Backbone of Santouka’s best
Five years. It’s a long time for a restaurant. Remarkable considering how unique and expensive (well at the time) its ramen was when Santouka opened. I assumed, with its anniversary approaching, the owners of Santouka wanted to spruce things up and shut down in November 2014 for renovations.
Unexpectedly this lead to a 4-month closure, which made my heart grow fonder for Santouka’s ramen. There are other great bowls of ramen in the city but Santouka’s toroniku shio ramen holds a special place in my heart.
I guess I wasn’t the only person who missed the place, as there was still a line-up at mid afternoon well past the normal lunch period. The place looked the same to me and I wonder if the renovations had more to do with their kitchen set-up than the dining area.
Without consulting the menu, I ordered the toroniku shio ramen with a side of gyoza. The reason for my devotion to this particular noodle bowl is:
- Its cream coloured tonkotsu broth
- Its slender noodles
- Its tender toroniku pork slices
When combined these three things together, you get a very unique and satisfying bowl of ramen.
Santouka’s pale beige tonkotsu broth is intense but smooth. Unlike some other ramen-yas, one can’t really pick out individual tasting notes like collagen or bone in the broth. With a sip of the shio tonkotsu soup, there’s just an intense sense of umami, creaminess and a perfect level of saltiness. It’s good till the last drop.
To match the superb soup, Santouka deploys a thinner noodle that just has a hint of the kansui taste. The noodles just have enough of taste of their own to not get lost in the bowl but not so much so that it competes with the soup. The only downside to wispy noodles is they get soft fast in hot soup, which was the case during this visit.
The toroniku, along with the sliced cloud ear fungus, bamboo shoots, a slice of swirly fish cake, and green onions, is served on a separate plate. The meat slices is marinated and very tender on its own.
However when placed in the bowl, the heat from the tonkotsu helps the pork cheek reach another level of deliciousness. It utterly becomes melt in your mouth as the fat in the meat liquefies. In my opinion it’s one of the best meat offerings for ramen in the city.
The gyozas I ordered looked golden with some spots that were getting to close to being too charred. The individual dumplings separated easily. The filling was moist and flavourful, predominantly tasting of pork and cabbage, with just a hint of ginger. The bottom could have been crispier but overall a good rendition.
In the end, I came for the toroniku shio ramen and it delivered. It’s one of my favourite ramen dishes in the city and the one bowl of ramen I will always return for.
Bonus Content: She is an oldie but a goodie too and Shania Twain’s “Still the One” feels fitting for this post. She’s rolling into town on her farewell tour later this year. It’s a totally cheesy video (Ah, the 1990s).