Sunday, 7 December 2014

Yasaka Ramen, Sydney CBD

"No ramen. No life"

Such is the motto of the new kid on the (ramen) block, Yasaka Ramen. Now this is a motto that I subscribe to. Ramen is my go-to dish when I am looking for something cheap, comforting and delicious. I probably eat it too often during my lunch breaks, but how can anyone not resist this delightful bowl of noodles? As you can see, a life without ramen would be rather sad for this ramen tragic. Thankfully Sydney has great depth in the ramen scene and another strong contender just joined the party. 

The view from the bar area

Yasaka Ramen is conveniently located near World Square on Liverpool Street and more importantly, near Museum Station (we all need to go somewhere for lunch right, after catching those meaningless bus/train trips during our lunch break, such is absurdness of the of the pricing structure of the Opal?).

The fit out at Yasaka is pretty sleek and modern. There's a bar area where diners sit in a row in front of the chefs and the kitchen, just like in Japan. And there's an upstairs area with table seating for larger groups. The bar is definitely the best seat in the house to watch the chefs put together each bowl of ramen.

Ramen chef Takeshi Sekigawa
At the moment, Yasaka only has tonkotsu ramen. I love all kinds of ramen broths but tonkotsu is my favourite. As with all tonkotsu broths, pork bones are simmered for hours til the bones fall apart and the collagen seeps out, creating a rich, deep and flavoursome broth.

When you taste the broth at Yasaka, you will probably notice how similar it tastes to Gumshara (my number one in Sydney). That's because ramen chef Takeshi Sekigawa worked at Gumshara as an apprentice to Mori Higashida.  The difference between Yasaka and Gumshara is, the broth is less hectic! It's definitely thinner but you still get a good dose of collagen (i.e. it's still thick) and some amazing porky flavours.

You can order the tonkotsu ramen in three different flavours: shoyu, shio and miso. I've tried each of these in separate visits.

Tonkotsu shoyu: kakuni ramen ($17.80) with soft boiled egg ($2)

Adding shoyu (a special blended soy paste) to the tonkotsu broth is my preference at Yasaka. You can't really go wrong with soy sauce for added depth of flavour in a bowl of ramen. The noodles, which are all made fresh on site, are a winner. I love how the noodles are bouncy and have a nice bite to them. Slurping up these noodles, coated in that delicious broth, is heaven! The kakuni (simmered pork soft bone) was also incredible! The meat was sweet, juicy and fatty. And oh so soft, just melting in the mouth! The eggs at Yasaka are pretty on point too with a gooey yolk and soft egg whites. The other toppings in this bowl were bamboo shoots, nori, and spring onions.

Tonktosu miso: grilled chashu ramen ($15.80) with extra soft boiled egg ($2)

For a taste of Hokkaido, add miso to your tonktosu ramen. This, again, was a rich, delicious bowl of ramen but I thought the miso flavour could be have been turned up a couple of notches. This bowl also came with bamboo shoots, nori, shallots and corn. All that was needed was a slab of butter and you really will be transported to Sapporo! And I ordered extra soft boiled eggs because no bowl of ramen is complete without it!

The grilled chashu slices were seared with a blowtorch to give the chashu some caramelisation. The chashu is pretty amazing and was also, melting in the mouth (I am not sure if I like the chashu or the kakuni at Yasaka more!).

Spoon for scooping up corn!

Now how cool is this spoon (maybe only a ramen geek like me finds something as trivial this amusing)! The miso ramen comes with this handy little utensil to scoop up the last remnants of corn floating around in the bowl. I've never seen a spoon like this before and I reckon it should be mandatory for all bowls of ramen with corn to come with this spoon :) 

Tonkotsu shio: grilled chashu ramen ($15.80) with soft boiled egg ($2) and kakuni ($2)

And since I couldn't decide whether I liked the grilled chashu or the kakuni more, why not order both on the next visit? This is exactly what I did with my bowl of tonkotsu shio ramen (specially blended salt paste). Shio and shoyu are probably the two flavours I would order over and over again at Yasaka. The salt paste accentuates the porkiness of the broth. The shio ramen comes with bamboo shoots, nori, black fungus (I love these) and shallots.

Takoyaki balls with sweet takoyaki sauce ($6 for 4)

Yasaka also have a number of side dishes such as takoyaki balls, gyoza, karage and chicken katsu.

These takoyaki balls were just like the ones you find in Osaka. They were freshly made and arrived piping hot. The inside was slightly gooey and filled with bits of chopped octopus. They were coated in a sweet takoyaki sauce, drizzled with Kewpie mayo and topped with dancing bonito flakes.

Yasaka Ramen is firmly one of my favourite places for my lunchtime ramen fix alongside Gumshara and Ramen Ikkyu. In all my visits to Yasaka, I have found each bowl to be consistently good. We are spoilt for choice in the ramen scene in Sydney (with the likes of Hakata Maru, Ippudo and Zundo lurking behind), and we are all better for it!

Yasaka Ramen
Address: 126 Liverpool St Sydney, NSW
Contact no: (02) 9267 9027

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