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:

Gumshara

'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!

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

Yasaka


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.


Kokumaro
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

Manpuku

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.
Tsukemen

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.

Manpuku
482 Anzac Parade,
Kingsford NSW 2032


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 chintan broth contains notes of chicken and fish with hints of smokiness and medium level umami. 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


Updated (20 July 2017):


Ramen Zundo

My other go to place for Tsukemen is Ramen Zundo in World Square. You won't miss it when you walk down the alleyway near Liverpool Street. Just look for the lanterns near the courtyard!


Their standard tsukemen ($13.90) is pretty solid. I normally like to add extra slices of chashu (3pcs for $4.80). The thick dipping broth is gyokai tonkotsu. The fish flavour is not so prominent but just enough to give it the broth some umami boost. There are also pieces of pork within the dipping broth. I really love the bouncy thicker glossy noodles that they use for their tsukemen. The noodles is perfect for dipping as it handles the broths thick consistency well.

Shop 10.30 World Square
644 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9264 6113
Hours: Monday to Sunday 11:45am - 9:45pm

Ramen O-san

I didn't include O-san in this list previously due to the original shop at Dixon House closed down at the time and it was uncertain whether they will re-open. A few months ago, this tonkotsu ramen specialist relocated at Ikkyu's old spot at  the Sussex Centre Food Court. It was a very joyous news in the Sydney ramen world.

My go to ramen here are their kurume tonkotsu ramen and seafood tonkotsu ramen.

The kurume tonkotsu ($10 for small, $12 for large) is their most standard tonkotsu ramen. They use medium thick noodles that are firm and perfectly cooked. The super kotteri pork broth has a shoyu based tare and quite heavy heavy on back fat. The chashu at Osan is always super tasty especially with its caramelised bits! It's extra for the egg but it certainly elevates the ramen experience. The egg is slightly flavoured, the whites are  firm and but the yolk remains custardy.

The seafood tonkotsu ($13.50 for small, $16.50 for large) is insane! The highlight here is the shoyu gyokai tonkotsu broth, which is heavy on fish flavour (possibly a blend of niboshi and katsuobushi). Almost reminds me of Nagi in Golden Gai's niboshi ramen. The broth has depth from the smoky fish flavour and packed with umami. Topped with chashu, menma, diced onions for some sweet notes and baby spinach.

Shop F1A, Sussex Centre
401 Sussex Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
Hours:
Monday to Sunday 12:00pm - 8.30pm
  
Cool Mac Cafe

These guys are new in the game but are slaying it with their ramen weekly specials served normally on a Sunday or Friday. The chef Jun-san is from Kumamoto, Kyushu so you can expect amazing thick broths from his bowls!

Their tonkotsu ramen ($16) ticks all the boxes for a great bowl of kotteri ramen: smooth thick gravy-like pork bone broth with a good shoyu tare for a robust depth and umami, a nice amount of negi and chewy braised shio menma for a dash of sweetness, thick tender juicy chashu, perfectly flavoured ajitama with custardy yolk, nori and chewy curly noodles.
Then there's the torigara ramen ($16). This awesome bowl has wavy style noodles and creamy emulsified chicken soup with shio tare topped with chilli braised menma, tender sous vide chicken chashu, hanjuku tamago, loads of sweet negi and nori. The salt tare brought the most optimal chicken flavour out of the chicken broth. The broth had more complexity than depth. Umami flavour is on point.

Shop 2, 34 Burton St
Kirribilli NSW
Hours:
Mon to Fri 6am to 3.30pm

Sat & Sun 7am to 4pm

Monday, December 19, 2016

Gingergirl pop-up at The Star, Pyrmont

The strong aromatics and lovely flavours of Southeast Asian cuisine is very synonymous with summer. All things fun and exciting from visuals to flavours. Think about som tum, turmeric rice, kaeng phed ped yang, ayam bakar etc.


Teage Ezard and the team behind Melbourne's Gingerboy has opened an amazing pop-up at The Star called Gingergirl. The pop-up will run until the end of March 2017 and Chef Owen Mongkonchai will be leading the Gingergirl team. It is located in the food court area near Gelato Messina. Expect mouthwatering Southeast Asian inspired dishes that will leave you wanting more.
Son in law eggs

The son in law eggs ($8) is a Gingerboy signature that makes an appearance on the menu. A twiced cooked egg that's been soft boiled and then flash fried. It's served with a beautiful chilli jam that has a sweet, tangy and slightly smoky taste. The egg is slightly crisped on the outside with a perfect sexy runny yolk. It is so simple but sensational!
Red duck leg curry
The red duck leg curry ($18 comes with rice) is a classic with a twist. It has more tender meat compared to a kaeng phed ped yang and the sauce is more creamy with sweet and gingery notes. The basil adds fragrance and sweet peppery flavour to the dish.
Wagyu brisket
The wagyu brisket ($22) was so tender and it came with a peanut tamarind caramel sauce that was honey like with sour notes. It worked well with the buttery meat of the wagyu brisket. The hot and sour coconut salad was there to give it a nice balance.
Salt and pepper chicken spareribs
The salt and pepper chicken spareribs ($16) with spicy tamarind sauce was another standout dish. This coated fried chicken spareribs and the sauce was very similar to buffalo wings mostly in flavour. It had a similar flavour to cayenne pepper sauce but with more sweet and sour notes.
Stir fried yellow turmeric rice
The stir fried yellow turmeric rice ($10) was the perfect accompaniment with the chicken spareribs! Full of nutty flavours and aromatics.
Thom kha creme brûlée
The thom kha crème brulee ($10) is probably one of th best and innovative creme brulee's I've had. The custard is infused with ingredients based on a creamy galangal soup recipe, so you get lovely subtle hints of lemongrass at the end of every bite. It is also topped with fresh-diced strawberry and mango pieces.
Tropic thunder slushie
Green bubble tea punch
We finished our lunch session with refreshing drinks: their green bubble tea punch $10 (green tea, passionfruit syrup and fresh lemon topped with soda) and tropic thunder slushie $10 (coconut water, watermelon, fresh lime, passionfruit and ginger).

Gingergirl definitely captures the fun and vibrancy of Southeast Asia. Check it out before the pop-up ends!

Team Ramen Raff was invited by Access PR as a guest of Gingergirl.

Gingergirl
The Star Sydney
80 Pyrmont St
Pyrmont NSW

Opening hours:
Sunday to Monday at 11.30am – 9.00pm, Tuesday to Thursday at 11.30am – 10.30pm
Friday to Saturday at 11.30am – 11.00pm125