The year feels like it’s only just begun and already there are new ramen shops popping up all over Sydney. The latest one to open is Ramen O-San, which hails from Kyushu, Japan’s most southwesterly island that encompasses the prefectures of Fukuoka, Okinawa and Nagasaki, amongst others.
Ramen O-San’s Sydney shop is the 7th shop to open, with 5 stores already open in Japan and one store in Cambodia. The soup base here is a shoyu tonkotsu base, made by boiling pork bones down for 10 hours and adding in soy sauce at the end. Most of the ramen on the menu is a tonkotsu-based, however there are some which combine the pork bone broth with a chicken or fish stock.
I opt for the black garlic ramen, which is basically the original tonkotsu ramen with a bit of black garlic thrown in. There’s a streak of black garlic oil on one side of the bowl which is fragrant with garlic flavour and adds another dimension to the tonkotsu soup base.
The tonkotsu soup itself is quite thick – not as rich as Gumshara, but if you leave it sitting there for a while you’ll see a definite skin forming. There’s a definite creamy flavour to the soup, almost like you can tell that the bones have been boiling away for hours and all the flavourful goodness from inside the bones has made its way into the broth.
With your bowl of ramen, you’ll also get some chashu slices, cloud ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and a scattering of shallots. There’s also extra sesame seeds and chopped garlic at the counter if you want to add a bit more to your ramen. The chashu here is pretty spot on – there’s a distinct layer of fat around the thinly sliced pork that gives it heaps of flavour. They’re pretty generous with the pork slices, but you can add more if you’re feeling hungry!
Sir D must be feeling hungry, because he chooses the aptly-named Sumo Ramen. It’s a ramen bowl piled high with minced pork, cabbage, bean sprouts and chopped garlic, and two pieces of kakuni, or slow cooked pork belly.
With all those toppings, luckily the broth is a little bit lighter than the standard tonkotsu ramen as it’s mixed in with some chicken bone soup. The addition of chopped garlic gives it a strong garlicky flavour which Sir D finds overpowers the more nuanced flavour of the chicken and pork bone broth. The kakuni though is a revelation, with a good mix of fat and meat that is slow cooked until meltingly soft. You can actually get this added into your ramen for $2.50, which I highly recommend.
One thing I did notice was that the noodles in my ramen were a little softer than I prefer, although I must admit that I did let my bowl sit for a while as I took photos (see, this is how I know a skin forms on the tonkotsu soup…). The noodles in the Sumo ramen were slightly thicker than the noodles in the black garlic tonkotsu ramen, almost like the thickness of Hokkien noodles. This meant that they stood up to the hot broth a little better than the thin noodles, and retained their bite even after sitting in the soup for a while.
So, the final verdict? Ramen O-San’s ramen is definitely up there with some of my favourites on the Sydney ramen scene, like Ramen Ikkyu and Gumshara Ramen. It’s close proximity to both of these competitors means that it’ll need to keep up with some of the best, but based on what I’ve tasted and given that it has only just started trading, I don’t think there’ll be any issues with that.
Penguin says Feed Me dined at Ramen O-San courtesy of SD Marketing.
Shop B01, Dixon House Food Court
Corner Dixon and Little Hay St,
Haymarket NSW 2000
Ph: +61 439 945 245
Open 7 days except Tuesdays, 11am to 8.30pm