It’s been a while since my last visit to Ippudo. While the queues are still there and the place is as busy as ever, the menu has expanded from comprising of mainly ramen with a small selection of sides and desserts, to a full blown a la carte menu to cater for everyone’s tastes.
Having such a large menu means that there were more decisions to be made. There was an overwhelming choice of different ramen soup bases, ramen toppings, entrees, salads, more substantial-sized dishes and rice dishes, so it took us a while to decide on what we wanted to eat.
The Ippudo pork buns are pretty much a must-order for me. The juicy grilled pork belly, crispy lettuce and pillowy-soft bun hit all the right notes. There was a nice balance of flavours though I could always do with some extra pork belly!
It’s a new year, so it seemed only fitting to check out a new restaurant to kickstart the blog this year! You can’t miss Marukame Udon on Victoria Street in Chatswood, as at any given time there will be people crowded around the glass storefront, checking out the new restaurant and watching the chefs make the noodles right in front of you.
You can also ogle at the menu before you go in, and it’s probably best that you do because once you join the line, the ordering station is not too far inside. There’s lots of different udon options as well as rice bowls. Select your noodles, size and hot or cold, and move down the canteen-style line until a friendly staff member takes your order. Within minutes they will be weigh out your portion of noodles, place them in a bowl, ladle over the sauce or soup and your noodles will be on your tray, ready to go.
But don’t go rushing off yet, because there’s tasty extras to be had! Marukame offers a selection of tempura, including chicken, fish, prawns, vegetables and pork katsu. There’s also some inari sushi (rice stuffed inside a sweet tofu pocket), and iced green tea. Once you get the end of the line, a staff member will calculate the cost of the items on your tray, before you pay and go off to add even more things to your noodles, like chopped shallots and crunchy tempura bits.
The tsuke udon is a cold noodle option which comes with a small bowl of broth on the side for dipping the noodles into. A small dish containing a wasabi paste sits on top of the bowl of broth for some added heat. The tempura white fish is fried well, with a crunchy batter but succulent flesh inside. The tempura vegetables, or kakiage, is a wonderful mess of shredded carrot, onion, corn and other vegies deep fried in a light batter.
October has come around again which means that Good Food Month is back and in full swing! I’ve visited the Night Noodle Markets in previousyears but they have definitely upped the ante this year with more stalls, more seating and more colourful lanterns!
In terms of the food, there’s a range of dumplings, noodles, dim sims and other Asian goodies to suit everyone’s tastes, with offerings from Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.
I was sad to hear that Ton Ton in Regent Place was closing since I had eaten lots of tasty karaage there. However, I was also pleased to hear that it would be replaced by another ramen place from the same people who run Menya Mappen and Oiden. For those of your unfamiliar with these places, they are cheap and cheerful self-service udon and rice bowl eateries respectively, where you choose a main dish and supplement it with all sorts of add-ons, including salads, drinks, side dishes and deep fried goodies.
Tenkomori Ramen House is no different. You can choose from a range of ramen dishes with a shoyu, miso, or tonkotsu soup base, such as corn butter ramen, pork kakuni ramen, or karaage ramen – to name a few. Place your order and then move along the production line to select toppings ranging from a tub of sweetcorn (80c) to pieces of karaage ($2.20). The cashier will add up all your items at the end and you pay while you wait for your bowl of ramen to be made up.
The latest global phenomenon to hit the shores of Sydney is Ippudo, located on level 5 of Westfield Sydney. Before, Sydneysiders were queueing up for Laduree’s pretty macarons, but now it’s all about the ramen. We visited on a weeknight but still had to wait for around 30 minutes. Thankfully, there is a bar out the front and the bartenders are more than happy for you to order drinks and bar snacks while you wait.