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

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.

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tokyo Eats 2016 - Part 2

 A recap of my eating shenanigans in Tokyo continues! The Japanese take great pride in everything they do and food is not an exception. So you need to try even food that's not of Japanese origin. This time I will cover places for coffee, burgers, soft serves, pastries and breakfast options.


About Life Coffee

The third wave coffee scene is big in Japan (Think of Mecca, Coffee Alchemy, Single Origin Roasters etc.). Near the heart of Shibuya is a famous corner coffee shop called About Life Coffee. They have everything covered from solid pour over filter to an amazing cafe latte.

Their house blend is sourced from Onibus Coffee (About Life is also owned by Onibus owner Atsushi Sakao). You will also find guest beans from roasters around the world (Mecca, Artificer, Edition and Seven Seeds makes regular appearances here).

About Life Coffee Brewers
1-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, 150-0043
Open: 8:30am-8:30pm everyday
Nearest station: Shibuya

Onibus Coffee

If you like coffee shops like Mecca, Artificer, Edition Coffee Roasters style of roasting, then you need to check out Onibus! The owner Atsushi travels to Sydney and Melbourne a lot. So expect similar coffee roasting and brewing. You'll find that their espresso (house blend or single origin) tend to be on the light to medium roast side (the way I like it). Their new digs in Nakameguro incorporate homey, industrial and Japanese designs into one cool joint.
Their latte is quite smooth with a lot of vibrant fruity notes. I also had a pour over filter coffee which was also fruity with a clean finish. The coffee here is tops and the staff are pleasant.

Meguro-Ku, Kamimeguro 2-14-1
Open: 9am-6pm everyday
Nearest station: Nakameguro



First burger we tried in Tokyo was from the iconic Japanese fast food chain, MOS. This place is everywhere so need to go to any branch.
I had double MOS cheeseburger with fries and a melon drink. The burger came with double beef patty and cheese, onions and a special meat sauce. The whole burger was good for the price and I specially love the soft milk buns. Although the beef patties are obviously processed, they still packed flavour and was quite juicy.

Shake Shack
I'm so glad the American burger chain Shake Shack has opened in Tokyo when we visited! It even opened in one of Tokyo's most popular parks, Meiji Jingu Gaien Park. They picked this spot to pay homage to the first ever Shake Shack restaurant that opened in Central Park New York.
I loved everything about Shake Shack Meiji-Jingu Gaien except the super long queue! If you plan to visit, make sure you start lining up before 11am.

We tried the classic shack cheeseburger. It's a cheeseburger with salad and a special shack sauce in a soft potato bun. The perfectly seasoned beef patties are smashed to create that perfect caramelised crust for enhanced umami flavour and are cooked medium rare to medium well. The shack sauce is just as important as their triple beef blend patty. The sauce was creamy and tangy with hints of smokiness and acidity. It's one amazing burger.
Next level to that burger is the double smokeshack! It's a double smash patty cheeseburger with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, Shacksauce. It's double the greatness of their 80:20 meat to fat ratio beef patty blend. Along with the extra umami is the smoky goodness from the rashers of crispy smoked bacon. As you can see, I'm not exaggerating the next level description. It's my favourite burger right now!

Believe the hype behind their crinkled fries. Their crinkled fries with cheese were off the hook! The fries were crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the inside. The cheese sauce just makes it even more addictive.
Their second restaurant in Ebisu is now open! Word is that the queue is shorter.

Shake Shack
Meiji Jingu Gaein


Japan has great quality beef throughout the country. Visiting a burger joint run by a butcher (Meat Yazawa) that sources nothing but top quality wagyu for their burgers just makes sense right?

Black-haired Japanese beef or Kuroge wagyu is used to make their fatty and flavoursome patties. The bacon cheeseburger (¥1,700) consists of beef patty, cheese, smoky bacon, and house sauce in soft light brioche bun. It also comes with a side of pickles and potato wedges.

2 Chome-11-9 Ebisunishi, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0021, Japan
Nearest station: Ebisu

The Japanese love their soft serves (or soft creams) and so do I! I went to a few but two things stood out for me:

Hello Kitty

On our visit to the Diver City mall, we walked past the Hello Kitty shop and noticed that they were serving Hello Kitty kongariyaki (hotcake like puffs) and soft serve. What's even better is that you can have those hotcake puffs as toppings to your creamy matcha and milk soft serves! Kongariyakis are baked fresh everyday.

Hello Kitty Kongariyaki
2F, Diver City
135-0064 Tōkyō-to, Kōtō-ku, 江東区Aomi, 1 Chome−1−1−10

Cremia Soft Cream
The soft serve that has ruined all other soft serves for me is Cremia! It's basically available all-over Japan! So what's so amazing about Cremia? It consists of premium Hokkaido milk and whipped cream. It is smooth with a sweet cream cheese-like flavour minus the acidic-ish after taste. It served in a thin buttery sugar cookie cone. It's the creme de la creme of soft serves! Available at Silkream in Shibuya or any store with a cremia poster outside.

Japan, 150-0041 Tokyo, 渋谷区Jinnan, 1−19−3 ハイマンテン神南ビル

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Pastry chef took New York City by storm in 2013 with his cronuts and delectable pastries back in 2013. You can now get a taste of Ansel's pastries with a Tokyo twist at their Omotesando store. You can get everything from cronuts, tarts to caneles and their mind blowing frozen s'mores. The queue is pretty short compared to the crazy lines they get at their NYC store.
Domnique Ansel Bakery Tokyo
5 Chome-7-14 Jingumae, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Nearest station: Omotesando


Then there's the ever dependable Matsuya chain that you can find at almost every area. Everything from gyu don (beef rice bowl) with soup on the side, and beef curry set to a salmon set under ¥1,000 is available here. Choose and purchase your meal from the ticket vending machine, take a seat and one of their wait staff will pick up your tickets. It usually takes around 5 minutes for your order to come out. This was our go to place for breakfast. Most Matsuyas are open 24 hours and some open early and close late.

Maisen Tonkatsu

Aside from bentos, katsu sandos are the perfect on the go food. You need to sink your teeth onto a Maisen katsu sando! A simple but excellent tonkatsu sandwich full of umami! These are available at most food halls.

Duty free snacks shopping

Last but not least, don't forget to do some last minute shopping at Haneda or Narita Airport for Japanese goodies. You can snacks ranging from mochi, matcha flavoured Kit Kats, Royce chocolates and Shiroi Koibito biscuits with white chocolate filling (my personal favourite).

Watch out for my Kyoto Eats post coming up in the next few weeks. Until then, KA-ME-HA-ME-HAAAAAAA!

Also, check out Part 1 of my Tokyo Eats here.