There’s been a recent influx of ramen places in Toronto lately, and I just haven’t had a chance to visit one of them, until recently. I did some Yelp research, and decided that Santosei was the first one to try in the downtown area. Why? Some very positive reviews , but most importantly, NO LINE UP. Well, at least if you can get there in the off-hours. I know Santouka, hailing from the West Coast, has a lot of buzz, but with the buzz comes the line-ups. Since I was just dipping my toes into the ramen world, I thought Santosei would be a good first visit.
So, a friend and I decided to meet at the Dundas and University location after work for 5 PM. Apparently, lunchtimes and anytime after 5:45 PM means line-ups. It’s true. We left around 6 PM with about 8 people lining up outside on a cold, Toronto, winter evening. No thanks.
When we arrived, there were only 4 other people in the place, and we had prompt service. So, now on to the food.
We ordered the Tonkatsu, since it seems to be their special. We’re both trying to portion control, so we didn’t try any sides this time, but we decided that next time we’ll share a bowl and try a couple of their sides.
On that note, their bowls are big and satisfactory. Neither of us finished our ramen, eventhough it really was delicious. The broth was just a tad salty, but other wise the pork belly was perfectly tender and savoury, and my egg yolk sufficiently runny (eventhough it was cut in half). The black mushrooms did nothing for me and mostly got left uneaten. It just seemed like a tasteless gelatinous affair. Not worth the extra calories. We both chose the thin noodles and they were al dente and plentiful. In fact, next time I plan to ask for less noodles and more broth.
So yes, there is a next time. I give it 4 out of 5 stars, due to service and food quality. It was a perfectly enjoyable first ramen experience. Better yet, after we ate, they didn’t rush us out like other small places do. We sat for another 10 minutes to chat and digest a little, before they gave us the bill — even refilling our water glasses during that time. We didn’t even realize there was a line-up outside until we headed out.
I would recommend a visit, for sure.