Went to the new Izakaya after randomly seeing the review in this week's now for lunch. It's just a bit east of Church on Front St. Japanese menu focused on ramen.
The space is a soaring, beautifully done loft decorated as Japanese chique- it's a pleasure sitting down. There are plenty of comfortable 2 seater booths and also several large square tables with the size being large enough to sit different parties on each side comfortably or a really big group together.
Menu is pretty small- about 8 styles of ramen, 4 styles of rice dishes, and some fried udon as well as a selection of sides. Entrees were around 9-12$ with sides being 4-6$.
Went on a Friday around 1 PM and was seated quickly enough but had to wait a little more than 5 minutes before someone came around to take order for drinks. The waiters there use little Palm devices to take orders rightaway which is fine but I did find they did something weird: they take a sharpie and write in dishes you ordered in big numbers. I guess I'm nitpicking, but that's kind of annoying- it's intrusive and seems unprofessional. The waiter says it's to help the runner place the right food at your table but they seem to do fine at every other restaurant in Toronto without the 'cheat' sheet. Food came quickly enough (at the right places!)
I had the Tokyo Beef Ramen(~11$) which was nicely laid out and contained a nice amount of fresh bean sprouts, green onions, and that seasoned preserved slices of bamboo (forgot the proper name). There was seasoning of black and white sesame. The beef was a chunk that was seared and sliced into about 8 slices. The grilling was nice and gave the beef a pleasant texture, but it seemed a bit bland. The soup was nice, very clear broth but wonderfully balanced in flavor to go with the noodles (didn't simply taste like MSG and soup base). The noodles themselves are indeed ramen, but thinner and chewier than I'm used to but it's personal preference. I was quite happy with my ramen.
My friend had the chicken ramen (not the spicy one) and basically had the same positive feelings about the ramen and soup but felt the chicken was a little overcooked and uninspiring. We also had the duck goyza ($6 for 6) (dumplings) which were OK, but the duck flavor was very indistinct. We did the usual gamble of ordering green tea and was dinged for it, but it was actually quite good and we had refills but weren't charged. It's reasonable at 0.75$/ person for tea.
Overall, I came away pleased with the experience. The place certainly doesn't do anything dynamic or exciting, but it serves decent Japanese ramen in pleasant surroundings at a very reasonable price. It's large table capacity and setup for fast orders at a low cost makes it a great business lunch place. As much as I like going, I feel the menu is a little bit limited, essentially composed of 6-8 ramen or rice entrees with beef, chicken, and pork sides. Still, they had some strange juices and a few other sides I never got to. I'm confident service will become even more efficient as they get more organised and hope they won't have to do that 'sharpie as a waiter's memory' thing.
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