With an increasing number of ramen places opening up comes more competition. Chatswood used to be a dead spot for ramen but there’s now several options to choose from, including a newly opened Ippudo in The District, and Manpuku.
I’ve heard good things about Manpuku in Kensington, so I was excited to see that it had opened up closer to home for me and I could finally taste for myself how it stacks up to other ramen places in Sydney. The location is a bit of a walk away from the main shopping precinct, but this hasn’t deterred people from coming. I’ve been a few times now and it’s very popular especially during weekend lunchtimes – so be prepared for a short wait.
Apart from ramen, there’s also some tasty side dishes like takoyaki ($5.50), karaage ($5.50) or mini rice bowls. We start with the Manpuku gyoza – a pork pan-fried dumpling topped with Spanish and spring onions. On my most recent visit, this didn’t seem like it was on the menu anymore, but I can attest the plain pork gyoza is just as good with a nice crispy base and a tangy dipping sauce.
There’s a few different types of soup bases to choose from, including chicken soup, pork bone tonkotsu soup, and miso. For most of the soup bases, you can also chose between salt (shio) or soy (shoyu).
The tonkotsu soup is creamy and rich but not too thick. The tonkotsu shoyu is a bit salty for my liking, but the shio version which I’ve had on subsequent visits, has a pleasant balance of saltiness and umami. Both come with two slices of cha shu, bean sprouts, cabbage, black fungus and a sheet of nori.
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.
No Ramen, No Life. It’s pretty much a mantra I live by, as I find myself getting insatiable cravings for ramen every couple of weeks. I was pretty excited to hear about yet another ramen place opening up in the CBD – and run by an ex-Gumshara chef as well! We found ourselves heading over to Yasaka Ramen a few weeks after it had opened to check out what the fuss was about, and to see if chef Takeshi Sekigawa had brought the infamously rich Gumshara tonkotsu broth with him.
The first thing you see when you walk into the restaurant are several takoyaki cast iron moulds where a chef is busily turning the octopus balls to make sure they get just the right amount of crispiness. It’s just as well that they have several of these moulds along one wall of the restaurant as there’s lots of different takoyaki to choose from including wasabi soy, teriyaki sauce with egg salad, and grilled cheese!
We have to order some takoyaki after seeing them being freshly made out the front. The takoyaki are nicely cooked and creamy on the inside, with a touch of ginger and lashings of takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes.
But the focus here is, of course, on the ramen. A full page of the menu is dedicated to three variants of thick tonkotsu pork bone broth – tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu shio, and tonkotsu miso – with a variety of toppings. The ramen noodles are also made in house and sometimes you can see them being cut into thin strands out the front of the restaurant.
Back in the day when I knew absolutely nothing about ramen and Sir D hated the stuff, Ichi-ban Boshi was one of the first ramen places I ever visited and blogged about. I remember thinking that the queues outside the restaurant must mean that they’re serving up some pretty good food, but to be honest after my first visit I was not particularly wowed.
Things have changed a lot since then – lots of ramen places have opened up in the last couple of years meaning that I’ve been able to try different types of ramen and just eat a lot more ramen in general! So when I visited Ichi-ban Boshi again armed with my new ramen knowledge, it was quite a different experience
A hot night meant that a cold drink was in order, and while Ichi-ban boshi has sake and Japanese beers on offer, I settled on an iced green tea cappuccino. The milky green tea is topped with an impressive amount of milk foam and raw sugar crystals. The drink also comes with a little jug of sugar syrup which you can add to your drink to adjust the sweetness of it.
We start with the gyoza which we’re told is one of the most popular items on the entree section of the menu. The gyoza are made in house and we can see why they’re so popular – the bottoms are nicely crisped up and the dumpling pastry is rolled out quite thin. The gyoza are served on a soy and vinegar dipping sauce.
I’m a sucker for ox tongue so when we spot this on the menu we have to order it. There’s six pieces of thinly sliced ox tongue which are grilled and served with salt and chilli powder, and a wedge of lemon which is squeezed over the meat. The tongue is a little chewy but the fact that it’s been sliced so thinly means that it’s not at all difficult to eat.
Life has been crazyy! So October (aka Good Food Month) started and it barely registered on my radar until I started hearing and reading stuff about the Night Noodle Markets. Somehow I managed to get my act together and make it out to the first night of the markets, which looked a little something like this around 6pm.
It was crazy-town and after a quick scout of all the stalls it seemed like there were barely any without queues. I did notice that there are more food stalls than last year which is always a good sign. There are also more seating areas and bars scattered around Hyde Park – but don’t let that trick you into thinking that it’s easy to find a seat!
After our recon mission, I’d picked out a handful of stalls that I was keen on getting food from. Hoy Pinoy drew me in with the billowing smoke and smell of grilled meat.
This Melbourne-based Filipino BBQ food stall had huge skewers of chicken and pork belly cooking away on several grills, all the while being basted with sauce.