I was at a conference at a nearby hospital and decided to sneak out in order to avoid the generic wraps which graced the lunch table. It was a frigid day, so a bowl of ramen sounded divine. I trekked to the Corner of Yonge and Gerrard, hoping I could get a prime time seat at Ramen Raijin. It was about 80% to capacity so I didn’t have to wait in line.
The first thing I noticed was the set-up. I found it a lot roomier than some of the other ramen houses nearby. I was seated along a counter facing away from the kitchen with a side view of a large and attractive sculpture of what I perceived to be some sort of mythical Japanese idol. On the counter sat a menu held together by a clipboard. One part of the menu was a lunch combo flyer which presented like a grade 8 art project, complete with pictures of a disproportionate chicken and a pig that kind of looked like a cat. Of greater interest was the offering a small bowl of one of 5 types of ramen and 4 types of rice with a salad for $11.95. I tend to gravitate toward Shio Ramen and an order of Gyoza and today was no different. I chose the Soboro Don as the rice dish as part of the combo.
The starter salad was fresh and well dressed.
The gyoza was terrific. The dough was tender and fried to perfection and the filling with robust with flavour. The dipping sauce was pleasant. They lacked both the greasy or watery nature that I’ve experienced with these dumplings elsewhere. They were also priced well at less than $3 for 5 dumplings.
I kind of expected a very small bowl of ramen as part of the special but both the soup and rice were quite a reasonable size. Raijin’s interpretation of the shio included pork shoulder, green onion, Kikurage mushroom, cabbage, egg and black garlic oil. The shoulder was tender, the egg cooked to a perfect soft boil, the broth was rich and tasty and the noodles were firm and delicious. This is likely one of the more polar bowls of ramen I’ve tasted mainly because of the distinct flavour of black garlic oil. It has a strong and distinct flavour which could easily take over some of the delicate flavours of the soup itself. If you love it..great. If not, you may be a bit disappointed.
As for the rice dish, The nori was a nice touch but for some reason the bowl was missing the green onions advertised on the lunch combo flyer. As a result, it was a safe dish with no contrasting taste or contrast. It was missing any soft and sweet, missing the crunch and bites the onions would have provided.
Ramen Raijin offers a roomy and comfortable environment with good service and good food. It has a simple yet attractive decor (I like the sculpture) and lots of room to think or eat or people watch…whatever your fancy. The lunch special is a good value and allows somebody to try an array of flavours whether a fan of pork or chicken. The gyoza are among the best I’ve had at a ramen house. As mentioned, all the components of the ramen were well executed but the liberal use of the Mayu black garlic oil may not appeal to the masses. I wouldn’t hesitate to return on a cold winter day, but I may bring a bunch of green onions just in case.