HFX Ramen Quest Semi-Finals: Tako vs. Buta
Here we are at Round 2 of the Halifax Ramen Quest Semi-Finals! If you’re just tuning in, the Ramen Quest is a tournament-style food quest on which my team have so far critiqued 12 bowls of ramen in head-to-head combat. We’ve narrowed it down to the top 4, which have advanced to the semi-finals. Last week, Truly Tasty defeated Studio East, and they will be in the Final Round against the winner of this quest.
With no further noodle-do, here is the play-by-play:
Tako Sushi & Ramen
480 Parkland Drive
Kyushu Ramen ($11.95)
Tonkotsu Ramen ($12.95)
On Round 3 of the Halifax Ramen Quest, we loved Tako’s rich tonkotsu ramen and spicy Hokkaido, beloved amongst Halifax foodies. I wanted more time with the tonkotsu ramen (and to compare it to Buta’s tonkotsu) so that was the order I shared with LuShark. Riea and Denton went for the kyushu ramen, while ReTales sat in the middle of the table, happy to analyze whatever scraps were thrown his way.
The Kyushu Ramen is a miso based soup (which is confusing, because I thought Kyushu was known for tonkotsu). But anyway – Denton thought the miso base was rich, while Riea thought it was mild. It had the same toppings as the tonkotsu ramen: chashiu pork, marinated egg, and a scant amount of scallions, corn and mushrooms which, as Riea observed, “…seemed to disappear into the soup”.
LuShark and I shared the Tonkotsu Ramen, which had a serviceable tonkotsu broth, if not as rich as we’d remembered. The pork pieces were tender, with a nice strip of fat, and we really enjoyed the marinated eggs, which had perfect creamy yolks.
The noodles were basic, packaged noodles. “Non-offensive” according to ReTales but I was too reminded of a packet of Ichiban. LuShark thought they “weren’t firm enough” but I don’t think this could have been improved with better cooking. They were cooked perfectly, “chewy and bouncy” according to Riea. I still think a better quality noodle would really elevate this ramen beyond standard fare.
5190 Morris Street
Tonkotsu Ramen ($13.95)
Tori Shio Ramen ($16.95)
On Round 5 of the Halifax Ramen Quest, we ordered 3 different types of ramen here and loved them all.
Today I was decided on the tonkotsu ramen because I wanted to compare it to Tako’s. The others had to select one other ramen to try, and they settled on a new menu item: Tori Shio Ramen. Buta always gives you the option to make your ramen spicy, but we decided to go au naturel today.
The tonkotsu ramen was not as rich as I’d like. I’d say it was on par with the tonkotsu broth at Tako. However, the pork was fattier and more flavourful, and the corn/sprouts had more presence. If pressed for which restaurant had the better egg, I’d give it to Tako.
I was particularly impressed with the noodles, which were a higher quality product. “The noodles were a bit more chewy than Tako,” says LuShark, “but still very basic”.
If it were just a comparison of the two tonkotsu bowls, I would unequivocally give the award to Buta Ramen. However, there was also the Tori Shio to consider.
This is a chicken ramen with a light salt broth. The menu describes it as a “rich chicken soup filled with garlic, gingseng, onion and date”.
Riea really did not like this soup. “The broth was plain and tasteless,” she says, “It felt watered down and the soup was lukewarm”. She also detected an aroma of Chinese 5 Spice, which threw her off (along with the strange addition of dates). The $17 price tag was even more off-putting.
“It just lacked something,” says ReTales, “…the chicken is just boiled”.
Whereas the tonkotsu ramen has straight noodles, every other bowl at Buta has wavy noodles and these were also nice and chewy.
“The Tori Shio ramen delivered what the menu described, and I enjoyed the shio broth,” says Denton. “I was surprised by how bland it was, though, even despite the wide variety of flavours.”
The Winner –> Tako Sushi & Ramen
This was the tightest race I’ve seen so far in the Halifax Ramen Quest! While the tonkotsu broths were basically equal, Buta Ramen had the superior pork, noodles and vegetables. But major points were lost for the tori shio, and Buta couldn’t recover the lead.
This is one case where I believe the superior ramen lost the battle. Had we ordered differently, I’m confident the results would be reversed. But an army is only as good as its weakest link, and today that link was put on trial! Sometimes the lesser team wins the World Series because an outfielder had an itchy nose. Or something. I don’t understand baseball and I’m confusing my idioms.
Either way, fan favourite, Tako Sushi, is moving onto the finals against Truly Tasty!
All Posts: Halifax Ramen Quest
Part 1: Truly Tasty vs. B Well Sushi
Part 2: Studio East vs. Water & Bone
Part 3: Tako Sushi & Ramen vs. Sushi Nami
Part 4: Dharma Sushi vs. Sushi Shige
Part 5: Buta Ramen vs. Gangnam BBQ
Part 6: Beaver Sailor vs. Minato Sushi
Semi-Finals Round 1: Truly Tasty vs. Studio East