Ramen Marathon in Sydney

After our recent trip to Japan, J, S and I were suffering from a post-holiday hangover so bad that we decided to begin a search for the best ramen in Sydney- ‘best’ meaning most similar to the ramen we had eaten in Japan. These are the places we ate at, in the order that we visited them. A lot of these places feature tsukemen, as J was on a hunt for the perfect tsukemen, like the one we ate in the Namba district of Osaka.

And so began our great ramen binge…

Ramen Zundo

Address: Shop 1030, 644 George Street (World Square), Sydney

Opening hours: 11:45am – 9pm every day

Price range: Under $15 for ramen

Website: http://ramenzundo.com.au

Ramen Zundo on Urbanspoon

Ramen Zundo is a small ramen restaurant in World Square that J and I heard served tsukemen. In Sydney, it’s not that common to find tsukemen even at ramen restaurants, so this was one of the first places we came to after we returned from Japan. J, S, and I tried tsukemen in the Namba region of Osaka, and wanted to see if Ramen Zundo’s version was as good. We came at 6:30pm on a Friday night. The restaurant is small, and features traditional Japanese decor with hiragana and katakana written on red and white paper lanterns that hung in the store front.

Storefront of Ramen Zundo at World Square
Storefront of Ramen Zundo at World Square

The service was polite and friendly. The staff were also happy to make recommendations, which I took heed of. J and I both ordered the Tsukemen Original ($12.90). It came out quickly, around 10 minutes after we ordered.

Tsukemen Original ($12.90)
Tsukemen Original ($12.90)
Birds eye view of the Tsukemen Original
Birds eye view of the Tsukemen Original
Ramen Zundo's menu
Ramen Zundo’s menu

The noodles were thick and soft, and were of a very similar texture to the tsukemen we had eaten in Namba. The dipping sauce however, was a far cry from the Namba tsukemen. The tsukemen dipping sauce at Ramen Zundo didn’t have a thick consistency and the meat’s texture was stringy and resembled canned tuna. J and I both agreed that Ramen Zundo’s noodles were great, but were let down by the not so great dipping sauce.

S opted for the Tonkotsu Ramen on the specials menu, which had a hearty, flavoursome broth topped with shallots, seaweed, bamboo shoots, slices of tender pork and sesame seeds. The noodles served with this were not of the bouncy, egg variety, but were thin, white and stiff, which I’ve heard are the most common kinds of noodles served with tonkotsu ramen.

Light Zundo Original size in Regular ($11.90)
Light Zundo Original size in Regular ($11.90)
Thin noodles
Thin noodles that are commonly served with Hakata style ramen

All in all, J, S, and I agreed that Ramen Zundo was one of the better places to eat ramen in Sydney, although we left feeling slightly depressed knowing that our meal wasn’t as good as what we had eaten in Japan.

Rating: 8/10

Ichiban Boshi

Address: Level 3, Galeries Victoria, Sydney

Opening hours: 11am – 9pm every day

Price range: Under $15

Website: http://ichibanboshi.com.au

Ichi-ban Boshi on Urbanspoon

Ichiban Boshi, situated across from the large Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya in Galeries Victoria, was the second ramen restaurant we paid a visit to. Ichiban Boshi serves a variety of ramen dishes, including tsukemen, along with other Japanese dishes. We came there on a Sunday around lunch time, and there was a queue of diners. We took a number and waited to be called. The wait wasn’t too long, about 15-20 minutes.

Ichiban Boshi at The Galeries Victoria
Ichiban Boshi at The Galeries Victoria

After being seated, we perused the menus and ordered. The staff were all Japanese and very polite. Ichiban Boshi in the Galeries Victoria has the setting of a proper restaurant, but the ambience of a regular food court in a shopping centre setting. About 10-15 minutes after ordering, our food arrived. I had ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen ($11.90), while J had the  Tan Tan Tsukemen ($13.00) and S had the Shio Butter Corn Ramen ($11.90). We also ordered Gyoza ($6.50).

Menu at Ichiban Boshi
Menu at Ichiban Boshi
Iced Lemon Tea
Iced Lemon Tea
Gyoza ($6.50)
Gyoza ($6.50)

The gyoza contained five pieces, served with soy sauce. The exterior of the gyoza was a little too crisp, and one was burnt. The other side of the gyoza was soft, but not soft enough for my liking.

Shio Butter Corn Ramen ($11.90) delicious and satisfying
Shio Butter Corn Ramen ($11.90) delicious and satisfying

Ichiban Boshi’s Shio Butter Corn Ramen was undoubtedly my favourite dish. The noodles were soft and bouncy, similar to the noodles I had eaten in Japan, though the quality wasn’t as good as in Japan. The broth was simple with a thin, slightly salty consistency, juicy kernels of corn, and a slab of butter to accentuate the broth and tender pieces of pork.

Closer look at the Shio Butter Corn Ramen noodles
Closer look at the Shio Butter Corn Ramen noodles
Tsukemen ($13.00)
Tan Tan Tsukemen ($13.00)

The Tan Tan Tsukemen consisted of ramen noodles with a spicy dipping sauce. J commented that her noodles weren’t as good as at Ramen Zundo, although Ichiban Boshi’s tsukemen broth was better than Ramen Zundo. The broth was thicker and more flavoursome, and the spiciness added a kick.

My Tonkotsu Ramen was the last dish to be served.

Tonkotsu Ramen noodles- stiff and white
Tonkotsu Ramen noodles- stiff and white
Tonkotsu Ramen ($11.90)
Tonkotsu Ramen ($11.90)

The broth was thick and hearty, and a little salty. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but was a little upset that I didn’t receive the same bouncy egg noodles that S did with her shio butter corn ramen. The noodles in the tonkotsu ramen were firm, thin and white. I didn’t know at this time that these are the standard noodles served with tonkotsu ramen. Although the tonkotsu ramen was delicious, I preferred the shio butter corn ramen and vowed to order it next time.

Rating: 9.5/10

Ramen Ikkyu

Address: Shop F1A, 401 Sussex Street (inside the Sussex Centre food court) Sydney

Opening hours: Lunch and dinner seven days a week (closes at 9pm)

Price range: Under $15

Website: menikkyu.com.au

Ramen Ikkyu on Urbanspoon

Ramen Ikkyu is a venture by Haru Inakai of French-Japanese fusion restaurant Blancharu. With such a chef behind this ramen venue, I was eager to try this place for awhile and finally got the opportunity one Friday evening. The girls and I were having a late dinner and made it to Ramen Ikkyu, in the Sussex Street food court just half an hour before closing time.

Ipad menu at Ramen Ikkyu
Ipad menu at Ramen Ikkyu
Monthly specials available at Ramen Ikkyu
Monthly specials available at Ramen Ikkyu

The chef chatted to me in Japanese and recommended the Tokyo Soy ramen to me as the most traditional ramen. He was friendly and I enjoyed chatting to him about various things.

Tokyo Soy Ramen ($11.50)
Tokyo Soy Ramen ($11.50)

The Tokyo Soy Ramen ($11.50) consisted of a soy and chicken based broth. The soup was of a thinner consistency than I was normally used to, and tasted much lighter than a typical tonkotsu ramen. The noodles were also the thin, firm kind that I wasn’t partial to. Overall, I appreciated the dish and think that it would definitely have pleased someone, but that someone wasn’t me. This was my first and last time eating ramen with a soy based broth, although I would definitely like to return to Ramen Ikkyu to try other ramen dishes.

Chef's Special with Black Garlic and Chilli Oil ($13.00)
Chef’s Special with Black Garlic and Chilli Oil ($13.00)

S’s choice, the Chef’s Special with Black Garlic and Chilli Oil also used a soy base, but the broth was thicker than my Tokyo Soy ramen, due to the black garlic. I enjoyed this ramen much more than my own, due to the thicker, flavoursome soup.

Tsukemen ($14.00)
Tsukemen ($14.00)

J stuck to her standard tsukemen, although Ramen Ikkyu’s version was different to all the other tsukemen we had tried in Sydney and in Osaka. The tsukemen at Ramen Ikkyu consisted of dry ramen noodles, heaped with pork slices, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, corn kernels and dried seaweed, with the dipping sauce on the side. The presentation for this dish was nice, but as the broth was cold, it wasn’t to J’s liking. She found Ramen Ikkyu’s tsukemen average.

Pork Rib Ramen ($20.00)
Pork Rib Ramen ($20.00)

L ordered the Pork Rib Ramen ($20.00). This was one of the more expensive ramen dishes on the menu, and justifiably so. It was served with a giant piece of pork rib, that L couldn’t finish by herself. Although it was tender and fell off the bone, she was a little unhappy at having ordered this giant piece of meat as she couldn’t eat it all.
Rating: 6/10

Ryo’s

Address: 125 Falcon Street, Crows Nest

Opening hours: Lunch and dinner Thursday – Tuesday

Price range: Under $15 for ramen

Ryo's on Urbanspoon

Ryo’s reputation had preceded itself as one of the best and most authentic ramen places in Sydney. Therefore, this was the ramen place that I was most eager to try. The girls and I came here close to opening time on a Friday evening and found several diners inside the restaurant already.

Menu at Ryo's
Menu at Ryo’s
Traditional Japanese ambience
Traditional Japanese ambience

Ryo’s certainly reminded me a lot of Japan, with a menu on the wall written in Japanese and little Japanese fans spread out everywhere. In addition to the orange laminated menu, there was a chalkboard menu proclaiming their most popular items.

Chalkboard menu at Ryo's
Chalkboard menu at Ryo’s
Gyoza (5 pieces for $7.00)
Gyoza (5 pieces for $7.00)

S ordered the Gyoza ($7.00) which we shared among us. The gyoza had a crisp exterior, but I found them to be a little too stiff and not super soft on the inside, however they were still a pleasure to eat.

Ryo's No. 4- Salt flavour with sesame seeds, bamboo shoots and shallots
Ryo’s No. 4- Salt flavour with sesame seeds, bamboo shoots and shallots

I ordered No. 4 from the chalkboard menu. The broth was salt based and had a simple but delicious flavour. The broth wasn’t too thick or thin, and the pieces of pork were thick and fatty. I really enjoyed the broth of this ramen, but was again disappointed by the noodles.

Noodles in Ryo's No. 4 ramen
Noodles in Ryo’s No. 4 ramen

The noodles were proper egg noodles, however I found them to be lighter in colour than ones I had eaten previously, and they were also thinner and less bouncy. I was really disappointed by this as I had such high expectations for Ryo’s.

Tsukemen at Ryo's
Tsukemen at Ryo’s ($15.00)

J ordered Tsukemen ($15.00) as usual. Ryo’s tsukemen was very similar to the one served at Ramen Ikkyu. The tsukemen at Ryo’s consisted of egg noodles topped with slices of pork, bamboo shoots, shallots, dried seaweed, kamoboko, and hard boiled egg. The egg was a little overcooked. J stated that she liked the tsukemen here though.

I was disappointed with the ramen at Ryo’s and felt that it didn’t live up to its reputation. It is obviously a popular place though, as there was already a line formed by the time we left. However, I felt that the quality was quite standard and wouldn’t bother coming back.

Rating: 5/10

Menya

Address: Shop TG8, 8 Quay Street, Haymarket, Sydney

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 11:30am – 3:30pm, 5:30pm – 9:30pm

Price range: Under $15 for all ramen dishes

http://www.menya.com.au

Menya Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Menya is one of the most popular ramen restaurants in Sydney, so I was looking forward to eating here. The girls and I came here on a Thursday evening. We ordered and paid for our meals at the counter. Although Menya’s ramen is supposed to be good, I was growing sick of all the mediocre ramen I had eaten lately and decided to eat udon for a change (big mistake).

Diners at Menya
Diners at Menya

DSC_0122

It was early on a Thursday evening, but the restaurant was busy. Pretty much all the seats were taken, so the girls and I had to squeeze onto the end of a communal table with strangers.

The Black Garlic Ramen ($11.90) had a flavoursome broth that was accentuated by the pungent black garlic oil. The noodles were cooked perfectly. Once I saw this, I experienced a major case of food envy.

Black Garlic Ramen ($11.90)
Black Garlic Ramen ($11.90)
Gyoza ($7.50)
Gyoza ($7.50)

The gyoza had a crisp exterior, although weren’t quite as soft on the inside as I would have liked.

Chicken Teriyaki Udon ($10.90)
Chicken Teriyaki Udon ($10.90)

DSC_0130

The Chicken Teriyaki Udon had a nice flavour, and was slightly salty but this wasn’t a problem. The noodles were thick, soft and chewy. This was overall quite pleasurable to eat, although I kept experiencing pangs of regret while I watched S eat her Black Garlic Ramen blissfully. The chicken teriyaki was marinated well and cooked thoroughly.

Tsukemen ($11.90)

Tsukemen ($11.90)

As usual, J ordered Tsukemen ($11.90). The presentation of Menya’s tsukemen looked fairly similar to Ryo’s version. The broth was excessively salty though.

Tsukemen broth
Tsukemen broth

Rating: 7/10

Ramen-Kan

Address:Level 1, 90 Hay Street, Haymarket

Opening hours: Sunday – Thursday 11:30am – 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am – 10:00pm

Price range: Under $15 for most ramen dishes

Ramen-Kan on Urbanspoon

Ramen-Kan is my friend J’s personal favourite when it comes to ramen restaurants in Sydney. Her favourite dish is the Chicken Karaage Curry Ramen, but on this occasion, she ordered Tsukemen ($10.50).

Tsukemen
Tsukemen ($10.50)
Tsukemen with broth
Tsukemen with broth

J stated that the broth didn’t go well with the noodles and tasted strange. The meat was also tough and grisly. As you can see from the photo, the colour of the meat looked greyish and was totally off-putting just to look at.

We also shared the Teriyaki Mentaiko Tofu ($3.00). At just $3.00 for three pieces, it was a bargain. I love eating anything with mentaiko, so I really enjoyed the liberal heaping of mentaiko on the top, but it got a little bit too salty for me after awhile, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you can stomach it. The contrast of salty and sweet flavours with the teriyaki sauce and mentaiko was nice with the deep fried tofu.

Teriyaki Mentaiko Tofu ($3.00)
Teriyaki Mentaiko Tofu ($3.00)
Menu at Ramen-Kan
Menu at Ramen-Kan
Noodles that came with the chicken karaage ramen
Noodles that came with the chicken karaage ramen
Chicken Karaage Ramen
Chicken Karaage Curry Ramen

The noodles were thick and bouncy in S’s Chicken Karaage Curry Ramen. The noodles that were used for all their ramen dishes were the yellow egg noodles, which are my personal preference. The broth was also thick, flavoursome and hearty.

My main was the Shio Butter Corn Ramen. In appearance, it resembled the same dish I’d had at Ichiban Boshi, except for the meat which was again, a grayish colour for some reason. However, I didn’t feel like Ramen-Kan’s version was comparable to Ichiban Boshi’s version. The broth tasted thin and watery. The meat was tough and didn’t taste fresh. I was disappointed with this. The clear winner of the dishes at Ramen-Kan was the Chicken Karaage Curry Ramen, which I will be sure to order next time I come here.

Shio Butter Corn Ramen
Shio Butter Corn Ramen
Entrance of the restaurant
Entrance of the restaurant

Rating: 6/10

S, J and I had vowed to continue our weekly ramen expeditions until we had eaten at every ramen restaurant in Sydney, but sadly, this didn’t turn out to be the case. After our dinner at Ramen-Kan, J was so disappointed that she said she was going to give up eating her beloved tsukemen as she didn’t believe she would ever find a place in Sydney that makes one as good as the one we ate in Osaka. I was also experiencing a case of being ‘ramened’ out after our last ramen meal at Ramen-Kan, and decided to take a break from eating ramen- for now. Until then, my hunt for the best ramen in Sydney will continue- this post will be updated periodically.

5 Comments

  1. what about ippudo / gumshara?

    1. Meatballhead

      Ippudo was intentionally left out as I have never really liked it. Also, Ippudo is Hakata style ramen, which originates from Fukuoka, and the style of ramen I was looking for is probably Tokyo or Sapporo ramen.

  2. Some places can be asked to have the soup more “thick” or “nou-kou” in Japanese. If you go eat you could ask the waiter/waitress or chefs whether its possible. In Japan it is pretty common to order your ramen with harder/softer noodles, salty/less salty soup more or less oil. Usually asking for ramen noodles to be cooked firm or “katame” would allow some noodles to be more bouncy depending on the type of noodle.

    Having stayed in Japan for a year and a half and coming back I understand the craving of ramen/tsukemen that is absent in Australia. While Hakata ramen is on the rise, the more thick/sloppy, cant quite find the term, types of ramen soup still haven’t been introduced. Hopefully someone will open a store like that so we may satisfy our cravings.

  3. So much ramen! I think it will be many years yet before we get Japan-quality ramen here, but that’s because their expertise and commitment is unparalleled. You’ve totally given me a craving for butter corn ramen too. Argh!

  4. I’ve been craving ramen so much lately and reading this post just made me crave it more :O

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