Jimmy and I attended a wedding last month in St. Catharines. Since it’s a 7-hour drive from Ottawa, we decided to stop in Toronto on Friday night, and then continue towards St. Catharines on the following day. Lately, we’ve had a tradition of stopping for noodles whenever we’re in Toronto, and this weekend was no exception. We searched for ramen places on Urbanspoon and came up with two winners: Kenzo (visited here and here) and Ajisen. We chose Ajisen for the abundance of free parking on Friday night, and then checked out Moo Beef Noodle House on our way home on Sunday.
First stop: Ajisen Ramen in Markham!
Jimmy ordered pork ramen. It had green onions, sliced pork, soy eggs, and a generous amount of the house specialty, fried garlic oil. The soup was a thick, tonkotsu broth and had straight, very QQ (i.e. chewy, bouncy, and al dente) noodles.
I ordered the BBQ pork and corn ramen, but the waitress didn’t catch the “corn” bit. I was too tired to complain (it was nearly 11:30 PM by the time we arrived in Toronto). The noodles and broth were identical to Jimmy’s, but mine was accompanied by tender slices of chashu (rolled BBQ pork), a heaping pile of blanched bean sprouts, and shreds of wood ear mushrooms.
Although I prefer curly ramen noodles, I appreciated the fact that the noodles were not overcooked. The broth was perfumed by the intensely aromatic fried garlic oil, and I noticed that the restaurant provided a jar of the magical stuff on each table. The soup was well-seasoned, and it wasn’t too rich. I’ve had tonkotsu ramen at other places where it’s a struggle to get through the bowl because of the thickness of the soup.
The real star of the night was the chashu. As you can see, you could practically see through the fatty bits. Each perfectly seasoned slice melted in my mouth. The charred outer layer added a smoky flavour to the rest of the pork. Jimmy declared this ramen as his order for our next visit to Ajisen.
We were in and out of Ajisen in 20 minutes, much like our previous visits to Kenzo. We drove to our hotel in Mississauga and crashed after a long day of driving.
In the morning, we grabbed some continental breakfast at the hotel, and left for St. Catharines. The wedding was very sweet and unique. I didn’t end up taking pictures of the reception because I was too busy trying not to cry and stuffing my face – sorry!
We stopped in Toronto for lunch on our way back to Ottawa. Christine texted us with the name and address of a beef noodle restaurant – Moo Beef Noodle House. Again, we were in the Scarborough/Markham area. This restaurant was located in a small strip mall off of Highway 7. It was about half full when we arrived.
We both ordered beef noodle soup, with a couple of sides.
Marinated duck wings. My childhood favourite snack. I was devastated when I realized I failed to eat any in Taiwan (series of posts to come), so I took advantage of this opportunity to eat them. The marinade and drizzled sauce were strangely sweet, and something had hints of sesame oil. It threw me off guard because it didn’t taste much like the wings I grew up eating. In comparison to Cantonese style duck wings, I was very disappointed in these. It didn’t stop me from eating the entire plate, though.
We spotted signs for stinky tofu in the windows, so we thought we’d try them out. Clearly, our expectations were set far too high (again, blame it on the recent trip to Taiwan), so we barely at any of these. The tofu itself had a dry spongy texture. It was very unappetizing because I had to chew so long to break it down. It also wasn’t the right type of stinkiness. Generally, the stinky smell doesn’t translate to the taste, as it tends to mellow out once you bite into it and the garlic flavour takes over. This tofu was stinky from start to finish, without being tasty. It was rather bland for stinky tofu.
They also used the same sweet drizzle from the duck wings on the tofu, which I didn’t enjoy. You can see the pools of sauce in the indents and wrinkles of the tofu. Not great.
The appetizers being duds, we turned our attention to the beef noodles. Unfortunately, they turned out to be let-downs as well. At Moo’s, you have a choice of three types of noodles: thin, medium, and thick. We both chose thick, assuming that they were handmade noodles. Instead, we got store-bought udon noodles. It was very disappointing. The noodles were not boiled long enough, so they were practically doughy when we bit into them.
The soup was decent, but it tasted as if someone took a regular bowl of the broth and then watered it down for two bowls. The flavour wasn’t as intense as we’d hoped. It certainly did not measure up the now-closed Mr. Sun’s beef broth.
We had to punch up the flavour by liberally adding more chilli oil. Not a good sign. Overall, we ate very little at this restaurant. Lunch cost around $36 for two, which we found crazy expensive for sub-par food.
After this trip, we decided that we would wait for a trip to Taiwan if we craved Taiwanese beef noodle soup in the future. In the meantime, we’re going to return to the reliable ramen places in Toronto to get our fix of a well-balanced noodle soup.
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