Name: Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya.
Chef: Masanari Tamaki.
Signature: Japanese tapas and ramen.
Price: $6–$14 for small sharing plates, around $12 for bowls of ramen.
Open: Open for lunch and dinner Monday–Friday, and open all day Saturday and Sunday.
Assessment: It’s a testament to Toronto’s red-hot culinary scene that popular Okinawa ramen and izakaya chain Ryoji chose to open its first outpost outside of Japan on College Street. Equal parts Japanese pub and noodle house, Ryoji is arguably the best-looking izakaya in town: Spread across two rooms, the large eatery has over 100 seats, colourful glass light fixtures, communal wood tables, and walls with hand-carved bricks. The menu features staples of Okinawa’s pub cuisine, which is slightly different from that of mainland Japan, in that it includes influences from China and South East Asia, and is dependent on a different growing climate. It also boasts a few varieties of ramen, including a tonkotsu–based broth (creamy, made from pork bone) and a shio-based broth (lighter, made from chicken and pork bones). There are some stellar bite-sized eats, like the ryoji takoyaki ($7)—small balls of fried mashed potato with octopus, topped with mayo and tonkatsu sauce—which are hearty little snacks. Make sure to also grab an order of the (surprisingly delicious) fried cream-cheese wontons ($7), which can be dipped in a sweet, tart yuzu sauce. Those in the know, however, are wise to focus their dining efforts on the ramen: the Otoko-Aji (Tonkotsu) Ryoji ($13) is a lovely warming dish, stacked with slices of pork belly, and a soft-boiled egg. It’s slightly less salty than some of the city’s other bowls, and is big, rich, and loaded with scallions, kikurage mushrooms, and wiry noodles, cooked to order (soft, medium, or hard).
- Even without great ramen, Ryoji would be a cool place to grab a few pints.
- Speaking of which: There are six beers on tap and a good selection of sakes and shochus.
- A section of the side room has a few TVs that play sports. Where else can you get a good bowl of noodle soup and watch the Leafs or Raps?
- Perhaps a moot point, but the entrance—consisting of three separate doors—is a bit confusing.
Bottom Line: A fast, fun, and colourful new Japanese joint, Ryoji is a welcome addition to the city’s already competitive ramen market.—Jacob Rutka
690 College St., 416-533-8083, facebook.com/ryojiofcanadainc