Only for the first 8 customers: Sydney to Tokyo return for $19.80! While seats are available.
Okay, I’d better stop with the tease of cheap flights to Japan, as $20 tickets are too good to be true. But today we travelled to Japan and back for under $20 each, curtesy of Yasaka Ramen.
It was only a couple of months ago when I first learnt of Yasaka Ramen, although we live on the same street as them. As soon as my wife came home from work that day, I was like “Hey Babe, did you know that there is a highly rated Ramen joint just up the street from us!?” And since that day we’ve gone up there on two occasions intending to dine there, but each time we ended up going elsewhere due to the lines out the door. And honestly at all times of the day there are lines out the door, as we had made it a habit to glance over each time we drive past. But with some pre-planning the day before, we changed up our Saturday habits and organised to beat the crowds by getting there as soon as they opened. So 11.30am on the dot we were there and seated straight away, 2 other groups had the same idea and were already seated and ordered. BTW, I don’t call my wife ‘Babe’, this is me utilising my creative license to ‘embellish a re-telling’…..
First impressions, “I’ve been transported to Tokyo!”….. Note: I’ve never been to Japan, but I’d imagine it to be much like this! I.e. a small narrow restaurant, open kitchen and a host of polite staff. As soon as we saw the bar only seating, stools for only 8-10 people set around the open kitchen, we had a lightbulb moment – ‘No wonder there are always lines out the door’, as they can only serve 8 patrons at a time! Thus as we reviewed the menu, the prices for their ramen were on the high side (majority of options were between $16 and $20). But we didn’t begrudge them, as they had 4 chefs and a number of wait staff, while there were 8 of us, an almost 1 to 1 ratio! **Note: later on when more people started to show up, we were a little deflated to hear them climb the stairs to an upstairs dining area.
But no matter, I think having a front row seat to watch the chefs do their thang was a far more satisfying experience, than to be upstairs and have your food miraculously appear. From where we were seated, we were watching our own dishes being created right before our very eyes!
I ordered the Kakuni ramen i.e. slow cooked pork bone in Tonkotsu Shio [pork bone broth with salt])- $19.80, while my wife had the Black garlic Shoyu [pork bone broth with soy)- $17. On the menu there were over 20 different ramen choices (some with a long, detailed, almost poetic descriptions of its providence and inspiration), and 3 soup bases to choose from. And on the flip side of the menu, there were your non-ramen dishes, if you weren’t in the mood for noodles or wanted something extra to share.
As soon as the chefs receive your order, you can see them kick into action and construct your dish right in front of you! They’re so close, I could literally reach out and take the blow-torch they were using to double cook the BBQ pork (if I wanted to be kicked out of the restaurant). It was a memorable experience, and worth the pre-planning to beat the crowds and score the best seats in the house. We watched our empty bowls removed from a hot water bath where they were floating in to ensure that the bowls were going to be as hot as your freshly cooked food. We watched our ramen lifted out of a large pot where it had been cooking, baskets shaken off to get rid of the excess water before broth and toppings were added. Then the waitress brought out our food coming from around the bar, bowls sitting on small serving plates (the chef could have handed the food to us from over the counter if he wanted to).
But when I was poking at my noodles with my chopsticks, I had hoped for more. And I was panicking at the half way point when I wished that there was just more food as I wanted this experience to last longer. But in the end I was so full, and the portioning was actually just right. When it came down to it, they were actually quite generous with their toppings. At other ramen joints, you get a load of noodles but perhaps 3 thin slices of pork? For my dish, I had 2 huge chunks of pork. They were so tasty, with both intensely salty and sweet flavours, and the meat was soft and filled with melted bone. The noodle were thick and chewy; initially thinking that there wasn’t enough of it, but due to its density it was actually quite filling. And the broth! The broth was thick, salty and filled with collagen. So as you drank the soup with your soup ladle, your lips were left with a layer of oiliness which you know it’s the good stuff! Broth slow cooked for many many hours.
My wife’s dish was a thinner soup base, dark liquid due to squid ink (be sure not to wear light colours if you’re going to order this dish), served with thin slices of tender meat. Both dishes had the usual toppings of bamboo shoots, seaweed, and fried garlic and if you wanted chilli flakes or sesame seeds, you can add additional condiments. But don’t be expansive with your hand gestures if you’re sitting at the bar, as you can literally knock over the tubs of condiments down onto the chef’s workstation! It felt like we were sharing the same space!
So as we ate, I was so content feeling like I’d been transported to another country, listening to the kitchen activity and all of their interaction in Japanese. It was like watching ‘Terrace House’ on Netflix while eating dinner (guilty, we eat dinner in front of the TV most nights).
So our end verdict, 4.5 from 5! (2.5 from 3 for food (perhaps some might find the broth too salty); 0.5 from 0.5 for service (as everyone were super polite and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for atmosphere (they had Japanese pop playing, but you didn’t need it as you had all the kitchen activity right in front of you); and 1 from 1 for value for money (although it was on the pricier side, it was worth every cent!)).
So I think we’ve found our ‘go to’ Ramen joint! And now that Bondi Junction Yasaka Ramen has opened and there is also the Neutral Bay store, I’m sure there is enough Raman and seats to go around for everyone!
Yasaka Ramen- Saturday 22 December (4.5 stars)
PH: 02 8318 0405
126 Liverpool Street, Sydney CBD (North side of the Street in-between Pitt and Castlereagh St)
Mon- Sat 11.30am – 10pm
Sun 11.30am – 9pm
**Accepts cash only