Ramen Jinya -
My post today was originally going to be about my father’s day dinner at Gotham Steakhouse, but when I got home, I realized that the pictures I took today were simply too dark. They probably need a lot of post-processing (which is totally beyond what I know how to do) before they could be posted online.
So my post today is instead about where my wife, kids, and I went for lunch: Ramen Jinya. We chose Ramen Jinya because we wanted to have a quick meal within a short driving distance of Science World, which was where we had promised the kids we would take them today.
I’ve never personally been to Ramen Jinya, and I was a little surprised at its bright, respectable, non-hole-in-the-wall-like, and non-mom-and-pop-operation-like interior. It certainly wasn’t fancily decorated, but the arrangement of the tables, counters, and the footpath around the restaurant definitely indicated that it was planned by a pro.
The menu of the restaurant contained both traditional ramenya items as well as items not normally seen on the menus of ramen restaurants. My daughter ordered one of their non-ramenya items: the California roll.
My daughter said that her California roll tasted very much like the California rolls sold at other sushi restaurants. The rice didn’t feel like it was pre-refregirated; it felt like it was at room temperature. My daughter said that it tasted like real sushi rice, and the filling tasted like real imitation-crab (instead of fake imitation crab, which would be…real crab???). The roll also held its shape after pieces were repeatedly dropped by my daughter due to her carelessness (she was busy watching the Euro-cup soccer match they had projected onto the wall right on top of our table).
To no one’s surprise, my son ordered the Chicken Karaage.
My son had four out of the five total pieces and I ate the remaining piece. The chicken karaage was pretty good. Its batter was not only crispy, it was also crunchy. I could hear the crunch in my mouth after I bit into it just like I could ear the crunch of a potato chip after biting into it. After biting into the chicken karaage, I felt the juiciness and moistness of the meat. I also felt its firmness, which was pleasantly different from other versions of chicken karaage. Usually, the texture of a piece of chicken karaage is either dry and fibery, or juicy and tender. There is usually no bite to the chicken in a chicken karaage, but there was a bite to the version I had today at Jinya. The bite was very enjoyable because it was accompanied not only by moistness, but also by a nice, aromatic flavour. The aromatic flavour that I got indicated to me that the chicken was either pre-marinated or very thoroughly seasoned.
Both my wife and I ordered a ramen set. My wife ordered the spicy miso ramen with gyoza set, which also came with a small salad.
The greens were a little dry and the corn tasted like canned corn, but the dressing was really flavourful. It was savory and tangy, with the sourness being very pronounced and also going very well with the sweetness of the kernels of canned corn.
The skin of their gyoza was very thin; they were so thin that I could see the colors of the vegetables and meat in the filling through them. Though the skin was thin, it didn’t feel invisible when I bit into it. The skin was a little over-fried and I could feel a little resistance while trying to bite through it. Once I broke through, I was able to detect the flavours of vegetable and meat in the filling. I also got what I thought were flavours of shrimp. But I don’t remember shrimp being mentioned as being part of the filling in the menu, so it might just be a case of me being delusional.
My wife was pleased with the spiciness of the broth, but she was not to pleased with its sweetness. The sweetness of the broth ruined the entire bowl of broth for her. The soup tasted very much like Japanese mabo tofu sauce, which my wife thought was totally unsuited for a bowl of so-called “spicy miso” ramen. My wife also did not like the curly yellow noodles in her bowl. She thought that the noodles were very soggy and did not have any hint of either chewiness or a teeth-bounciness. The only component she liked about her bowl of spicy miso ramen was the cha-siu pork meat. She liked its tender texture, its just-right fat to meat ratio, and its being cut up into bite size cubes.
My wife agreed that my bowl of Tonkotsu ramen with black garlic oil tasted way better than her spicy miso ramen.
The broth was immediately flavourful from the included deep-fried shallot garnish. The black garlic oil also added very nice and very aromatic garlic flavours to the broth. The tonkotsu broth itself was richly thick, and it did not feel like it was artificially thickened at all. I could feel the thickness of the broth coming from the huge amounts of unctuous oil that was in it. I might be imagining things again, but I thought that the broth tasted like it was comprised of one part chicken bone stock and four parts pork bone stock. It tasted multi-dimensional instead of one-note.
I could also see the care they took in tailor-making each flavour of ramen they served so that all the components worked together in harmony. My ramen came with straight, cream-colored noodles instead of the curly yellow noodles that came with my wife’s bowl. Different noodles with different broths, what a concept!
The noodles that came with my bowl had a bitey, al dente texture that I liked very much. I also liked the fact that the noodles had not even a hint of the alkaline flavours that would almost always rear their ugly heads with curly yellow noodles.
Another difference in components between my bowl or ramen and my wife’s bowl of ramen is the cha-siu meat. Unlike the cubed bite-size pieces of half fat/half meat cha-siu in my wife’s ramen, the cha-siu pork in my bowl was sliced and the ratio of fat to meat was one third fat/two-thirds meat. This lower fat ratio was essential for my bowl of ramen because the tonkotsu broth was so richly thick that any greater ratio of fat in the cha-siu would make it unbearable. And even though there was less fat in the pieces of sliced pork in my bowl, the cha-siu was neither dry or fibry. They were tender and required very little effort from my teeth to break down. Their tenderness also created a beautiful tender/firm textural contrast with the al dente noodles.
One item that came with my bowl of ramen but not my wife’s bowl was a soft boiled egg. The egg was probably boiled in the same pot as the cha-siu meat; it had almost exactly the same sweet and aromatic flavours as the pork. The yolk was also soft-boiled to a perfect onsen-egg consistency. The yolk had an unbelievable rich texture that straddled the line of existing as a liquid or existing a solid.
My ramen set also came the same green salad that my wife got and a bowl of cha-siu rice.
The cubes of cha-siu in this bowl of rice were exactly the same as the cubes of pork in my wife’s spicy miso ramen. This meant that the cha-siu was very flavourful, extremely tender, and had the perfect fat-to-meat ratio. The rice residing below the meat was hot, chewy, and a little on the soft side. It was very enjoyable. I definitely liked it more than the cold, dry, and firm rice that were included in the cha-siu rice bowls from both Santouka and Benkei.
Ramen Jinya was a pleasant surprise. The food was generally good. Even though my wife didn’t like the flavours of the her spicy miso ramen, she at least agreed that the broth was flavourful and might be even considered enjoyable to those that do not object to the presence of sweetness in their ramen broth. My wife also liked both the broth and noodles of my bowl of tonkotsu ramen with black garlic oil. Both of us were in agreement that their cha-siu meat -in any form- was very tasty. The non-ramen items we had were also well-executed. The chicken karaage was crispy and flavourful, the cha-siu rice came enjoyably hot, and their California roll tasted like a California roll. I wonder why I had not visited Ramen Jinya sooner…actually I do remember why. It was the mostly negative online reviews that has kept me from visiting the restaurant. Like the unwarranted hype of a lot of the so called “buzz worthy” restaurants, I also feel that the negative hyperbole surronding Ramen Jinya is rather unwarranted.