Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cafe Kentaro, Surry Hills

One of the things I miss about Japan is the abundance of omurice (omelette rice) shops. But thanks to Cafe Kentaro, my omurice cravings is now sorted!

Chef Kenny Takayama

Cafe Kentaro is the second instalment to the successful Cafe Oratnek and it is located on Bourke Street (between Devonshire and Cleveland), Surry Hills. The space has an industrial interior with touches of homey decor. I saw familiar faces during my visit. My homie head chef/owner Kenny Takayama was in the kitchen and general manager/barista Daryl was behind the La Marzocco machine. I knew I was in for a treat. Just like the first shop, the food here is heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine and served in a familiar Australian cafe fare way.
Matcha lamingtons

The beans used for their latte ($3.80) is a house blend from Aroma. It had sweet, nutty and chocolate notes with medium body. The textured milk temperature was just right.
Hojicha latte

The hojicha latte ($4.20) was quite strong and the flavours punched through the milk nicely. The tea itself had roasted sweet earthy notes.
Katsu sando
Everyone's Oratnek  favourite, the signature katsu sando ($13) is available here too! 200gms of fried crumbed fatty pork fillet, cabbage, Japanese bbq sauce and mustard in soft white slice bread. I love how the perfectly cooked tender pork with crisped coating, tangy umami packed tonkatsu sauce and sharp mustard works well together.
I remember that time when Ken-san posted a photo of his omurice ($18) for staffies. I told him he should do it as a special for Oratnek. Now, it's actually part of Cafe Kentaro's menu. This tomato fried rice filled omelette was amazing! Other fillings that come with the rice are: fatty plumpy bacon pieces, peas, gooey pieces of cheese. The omelette itself was slightly spongy and dense and the tomato sauce used for the rice had a nice spiced tangy taste.
Japanese poutine
My mind was blown again with their Japanese poutine ($15), which is tender pulled braised beef, dark miso gravy, shallots and goats cheese on perfectly cooked chips. This is an umami packed spud dish! The chips were nicely crisped on the outside, fluffy inside and seasoned just right.

Cafe Kentaro is all about warmth and comfort.  This applies to their service and great food. Ken-san and crew has done it again!

Ramen Raff was invited by Cafe Kentaro as a guest.

Cafe Kentaro
616 Bourke Street
Surry Hill NSW 2010

7 days - 7.00am to 3.30pm
Cafe Kentaro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mate Burger Truck, Western Sydney

Someone once said that: "one of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood". Burger truck Mate Burger understands what burger lovers really need: next level delicious burgers that are not over the top.

Henry Paraan is the genius mind behind Mate Burger. A burger truck that features both Filipino and American influenced burgers. Expect legit burgers and fries that draws inspirations from Filipino favourites like lechon, sisig, tocino and even Adobo! Then you have classic American diner-style burgers and cheeseburgers with a twist.
Adobo burger
The adobo burger ($12) is pork belly braised in adobo sauce with cucumber, coriander, sriracha mayo, aioili and pickled Spanish onions in a soft milk bun. The soy, garlic and vinegary flavour components came through well. The cucumber, coriander and pickled onion help cut through the richness of the pork.
Longanisa burger
The pork based patty of the longanisa burger ($12) is inspired by the popular Filipino sausage of the same name. It was peppery, sweet and garlicky. Legit longanisa flavours! It worked well with atchara (pickled papaya), tomato, cucumber, corriander and egg (can't have longanisa for breakfast without egg!).

Lechon burger

The lechon burger ($12) is spit-roasted pork belly burger that also includes onion rings, green apple and green mango mint salad, black truffle mayo and special Mate burger sauce. It may sound hectic but the flavours are well balanced. The crackling was just divine along with the generous amount of tender flavoursome lechon meat.
Double It Burger
Then there's the "double-it" burger ($15) which is a double everything cheeseburger! It is one of the best double cheeseburgers I've had in Sydney: double beef smash patty, double sexy melted cheese, double glazed bacon, pickled onions, caramelised onions, pickles, jalapeƱos, and mate sauce in a lightly toasted soft milk bun. Juicy flavoursome meat with caramelised crusts. The meat is coarsely minced, which leads to creating pockets of juice within the patty. The sweet and sour flavours of the condiments cuts through the richness of the burger. The jalapeƱos and mate sauce seals the deal with some heat and extra umami. In spite of being a big, it actually handles well. This is my kind of burger!

Jack Burger
The latest addition to the mate menu is their Jack burger ($12): beef patty cooked in duck fat, caramelised lychees, smoky crisped bacon, melted jack cheese and black truffle mayo in a soft milk bun. The highlight here is how the buttery jack cheese compliments the patty. Then there's the added effect of the tartness of the lychees and smoky salty bacon that works well with the rest of the burg. 
Then there's Mate's lechon fries which is probably one of the best loaded fries I've had in Sydney. Big chunks of lechon with them glorious crackling and truffle aioli!! So damn good!
Ice candy
You can also get Filipino style ice pop called ice candy by Ice Kendy Australia. Flavours available: lychepine (lychee and pineapple), calamango (calamansi and mango), tarojack (ube and jackfruit), avoconut (avocado and coconut), manfrad (mango fruit salad), melonrock (rockmelon cream).

Henry's truck is another burger force to be reckoned with. I'm looking forward to try more of his burgers soon!

Mate Burger
Check their social media accounts for the latest location updates

Mate Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Ramen in Sydney

Ramen Raff has just turned 6 years old this month! It doesn’t feel that long ago when I started this blog. In those 6 years, I have been asked countless times where the best ramen in Sydney is. Although I love goro goro (thick curry like consistency) type ramen broths like Gumshara’s tonkotsu ramen or Tenka-ippin’s signature paitan Kotteri ramen, I do appreciate all other types and forms of ramen.

The noodles and broth are the body and soul of a bowl of ramen. Nail those two and you can put whatever toppings you want. As long as it all works and balances in the end, then you have the perfect bowl. Taste is subjective and also based on how adventurous a person’s palate is. Rather than naming all the ramen places in Sydney and reviewing them, I have instead gathered a list of places that I really love. So without further ado, here’s my current list of Sydney’s top ramenyas:


'Chef Mori and Pikachu' - My 2016 entry for SMH Good Food 'Shoot The Chef'
Gumshara was the first ramen that blew my mind and took me to my ramen path. It still does even up to this day. This is Kotteri tonkotsu ramen at its finest. Depending on the season, Mori-san uses around 150-170Kgs of pork bones daily to create this liquid gold. The broth has a lot of body that is gravy-like but also has so much porky goodness and depth from his shoyu tare. I like the fact that they would adjust the broth for you if you find it too thick or too salty. I find the flavour perfect as it is. The tamago he uses always has that perfect slightly runny yolk. Mori-san is consistent with his work.
Garlic tonkotsu ramen

Pork sparerib ramen
Tonkotsu ramen with agitate and bbq pork skewer
My go to ramen dishes here are their standard tonkotsu ramen with added egg and tender bbq pork skewer, the signature pork sparerib ramen, and garlic tonkotsu ramen. The garlic oil and roasted garlic flakes used in the garlic tonkotsu gives the broth notes of nutty sweetness, whilst the twiced-cooked pork sparerib is one big tasty fatty monster slab of meat. The umami game here is definitely strong. Also, I just love how the thick broth hugs onto each noodle strand with every slurp!

Eating World
211/25-29 Dixon St,
Haymarket NSW 2000


Yasaka ramen is headed by former Gumshara chef, Takeshi Sekigawa. They also specialise in Tonkotsu ramen with a touch of izakaya. You can also order Japanese snacks like edamame, karaage chicken, takoyaki etc. All noodles are made in-house and the tonkotsu broth is also crazy thick and tasty!
Shoyu tonkotsu grilled chashumen
 At their Sydney CBD branch, I would normally go for their shoyu tonkotsu grilled chasumen. It comes with noodles, menma, spring onions, fungus nori and the best part, two large slices of grilled chashu! Ajitama is extra.

Then there’s the kokumaro ramen, which is a gyokai tonkotsu ramen that is topped with chashu, naruto, menma, spring onion, nori, bean sprouts and half ajitama. The fish flavour adds umami and smoky notes to the pork broth.
Shoyu shin yasaka ramen
At their Neutral bay shop, I normally opt for their shoyu shin yasaka ramen, which is kotteri tonkotsu ramen with shoyu base. The broth is very goro goro with a lot of depth.

Yasaka Ramen
Sydney CBD: 126 Liverpool St, Sydney NSW 2000
Neutral Bay: 161 Military Rd, Neutral Bay NSW 2089

Chaco Bar 

For a classic chuka soba or shoyu ramen with a twist, there's only one place in Sydney that excels in it. Chaco bar is normally a yakitori bar at night but transforms to a ramen bar for lunch from Wednesday to Saturday.
Fat soy ramen with extra fat
My go to here is their fat soy with extra se-abura (back fat). The bouncy noodles are cooked to perfection and the shoyu broth has alot of depth, umami and complexity. The back fat doesn't make the broth heavy at all but just adds some density and notes of pork flavour. The chashu here is one of the tastiest I've come across with its nice and sweet caramelised edges. 

Chaco Bar
38 Crown St,
Darlinghurst NSW 2010


The ramen force is also strong at Manpuku. This ramenya is chicken broth and Tonkotsu ramen specialist. The tonkotsu ramen offerings are more of a Hakata style ramen with milky-like broth consistency, shio based tare and thin firm noodles. You can also get varieties of this ramen with shoyu tare and gyokai tonkotsu. My picks here are their gyokai tonkotsu ramen and tsukemen.
Gyokai tonkotsu
The gyokai tonkotsu ramen has shio tonkotsu broth with black garlic oil and hints of fish flavour. The fish component adds umami and the garlic oil gives it complexity. They use thin firm noodles and it’s topped with ajitama, chashu, bean sprouts, scallions, fungus and nori.

The tsukemen here is outstanding! A powerful set of Shoyu gyokai tonkotsu dipping broth, thick noodles, tender kakuni pork rib,  menma, ajitama, bean sprouts, nori, and shallots. The perfect dipping broth is more intense in consistency and flavour. The lemon squeezed onto the noodles helps cut through that intensity.

482 Anzac Parade,
Kingsford NSW 2032

Ramen Ikkyu
Pork rib ramen

Chef Harunobu Inukai previously owned this place. Though Haru-san has left and sold the place, the new management has kept his recipes and the quality is still the same. They have a wide range of ramen offerings from paitan broth ramen, tonkotsu, shoyu, and miso based ramen. The noodles are also made in-house.

My current favourite here is their tantanmen. The broth has a miso and chilli blend base. Compared to most tantanmen, the broth is quite thick with flavour not being too salty but instead peanuty and sweet. Then there's the usual tantanmen toppings like peppery minced pork, bean sprouts, scallions and ajitama.

Ramen Ikkyu
F1A/401 Sussex St,
Haymarket NSW 2000

Ryo’s Noodles

Ryo’s is the OG of Sydney ramenyas. Just like Gumshara, it has its own cult following and the original Crows Nest shop would have a queue most of the time. They cover all of the classics from a classic shoyu shuka soba to gyokai tonkotsu. If you hate queues, I suggest heading out to their Bondi Junction shop.
Gyokai tonkotsu
I love the umami boost from fish flavourings or fish broths. My go to ramen here is their gyokai tonkotsu. Their version is a double soup ramen with pork bone broth and fish broth. The broth has a milky consistency with light pork and light fish flavours. The shio based tare gives the broth some depth. The noodles are the standard springy type with toppings such as two slices of chashu, shallots, fried shallots and ajitama.

Ryo's Noodles
Crows Nest: 125 Falcon St, Crows Nest NSW 2065
Bondi Junction: 106 Ebley St, Bondi Junction NSW 2022

Rising Sun Workshop
Last but not least is Nick Smith’s ramen at his hybrid eatery and motorcycle workshop, The Rising Sun Workshop. He truly gets the essence of ramen construction: Each component plays a role and layer to work towards a perfect bowl of ramen. My go to ramen choices here are his The Light and his breakfast ramen.
The Light
The Light is a shio (salt) based ramen with springy ramen noodles, kurobuta belly chashu, menma, pickled mushroom, greens (kale in this case), green onion, and the best ajitama (marinated soft-boiled egg). The broth contains notes of chicken and fish with hints of smoky and crisped flavours for an umami boost. It’s an easy on the palate type of ramen but with layers and components that give so much flavour and joy.
Breakfast ramen
Then there’s Nick’s super innovative breakfast ramen that you won’t find anywhere else in Sydney at the moment. This bowl has a comforting concoction of buttered toast broth, springy ramen noodles, crispy smoky bacon, egg and grilled tomato. It is full of umami with so much depth. It’s a true East and West fusion that works well.

Rising Sun Workshop
1C Whateley St,
Newtown NSW 2042

Also, here's a Vlog that I did with JohnMalieTV on Sydney's best ramen. Click here