Review: Kinton Ramen – Montréal, Québec, Canada

Kinton makes its focus known as soon as you enter!

Good ramen, great service and fun vibe in a modern, casual setting.

“With all that Montreal offers, you’re eating ramen?” You bet your chashu I am! As I explored Yelp, Kinton Ramen had the best reviews here, so I gave it a try last week. I visited the Avenue Union spot, which is their second Montreal location. It’s a modern, airy space with a large bronze pig on the far wall capturing your attention as you enter. 

The entire staff appears to be Japanese and a number of guests were also. You’re greeted by the chefs and wait staff as you enter, and thanked as you leave. Wait team was very friendly and helpful. The menu has seven different types of ramenand many appetizers. A few desserts too. A special menu featured their tsukemen. 

The Kinton ramen menu.

I ordered the gyoza and the pork shoyu ramen with the addition of an egg (egg not included in all bowls). The gyoza were deep fried to a medium-light crisp, giving the outer skin a nice crunch. The pork and vegetable filling, however, was pretty flat. The ingredients were fresh, but had little flavor. The spicy sauce drizzled on the gyoza was fine. 

Gyoza at Kinton.

The ramen bowl made a nice initial presentation and reminded me of the standard tonkatsu bowl offered at Ippudo or Mensho. The broth was a combo of tonkatsu and soy, leaning more toward tonkatsu, but not as creamy. It had good flavor. Very respectable.

The high point for me was the noodles, an element into which many places tend to put less effort (in my opinion). You get a choice between thick or thin; I got the former. They were perfectly cooked – slightly al dente, and had a nice flavor reminiscent of good egg noodles. Often the noodles aren’t a standout, but here they are. 

There were two pieces of chashu, a little fatty and with good flavor. I enjoyed the first piece. However the second slice was cut noticeably thicker than the first and had less fat content. This inconsistency, albeit small, had a discernible impact, making it chewy and much less delectable than the first. I suspect I was given an end piece. If it seems I am harping on a tiny point, it’s the small things that combine to make a good dish. In this case, this one small thing was a bit disappointing. The egg was well cooked in soy with a gooey center. I liked the nori sheets. There were no other items in the bowl. 

Modern exterior signage to match the modern interior.

Blessedly, the seating and tables were comfortable and the entire atmosphere was clean, modern and fresh. Several customers wanted photos taken with the wait staff, and they accommodated them with pre-prepared Kinton mini-posters and hand signs. Fun!

The overall food impression was good, well-prepared and respectable, with a few gaps that kept it out of the very good to excellent category. I wanted to like Kinton more due to the atmosphere and friendly vibe. Though I will admit, without having tried some their other bowls, I’m offering a limited impression. That said, I can safely say Kinton is worth a visit. 

Ramen Club 5-Star Rating System:

Food: 3.25 stars

Service: 4 stars

Atmosphere/Comfort: 4 stars


Kinton website: http://www.kintonramen.com/canada/index.php

Review: Ramen Kikuhan – Osaka

I didn’t take an interior photo, so here’s their business card!

In my first full day in Osaka last October, I wanted to have a ramen experience that wasn’t a name brand or over-reviewed. 

So I came across Ramen Kikuhan in the Nakazakinishi neighborhood – close to the center city, but quiet, in an area of small streets traversed mainly by locals. 

It was a small 10-12 seat place with counter seating only. No English menu and the English skills of the staff were very limited. Google Translate to the rescue….not! It just added to the confusion. I ordered what I thought was the combination chicken and pork bone broth.

Spicy miso ramen with pork and chicken broth.

What I ended up with was spicy miso combined with both chicken and pork bone broth. Their special. The meatballs in the dish were a surprise: chicken and very tasty. The pork slices were delicious and more substantive than what you might normally expect. There was corn in the dish, which worked very well. There were sliced mushrooms and the eggs were absolutely perfect. The yoke gently slid out of the egg white as you lifted it with your spoon. 

The noodles were served al dente and they had substance and flavor all their own. Chewy and nutty. For me, this is a key characteristic of a great ramen. The broth was wonderful, though it was perhaps slightly more spicy/salty than I would normally like, but not too much. It was so thick it could be used with tsukemen.

Menu at Ramen Kikuhan.

The vibe of the place is small, neighborhoody and friendly. Comfortable, padded stools. I paid 850 yen, or just under 8 dollars, for a fabulous bowl of ramen. Definitely recommended. 

Ramen Club 5-Star Rating System:

Food: 4.25 stars

Service: 4 stars

Atmosphere/Comfort: 4 stars

No website. 

Yelp  page: https://www.yelp.com/biz/1q6hHjOzwphv6JbZUwH0fQ?uid=67_nlpoaZjQHjPlcwTLRCQ&utm_source=ishare

Yōkoso! (Welcome!)

An enthusiastic ramen shop promotion in the Kaito-ku section of Ueno in Tokyo.

Merriam-Webster says a gourmand is someone “excessively fond of eating and drinking.” A gourmet is “a connoisseur of food and drink.”

So into which category do ramen lovers fall? We’d have to say somewhere in the middle. Ramen, leaving the instant kind aside, is a very basic pedestrian dish in Japan. However when you consider the care and time that goes into the broth, for example, and how certain chefs have elevated a bowl to the level of fine dining, gourmet isn’t far off.

How thin, or thick, did this restaurant slice the chashu? Did it have a char? Does the richness and complexity of the broth have staying power throughout the meal? Do the noodles go beyond good enough to having a texture, flavor and mouth feel that make them special? These are the kind of distinctions and conversations we tend to have about ramen. 

So three friends thought we’d form our own club, first as a joke. Then it got a bit more serious. Inspired by Ramen Adventures and others who write or make videos, we decided to add our voices to the conversation. 

Yes, the “club” is just the three of us. We live near San Francisco. No rules or dues in this club. Not sure how often we’ll post, and topics may vary beyond just reviews. At some point, we may open up to comments or guest posts. Let’s see how it all evolves. Welcome. 

Review: Chonmage – San Rafael, CA

Chonmage Ramen on the left, and Samurai Ramen on the right

Neighborhood ramen spot has great vibe and good food, but inconsistent.

One of the most important qualities of a good restaurant is how consistent their cooking is. Are their dishes reliable, or do they change day to day, week to week, or from one cook to another, whoever might be cooking that day? Will flavors change from season to season? Maybe, and I would expect that kind of variation. But, for me to return more than once to a restaurant, they need to be both good and consistent.

We visited Chonmage on consecutive Thursdays. The first visit, the food was very good. We tried the Chonmage Ramen (miso broth), Samurai Ramen (shoyu broth), and Sasuke Ramen (tonkatsu broth). They offer two sizes of bowls, and the smaller size is great if you want to try a couple different dishes, which is what we did.

For me, the winner that first night was the shoyu broth – among the best I’ve ever had, bringing a smile to my face with each spoonful. However, the Samurai Ramen had thinner noodles in it, and it simply didn’t come together – that elusive act of the sum of the parts being more than the whole. The Chonmage Ramen, however, came together quite nicely, and was a very good bowl of ramen, as was the Sasuke Ramen.

Our second visit, I had high expectations for this place, ordering their Chonmage Ramen again, along with some sweet potato tempura and shrimp tempura. The ramen was between okay and good, and the tempura was only below mediocre. Nothing was bad, but nothing was good. The experience was disappointing, and left me wondering how they could have strayed so far in just a week.

I’ll go back to try it one more time, but I’m not excited about it. Overall, I’d give it only 2.5 stars (out of 5). For just the ramen, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.