One mis-timed weekday dinner prep meant a scramble for a quick meal out that would appease us and the kids. On a friend’s recommendation for kid-friendly spots, we ended up at Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya.

The Japanese chain, which has several locations in Okinawa, chose this spot in Little Italy (more known for bars and gelato than ramen) for their first foray outside Japan.

I’m used to cozy ramen joints and small izakaya spots in Vancouver. This looks like neither.

Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya, Toronto

It’s quite a slick restaurant, and I was worried the kids would be out of place. But at 6 p.m., it was fairly quiet except for a few couples, and another family with children in the lounge area.

There are a few menus to look through, including the regular dinner and seasonal specials.

Menu, Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya, Toronto

We were very happy with the izakaya dishes. The tempura ebi mayo ($12) featured meaty pieces of battered tiger shrimp on a plate with alternating dots of chili and brush strokes of squid ink aioli. Not only was the presentation well-executed, so were the flavours.

Chicken wings ($9) were on special half-price that day, so of course we ordered some. The person manning the deep fryer here knows what he/she is doing. The wings came with a Japanese-style lemon sauce on the side, which was a nice salty tart change.

Kobe beef tartare, Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya, Toronto

I loved the Kobe beef tartare ($15). Though obviously not authentic Kobe, the hand-chopped meat was all buttery deliciousness. Add to that a strangely well-matched egg yolk gel, and I had to stop myself from eating all of it too quickly.

(Plus the kids were all “MMM. BREAD!” and they stole most of the toasts. An extra round cost $1.50. I’ll be taking it out of their inheritance.)

Like the ebi dish, the tartare was an attractive creation, topped with the yellow yolk, white bits of crispy rice, fresh green scallion purée, and white garlic confit aioli.

Spicy miso ramen, Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya, Toronto

Unfortunately, the ramen fell flat in my opinion.

The kids split the traditional tonkotsu ramen (regular size $11/ mini size $8). The chasu (fatty pork slices) and ni-tamago (marinated egg) were up to snuff, but the noodles had no bite, and the pork bone broth tasted bland.

Jason and I shared a spicy miso ramen ($12 regular size/ $8 mini size) which uses the same tonkotsu ramen base. The added spice helped the blandness but it was far from the best ramen I’ve ever had.

Ryoji does have one very memorable feature: THE TOILET SEATS ARE WARMED.

Oh, Japan, I ♥ your inventions.

Heated toilet seat! at Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya, Toronto(I could not get T out of my shot; then again, I also couldn’t really explain to a toddler why I was trying to take a photo of a terlet.)

Kid-friendly notes

Very clean change table in women’s bathroom.
High chairs available. Leave the strollers at home.

Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya, 690 College St., Toronto, (416) 533-8083. Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.