Tokiwa Ramen is Edmonton’s latest noodle shop and is representing some of the more local fare at the new Brewery District. Promising only 150 bowls a day, this ramen joint is creating buzz in the city.
Edmonton’s Brewery District is quickly becoming a dining hubbub thanks to grocery anchor Loblaw’s City Market and franchises like South St. Burger, Blaze Pizza, and Nando’s. It’s a nice sight then to see local businesses in the mixture, owner Tatsuo Asai (previously Japanese Village and Banzai) now focusing on my favourite noodle bowl, ramen.
Currently serving only 150 bowls a day, Tokiwa Ramen is open at 11am for lunch and serves until they sell out. The 40-seater space is moderately sized and even with a quick turnover, there were lines out the door on both occasions that I went. I’d highly recommend going before noon to grab your seats! To note: Tokiwa does not take reservations or credit card (debit and cash only).
The menu is simple and bowls are divided into two kinds of broths: a 10-hour pork base (tonkotsu) or a 6-hour chicken base. You can also order a small rice bowl of pork or chicken to top you up although I think portions are quite reasonable. All ramen bowls come with a marinated boiled egg (half), wood ear mushrooms, micro greens, bean sprouts, fried lotus root chip, and Shanghai bok choi. Tokiwa’s noodles are made locally and are exclusive to them, using their own recipe. Word has it that it’s the same “secret old Chinese lady” who makes noodles for Prairie Noodle.
My first visit was within opening week. I opted for the Black Garlic ramen bowl, a pork broth drizzled with a black garlic oil. It wasn’t as hard-hitting as I was expecting, a more mellow garlic flavour and lighter in mouthfeel. For a 10-hour pork broth, I was expecting a lot more fat and collagen and was craving that rich fill-your-belly feeling that I get with ramen.
The pork charsiu was on the leaner side and the marinated egg was cooked perfectly. I’m not the biggest fan of bok choy in my ramen but it did add some crunch. The fried lotus root chip was my favourite of all the toppings, something unique to Tokiwa.
Diane ordered the Hokkaido Miso (not pictured), which I found to be more to my liking than the Black Garlic. It was slightly richer and better seasoned, most likely thanks to miso’s high umami profile. Lesley’s Yuzu Shio didn’t live up to our expectations of a balanced yuzu broth but the citrus notes did come through. Interestingly enough, the Yuzu Shio broth is quite clear, leaving me to believe that their 6-hour chicken broths aren’t at a high boil and not technically a paitan as I was expecting.
We also tried the Bou Gyoza, four pork flattened dumplings with dipping sauce. They were well crisped and the filling was perfectly seasoned. Definitely one of the better gyoza dumplings in Edmonton. So simple, yet delicious.
Since my first visit left me slightly disappointed and wanting more, I came back to Tokiwa last week to try another bowl. In addition to their opening week bowls, they now offer a spicy ramen, Aka Kara. Boasting the use of three different kinds of chili, I’d recommend this to any one who has a high tolerance for heat. It was spicy! Similar to my previous visit though, the broth fell flat and was very one note. The noodles that day were fantastic though, toothsome and firm and the cuts of pork were considerably fattier. I’m hoping the changes were through some customer feedback.
Overall, I think Tokiwa Ramen is still improving as they make their way towards the one-month mark. Service improved dramatically between my visits so I’m hopeful that Tokiwa will keep up to the demand. Aside from amping up the flavour (another hit of umami might help, more kombu in the broth or shiitake mushrooms) and body (more collagen or fat please!), the thickness of the broth could be left as is if Tokiwa is aiming for a lighter paitan. Summer is around the corner and a rich broth isn’t on the top of everybody’s list. I’m cheering for their success and hope to come back soon.
11978 – 104 Ave