Last year I would have probably eaten Ramen once or twice… maybe three times a week! I kind of became addicted to it…
It all started back in 2011 when I read the story of Gumshara founder Chef Mori in the FOOD issue of literary magazine Seizure. Who knew so much knowledge, effort and dedication could go into a seemingly simple noodle soup! No wonder his Tonkotsu Ramen was called The Chronic, as writer Sunil Badami described it as an addictive combination of tender pork, firm noodles, comforting and flavoursome pork broth that had simmered for hours and hours…
I decided to see for myself and headed to Gumshara, located in Eating World, a food court in Dixon Street, Chinatown and ordered the famous Pork Spare Rib Ramen. It was quite an introduction for my first ever ramen! That broth was very porky, rich and thick, it was sticking to my lips…. it was full-on!! The spare rib was delicious, tender and the noodles really chewy and firm the way they should be. I was not entirely convinced though, the broth really was too thick for me, but it was a first step and I wanted to try more…
A few months later I read the 1st issue of magazine Lucky Peach (founded amongst others by Momofuku Chef David Chang), which was entirely dedicated to Ramen! It was fascinating to see the time dedicated by chefs to cook the perfect noodle, the perfect broth, the perfect egg, as well as the dozens and dozens of varieties of Ramen that could be found in Japan according to the regions. I was already confused with all the different broths, but that magazine confused me even more!
I had another go at Gumshara after that, and was happy to see that I could ask for a lighter broth. I also found that I was naturally attracted to the Black Garlic broth (I’m French, garlic runs in my blood!). I could add even more garlic from the condiments tray on the side… Splendid! (Well not so for the people who talked to me afterwards…)
For a while I also had my eyes on the lunchtime-only ramen offered by Robuchon-trained Chef Haru Inukai at fine-dining restaurant Blancharu in Elizabeth Bay (see this post by blogger Ramen Raff), and therefore was really disappointed to hear that he had sold his restaurant earlier this year… Fortunately not long after, I saw on the same blog that Chef Haru Inukai had opened a new place dedicated to Ramen in Chinatown!
I kept hearing and reading about his new place Ramen Ikkyu everywhere, so it was no long before I made my way there accompanied with two other French friends.
We gasped when we saw the queue, which looked like it was never-ending!
We finally made it to the counter, it took us about 20 minutes: the service was quite fast considering!
The menu was pretty short & simple, which I like, as it makes for an easier decision-making.
You had the choice between two different broths bases: Ikkyu, a pork-based broth, and Tokyo, a chicken-based broth, a bit lighter than the first.
Then you had to choose the seasoning of the broth between Shio (“salt” or natural), Shoyu (soy-based) & Miso (pure “umami” stuff!).
We all ordered the Ikkyu Shoyu Ramen. It was pretty fun to play with the touch-screen pad ordering system! And pretty painless. I would have liked to see some black garlic oil, in addition the chilli oil in the options, but there was some fresh ground garlic in the self-serve condiment section.
Et voilà! Maybe 5 minutes later my friends came to the table that I managed to bags with the much-anticipated ramen bowls!
Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was slightly disappointed with this one. I would have liked to have both halves of the soft-boiled egg rather than just one, and I thought my noodles were a bit soft… but that might have had to do with my wasting time taking pictures and getting more condiments! So pretty much my fault… Other people who had it that day also told me it was not as good as usual, which would be understandable seeing how busy the place has been, a few days only after opening!
Still it was pretty damn good! The broth was light and flavoursome, the pork was good too, and there was more of it than in other ramen places I’d been. I enjoyed the addition of a Wood Ear mushroom, which I hadn’t seen often so far, and the bamboo shoots were really fresh and delicious! (I usually leave out the bamboo shoots when I go to Menya, don’t know why…)
I went back the following week to try their Miso Ramen. I was so early that I was their 4th customer! Didn’t waste too much time on photographing it, had my condiments all ready, so the soup was still nice and hot. The broth was much thicker and richer than the Shoyu one, and the pork cut into more manageable little pieces. There were also a lot of vegetables: corn, onions, roasted carrots, spring onions and cabbage I think. The noodles were also firmer than last time, but I think I prefer them even springier than that. The soup reminded me of the one I had at Gumshara, but very different than the miso ramen offered at Menya, which is not as rich and… vegetable-ey. I took an extra serve of eggs ($1.50), but I had to admit it was too much this time… One egg half: not enough, 3 egg halves: too much… (I’m never happy!)
All this is only a training for when we go on our trip to Japan… one day. In the meantime, I feel lucky to live in a city where you can get great Japanese food that’s pretty close to the real thing!
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