We’ll see you in there.
Connect to customize your food & drink discovery.
Kota Uechi's response to his restaurant, Tondou Ramen, being broken into and robbed isn't what you'd expect.
After burglars entered, smashed the front door, busted open the till and stole its contents, Uechi decided to make the best out of a bad situation by giving back to the neighbourhood.
His decision came about after members of the local community, and regulars to his restaurant, began offering up donations to cover the cost of repairs from the burglary. But Jenny, Kota's close personal friend, told TasteToronto that he just wanted "something good to come out of the incident," and was simply "grateful that no one got hurt."
So, as an expression of gratitude for the communities' response Kota asked that people order take out from Tondou, and choose the "pay it forward" option when checking out online. In doing so, making a donation to cover the cost of a meal from Kota who would "ensure that someone in need would get fed from that contribution."
"[Tondou Ramen] is one of the city's hot spots for ramen," said Jenny. "[It is] named after one of the busiest ports in Old Okinawa, Japan––it symbolizes the cultural practice known to the region of bringing people together."
Uechi is originally from Okinawa, which Jenny described as a special island region whose sunny disposition is reflected throughout the restaurant.
Toronto prides itself on being culturally and ethnically diverse; with that bringing a rich and colourful food scene, to which Tondou Ramen is integral. Jenny expanded further, saying that Kota's restaurant exudes the "laid-back island spirit and native dishes" of his home, whilst "introducing locals to a new culinary experience that is different from the mainstream Japanese food," that we see so regularly.
On the night of the break in, about an hour after Uechi's closing staff had locked up, security cameras caught a man smashing through the front glass door, entering and finding the cash box, taking everything in there, then leaving the premises. They took between $300 and $500 from the till, and left far more in damages, not to mention that many other items in the restaurant had to be disposed of, due to the shattered glass. Though the cash stolen might not seem like a lot, Jenny added that "in the current climate, during the pandemic, [it] equates to having to sell a lot of ramen."
Like countless other locally-run businesses, Tondou Ramen has faced financial hardships caused by the pandemic. What is usually a beacon of light in Little Italy, with a bustling patio and live music, was reduced to take out menus and online delivery, only to be knocked further by the break-in.
Fortunately, Uechi and his dedicated team were able to bounce back thanks to their positivity and overwhelming support from the wider community. After news of the break-in spread, take outs sold out on multiple occasions.
"Kota [was] able to feed many hungry people [and was] extremely touched by the kindness from the community," said Jenny. "He's so grateful to be where he is. If anything, he feels blessed and this incident has only made him love Toronto even more."