It’s rare for me not to finish food because I really don’t like wasting food, but we already spent an extra 10-15 minutes in the restaurant trying to finish up our bowls but neither Anh nor I could finish what we had left. Hers was too spicy and salty and mine was also too salty and bloated me up so much that I couldn’t even take another bite.
We did finish the appetizers though, especially the Takoyaki because it was so delicious. 🙂
I’m quite sure I’m not going to return to this ramen house again. Edit: things change; I’ll be visiting again soon! 🙂 First of all, there are other restaurants in this area that I want to venture and try; and second of all, I didn’t enjoy the ramen here. The appetizers were good, but not good enough for me to return for a full meal unfortunately.
What about you? Have you been to Ramen Isshin before? I heard Anh say that is one of the top ramen places in town too. Different strokes for different folks. Leave your comments below. 🙂