Sampling Santouka

SANTOUKA (91 Dundas East, at Church,.

SANTOUKA (91 Dundas East, at Church, 647-748-1717, Rating: NNN

Some say two-month-old Santouka (91 Dundas East, at Church, 647-748-1717,, rating: NNN) is the best ramen joint around. Here’s why they’re wrong.

Though there’s no question that the Hokkaido-based import is one of the most popular, as the constant lineups outside the former greasy spoon attest, dig a little deeper and Santouka comes up short against the competition, especially Kinton Ramen, on several scores.

Like most local noodle joints, they offer three basic pork broths: a milky salt-based shio, a rich shoyu lashed with soy sauce, and a mellower miso (all $10.95), the later spiked with hot sauce for an additional 50 cents. And while they don’t serve tonkotsu ramen, they do have dipping-style tsukemen ramen with a double portion of cold noodles on the side ($12.45). So far we’ll call this a draw. However, unlike most elsewhere, the kitchen adjusts the hardness of its hand-made mein and lowers the levels of salt and lard in the broth. Advantage Santouka.

Sadly, Santouka’s prices are slightly higher and the portions smaller. Advantage Kinton. And if you want a slow-poached egg added to the toppings – the obligatory cha shu pork, slivered scallion ‘n’ seaweed, a few strips of lotus root and the thinnest slice of kamaboko fish cake possible – you shell out an extra buck-60. Advantage Momofuku.

Sides of fatty braised toroniku pork jowl ($6.90) and ground pork gyoza dumplings ($5.50) seem perfunctory. Kenzo’s dumpling are far superior. Unreplenished mugs of green tea go for an exorbitant $2.50. Advantage Kingyo, where a large French-press carafe of same is $1.80.

Still, service is friendly, there’s not all that shouting, and the kitchen pumps out food at a breakneck speed. Forty-five minutes after first sitting down, we’re on our way back to the office.

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