I was on a lunch break recently and decided to check out Baldwin village for lunch. Although I was still lamenting the closure of Yakitori Bar (i still swear they had some of the best soup going), I was intrigued to try McRamyun, the new ramen bar that occupied the space.
I knew little of the place when I walked in but appreciated the fact that a ramen bar exists which doesn’t involve the hot, tight quarters that exist with similar eateries elsewhere in the city. It has maintained the interior of Yakitori bar complete with a large bar and spacious tables.
At first glance it was clear the menu offers one of the largest variety of ramen (almost 20) in the city. In addition, you can choose your own adventure by adding your choice of toppings unlike other places tend to dictate the condiments of each bowl. Usually I order dumplings and soup as a benchmark in ramen joints, so i killed two birds with one stone and ordered the mandu ramen which offered the dumplings right in the soup. As I was waiting, I went to the washroom located in the old Odd Seoul space next door. That’s when I made afrightening discovery. The room was filled with skids of packaged ramen noodles. I felt like I was in a university dorm room. When I returned to the table (the washrooms were quite nice by the way) the soup arrived. The broth was thin and spicy and the noodles originated from one of the packages in the back room. The mandu were deep fried prior to being thrown in the soup which I found odd from a texture perspective. They did not have remarkable flavour. The broth lacked the complexity of other places and was seasoned primarily by salt and heat. The egg (available for an additional $0.50 per half..I got a whole egg) was cooked nicely and was the best part of the dish. They forgot the slices of pork belly I ordered so I can’t comment. It would have been and extra $2.49 which would have made the total price of the ramen bowl a staggering $12.50, a price which would make David Chang shake his head.
Burgers and ramen are probably the two hottest trends in the Toronto right now. The burgers range from patties smashed on the flattop to those stuffed with short rib and are price accordingly. Until now, most ramen has been prepared according to traditional recipes complete with homemade noodles and thick pork broth which has simmered for hours. Sure, I’ve made all kinds of ramen; from following an old school recipe to cracking open a dried package after a drunken night out in university but I never thought I’d see the latter served in a restaurant.
Then it made sense. I should have clued in that the name McRamyun said it all. This was fast food…the McDonald’s version of ramen. What confused me, however, was the fact that prices were not much lower that traditional ramen. I mean a quarter pounder isn’t $20, right?
I looked at the table tent on the table, saw the following sign and laughed. How do they get away with this?
A Sapporo pitcher and McChicken wings for $24.95? McChicken? The signage outside, the menu, the packaged food..everything made me think that at any minute Ronald McDonald would show up with a Louisville Slugger ready to kick ass and take names later. Interestingly enough, there was a profile picture update on the restaurant’s webpage two weeks ago which displayed their new logo which simply said Ramyun. I wondering if that change was proactive of may have had something to do with a few broken windows and a pissed off clown.