Toledo finally has a dedicated, authentic ramen shop: a perfect place to spend time in community with other soup lovers this winter. Opening a ramen spot was a long-time dream of Chef Kengo Kato, proprietor of Kengo Sushi & Yakitori, as well as the soon-to-open Shobu by Kengo restaurant inside Hollywood Casino. Kato Ramen opened with a soft launch this fall, with Toledoans often lined up along South St. Clair Street for their turn to try the noodle dishes.
Kato Ramen is a tiny storefront shop, like its older brother, Kengo Sushi & Yakitori, next door. With just 28 seats, there will likely be a wait for a seat unless you arrive at opening time, 11 a.m. And like Kengo Sushi, you can reserve a spot by writing your name and the size of your party on the front door. Note: your party will not be seated until all members have arrived.
Seating is very close to other diners, but that’s not a bad thing: seeing beverage choices (lunch beer and wine!) as well as dishes some may not be brave enough to try (the spicy miso). Eating in proximity to others is something that doesn’t happen much in Toledo, especially since the start of the pandemic. But Kato Ramen is a place where you really feel part of something bigger than yourself.
The menu offers four choices. The shoyu: a delicately clear, soy chicken broth; soy-soaked egg; chashu; negi; menma; nori; naruto; and wavy noodles. The tonkotsu is a creamy, pork-based broth with negi; chashu; kikurage; benishoga; chili string; garlic chips; sesame seeds and straight noodles. The nuanced broth is impressive, hosting the bounce and bite of the noodles. The tonkatsu offered a nice contrast of textures with the chili string and mushrooms.
The spicy miso ramen has added chili oil for an enjoyable pop of spice and the vegan ramen is made with a cashew-based broth. The menu offers add-ons allowing for the creation of a more customized meal.
The Kato Ramen tagline, “Slurp loud, eat fast” encourages diners not to worry about how you look eating ramen with chopsticks. Rather, hold the bowl up close to your face and drink some broth. There is no elegant way to eat ramen, and that’s fine. Nobody is paying attention to anything besides their own ramen. Pro tip: disposable bibs are provided.
Kato Ramen. 40 S. St. Clair Street. Open 11am-2:30pm, Tuesday-Saturday. 419-469-8929. katoramen.com/
A Glossary Terms to slurp by:
Chashu (“chaa-shoo”) = Braised pork belly
Kikurage (“kee-koo-raa-gay”) = Wood ear mushroom
Negi (“nay-gee”) = Green onion
Benishoga (“beh-nee-shoh-gah”) = Pickled ginger
Menma (“men-mah”) = Bamboo shoots
Naruto (“naa-roo-tow”) = Fish cake
Nori (“naw-ree”) = Dried roasted seaweed