Yum, Yum: Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year,
you’ll know that Toronto’s ramen scene is booming (yes, we now have a ramen ‘scene’).
So when we heard that 
Ryoji Ramen
& Izakaya
 (690 College St.) was opening its first international location in Toronto
(booming ramen scene, like we said), we knew we had to check it out.

The first thing you notice about Ryoji is the sheer size of the place.
The restaurant seats 103 people via an assortment of booths, bar seats, leather chairs
and a large communal table. Not only is the space huge, it’s beautifully
decorated. Wood, mirrors and lights are the central themes of the restaurant,
creating an ambiance that makes you feel like you’re no longer in Toronto. 

Great ambiance and design.
Wood, lights and mirrored ceilings transport you from Toronto to ramen land.

Not only is the decor spectacular, but the food is pretty
darn good too. The menu ranges from tapas & salads to homemade tofu to deep-fried
and grilled items, and of course Toronto’s food du jour, ramen. We started with
the delicious Poki Salad, a Hawaiian-style salad with fresh fish sashimi and citrus fruit
on top of mixed greens, topped with Ryoji’s sweet chili dressing ($10).
Confused by the Hawaii reference, our dinner guest kindly pointed out that Japan and
Hawaii aren’t that far apart (duly noted for our next Cash Cab appearance).
Hawaiian + Japanese = a luau in our mouths.

What we love so much about Ryoji is that many of the dishes
are specific to Okinawa, an island south of mainland Japan, like ji-ma-mi, homemade peanut tofu ($6). This isn’t
your typical tofu, ji-ma-mi is made from boiled peanut extract and flour that
create a sticky and smooth tofu-like dish. Topped with a finger-licking good
sauce (soy, ginger and brown sugar we think), peanut tofu is something you’ll just have to experience yourself.
Eat like the Okinawans and try the ji-ma-mi; definitely not your average tofu.

Now, we’re not ramen aficionados but this is one seriously
kick ass bowl of soup. Ryoji offers three types of ramen: Otoko-Aji (Tonkotsu),
a rich pork bone broth topped with chashu (pork belly), bean sprouts, scallions
and kikurage mushrooms ($11); Onna-Aji (Shio), a light and flavourful chicken
and pork bone broth topped with chashu, leek konbu, fish cake and dried seaweed ($11); and Ryoji black, the restaurant’s own soya based Ramen – spinach, chashu,
cabbage, menna, leek and yaki-nori ($12). 
Not only were we head over heels with the Shio ramen, but we found a real-life emoji.

Last on the docket was our pick from the fried menu, Ryoji takoyaki – fried mashed potato balls
with octopus, tonkatsu sauce and mayo ($7). Ideal for sharing, these are like a Japanese take on Tater Tots, with an octopus surprise in the middle. 
Deep fry pretty much anything and we’re game. 

As per usual, we suggest going with a group of people so you can sample as much of the vast menu as possible.