119 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9283 6767
On the last day of my Sydney Writers’ Festival weekend, I wanted to keep things simple. My plan was to bump up my protein intake and reduce my carb intake so I wanted something light and balanced. Plus, I wasn’t feeling all that hungry even though I did a fairly solid pilates session in Darlinghurst that morning.
I ended up at Makoto, a sushi train restaurant in the city. I wasn’t planning to have sushi train, tbh, but I happened to come across this place when I was wandering around aimlessly along Liverpool Street. Having heard a few Melbourne friends talk about how good Makoto was, I figured that having lunch here couldn’t hurt.
Here, plates range from $3 to $6.60, pretty standard for a sushi train restaurant. They also have the odd specials in the mix too, which are slightly more expensive. It was 11:30AM when I arrived; the place was packed but because I was rocking up as a solo diner, I was able to squeeze in.
I love a good savoury egg custard and this one delivered superbly. The custard itself was as delicate as fine silk, while the dashi broth was full of umami goodness.
Seared salmon topped with spring onion, onion and tobiko ($6.60)
Here, fresh salmon slices were beautifully seared, leaving the inner flesh verging on still raw. The garnishes were also well-balanced and brought out the flavour of the fish.
Lobster sushi ($5.60)
The lobster sushi was another standout performance. Here, lobster meat was mixed with a cream-based sauce and topped with tobiko. Probably the heavier dish of the afternoon but dammit, I needed something (slightly) rich and creamy, okay.
Raw prawn nigiri ($4.60)
Prior to this meal, I had never tasted raw prawn. And while I appreciated the prawn’s texture and freshness, I think I much prefer these suckers cooked – much tastier.
Salmon sashimi ($6.60)
You really can’t go wrong with super fresh salmon sashimi. God, I love the Sydney Fish Market so much.
Scampi sashimi ($9.80)
The scampi sashimi was one of the specials offered that day. It was beautifully presented as far as crustaceans go. Like the prawn, however, it was something that I would have preferred to eat cooked – the flavours didn’t shine through as much.
The damage came to $36.80, far from a cheap lunch for just one. On paper, it looked like I ordered quite a lot of dishes but while I was satisfied, I wasn’t disgustingly full (a good thing, I guess). As far as sushi trains go, this is one of the good ones – everything was fresh and the service was attentive and polite. I’d be happy to return with a dining companion so I can try more things (and not pay as much per person).
80 Commonwealth Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 9211 1122
Paramount Coffee Project (PCP) has been on my Sydney list for quite some time. Although I’m not a fan of paying $18 for boring brunches (smashed avocados bore me and I don’t believe in paying for bircher muesli), I do like brunch places that push boundaries and come up with all sorts of outrageous dishes.
PCP is one of those places so I made sure that we got a chance to visit during my Sydney weekend trip with fellow Melburnians, Nee and Sam. Sam is also a coffee connoisseur so he, too, was keen to see if PCP’s rotating list of guest coffee roasters were able to pull in the goods. Given that PCP happens to be an alliance between Mark Dundon of Seven Seeds (Melbourne represent!) and Russell Beard of Reuben Hills, we knew we were in capable hands.
Housed in Surry Hill’s Paramount House, PCP was surprisingly quiet for a 10AM Sunday morning session. I wasn’t sure whether it was because Sydneysiders don’t go crazy over brunch like Melburnians or whether 10 is considered too late for breakfast (I know it is on the Gold Coast where 7AM breakfast dates are the norm). Either way, we were happy to score a table facing the window.
As mentioned, PCP has an ever-changing list of guest coffee roasters so rarely would you expect to see the same beans over and over. That morning, the Shakiso blend by Reuben Hills made an appearance. Unfortunately, the brew’s berry and black tea notes meant that it didn’t mix well with milk so my latte wasn’t the best – my fault though, not theirs.
Elvis in Cuba ($19)
Sam was interested to see what PCP’s infamous ‘diabetes’ dish was like. But when the waiter told him exactly what was in it (‘jam cronut with peanut butter ice cream and dulce de leche, all drenched in espresso’), Sam was like, ‘yeah, nah.’ After all, I think he’d rather not shave 10 years off his life.
Instead, he chose the curiously named Elvis in Cuba, an equally heart attack-inducing combination of pork, kimchi, bacon, Kewpie mayo, Swiss cheese and onion rings that was half-Kong BBQ and half-Dan Hong. I’m not exactly sure how the ‘Cuba’ bit came into play but it was certainly an indulgent breakfast.
Smoked trout buckwheat porridge ($15)
Nee went for a more refined but nevertheless still filling breakfast. The buckwheat was accompanied with a generous handful of smoked trout, kombu and quail egg, all tied neatly together with a lovely court-bouillon and micro herbs for prettiness. It was nourishing and delicious, something I’d happily eat at home during the cooler months – that is, if I knew how to make it.
Coca cola ox cheek waffle ($19)
I don’t drink cola but I do love waffles and ox cheek/tongue/most likely butt so I ordered the waffles topped with ox cheek braised in coca cola. It also came with a lovely horseradish mayo along with corn and tomato salsa and coriander to balance things out.
I’m not one to normally eat such decadent things for breakfast but this was amazing. The soft drink tenderised the cheeks to the point where they easily fell apart with the slightest prod. I also loved the kick that that the horseradish mayo gave, preventing the dish from being too one-dimensionally sweet.
Caramel popcorn milkshake ($8)
I’m a sucker for punishment so there was no way I could leave without trying the caramel popcorn milkshake for dessert – because, you know, short term pleasure for long term pain, right? Regardless, the milkshake was delicious – so thick, so creamy and full of lovely butteriness and nuttiness (yeah okay, I went there). It was beautiful but I was also glad that I had two others to help me finish it off.
PCP is now up there on my list of favourite Sydney cafés. Sure, there are still heaps more for me to try but in terms of great service, excellent coffees (notwithstanding that I was a chump for asking for a latte when I should have just gone short black) and delicious envelope-pushing food, they have it covered.
Level 2, The Galeries
500 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 6 9262 7677
After attempting to be cultured wankers by spending the day at the museum, Sam and I worked up an appetite. Being Melburnians, we are deprived of good ramen (though the Melbourne scene has since started to get a little better) so we decided to tuck into some ramen for a late lunch.
We ended up at Ichi-ban Boshi because it was conveniently on the way back to our hotel. At 2:30PM, it was still pretty busy – so much so that we had to collect a numbered ticket from the lady at the front and wait about 15-20 minutes to be seated. We didn’t mind though – Kinokuniya was just around the corner from the restaurant. (yay books)
Ichi-ban Boshi’s menu is enormous, bigger than the list of places I’m planning to visit while I’m in Japan. In addition to the usual tonkotsu, miso and shio ramen varieties, they also had random toppings such as karaage, wonton and even kim chi. And if you don’t feel like ramen, there’s plenty of udon and rice action to keep you satisfied.
Sam and I were boring so we ordered ramen.
Sam decided to go for spicy ramen topped with minced pork, boil egg and choy sum. While it was definitely not authentic, it was certainly very tasty. Sam hungrily wolfed the whole thing down but to be honest, I would have probably struggled with it – it was a bit too rich and full-on for me.
Tokyo ramen ($9.90)
When I’m at a ramen restaurant, I normally go for a tonkotsu broth. However, I knew we were going to have a big dinner so I picked the much lighter soy-based Tokyo ramen. The broth might have been more delicate but that it didn’t mean it didn’t fill me up (it did – too well). It wasn’t the best ramen I’ve ever had – it was salty and full of MSG. It also lacked depth.
Out of all the Sydney ramen restaurants I’ve been to, I’d have to say that Ichi-ban Boshi has been the most disappointing. I’d say it’s better than Ajisen Ramen and your non-descript food court ramen stalls but you’re definitely better off going to Ippudo, Hakata-Maru or even Gumshara. Personally, I think that if Ichi-ban reduced their offerings by at least a half and focused on a few dishes as opposed to trying to be good at everything, their ramen might actually be one that I would happily return to the next time I’m in Sydney.
62 Stanley Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
+61 2 8307 0430
It’s so hard to find a good honest Italian restaurant these days – we’re not talking flamboyant $50-per-dish Guy Grossi masterpieces or anglicised Lygon Street ‘Forza Italia, bro’-type dishes. We’re talking about simple and understated dishes made with only the freshest ingredients and a sprinkling of love.
Thankfully, Sagra delivers on all those promises and a lot more in a cosy timber-lined dwelling that looks more like someone’s home in the inner ‘burbs than one of Sydney’s hottest restaurants. Having been completely out of the loop when it came to the Sydney dining scene, I had actually never heard of this place until Raphael (my go-to guide for anything to do with Sydney and food) mentioned it to me. I love a good Italian (lol) so with that in mind, I
suggested pretty much forced my fellow Melbourne dining companions Sam and Nee, who were in Sydney with me for the weekend, to come dine with me.
The booking was made for 8:30PM (or was it 9:00PM? I can’t remember – either way, it was definitely a late dinner). We rocked up half an hour early and assumed that there was a bar area but unfortunately, there was one. With clear directions to disappear to a nearby bar (we didn’t, we just ended up walking around aimlessly), we then arrived back in time for our scheduled booking. Our table wasn’t ready so we stood awkwardly outside the restaurant in the cold with one of the waiters greasy-ing us from inside.
Bread and olives
Finally, our table was ready. We started off with bread and olives – I can’t remember if they were on the house or if we paid for them. I think we might have paid for them though because the menu says that bread is $4.
Salumi misti: San Daniele prosciutto, coppa and farinata ($21)
Splitting a bottle of Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio between us, we got to work with the salumi platter. We shared some San Daniele prosciutto and coppa, the dry-cured muscle that runs from the pig’s neck to the shoulder. And what’s a farinata, you ask? It’s a crispy thin, unleavened pancake made with chickpea flour. It made for a nice change from your usual lavosh and breadsticks.
Carb fest: tortellini in brodo ($19); gnocchi with cavolo nero and gorgonzola ($16); pappardelle with pork sausage ragu ($18); rosemary potatoes ($7)
All the homemade pasta! I had the tortellini in brodo; the broth was lovely and delicate while each little parcel held a tasty chicken filling. It was the perfect dish to sooth my tired soul. Meanwhile, Sam’s pappardelle was tasty and rich, but he did say that he would have been happier with a bigger portion. Nee’s gnocchi was another fantastic dish – each little pillow was soft and buttery, soaking up the rich and creamy gorgonzola like a sponge.
Oh yeah, we also had potatoes.
Tiramisu; hazelnut tart
But of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert. Like the rest of Sagra’s menu, the dessert menu changes all the time so you never know what you were going to get. We ended up with two safe options: the tiramisu and the hazelnut tart. I liked that the tiramisu was light and well-balanced. Meanwhile, the hazelnut tart was nice enough but it did skew towards the ‘more sugar, not enough nuts’ side for me.
The service at Sagra might not be warm and caring Sicilian grandmother-like but everything seemed to run like clockwork on a busy Friday night. The food was beautiful and unpretentious – the sort of Italian that I wished we saw more of in Australia. The best bit is that it doesn’t hit the wallet or stomach hard. Sure, it was a carb-heavy meal but the portions were well-controlled so we left without feeling like we needed to doze off – which was just as well because we needed to stay awake for a crazy night out at ivy (groan).
16 Foster Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 9280 3395
I always look forward to weekends in Sydney. They’re always filled with great company, lots of laughs and wonderful food – and in most cases, food that you can’t find in Melbourne. Melbourne might do coffee, mid-priced dining and understated steez better (sorry, it’s true) but when it comes to fine dining as well as the weird, the wonderful and the totally out there, Sydney is your go-to city.
Nomad in Surry Hills is one of those places; it has also been on my radar for quite some time. First, you have owners Rebecca Littlemore and Al Yazbek setting up a cellar door right in the middle of Sydney with a collection of good quality and underrepresented Australian wines. You then have Head Chef Nathan Stasi (ex-Rockpool and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal) who pickles, cures, smokes, ferments and dries everything he can get his hands on to whip up a Middle Eastern-influenced by Littlemore’s travels and Yazbek’s Lebanese heritage. Throw in a chic warehouse in a little Surry Hills street and BANG! Nomad is born.
Julie and I had dinner at Nomad one Friday evening. It’s a beautiful place – thick warehouse chic, sexy mood lighting and timber furniture all over. It’s spacious, yet somewhat intimate at the same time.
It may have only been 6:30PM when we rocked up but the place was pumping like a 90s rave party; it was packed and noisy. With strict instructions to leave by 8:30PM, we were immediately seated at the bar where we got full view of the open kitchen. (and by that, I really meant the cute guys working in the kitchen)
I honestly can’t remember what wine I had but let’s face it, it was most likely a Riesling.
Woodfired sourdough with black salt butter ($2.50 per person)
Having been to Nomad before, Julie knew what to order. Being from Melbourne, I’m not used to going to restaurants and not getting bread free of charge. So when I saw that there was a price tag attached to the sourdough with black salt butter, I immediately thought: ‘Yeah, nah, waste of carbs.’
Julie, however, insisted that the bread was worth ordering. Plus, what’s $2.50 per person? I’m glad I listened to her for the house made bread was lovely with just the slightly hint of smokiness. And who doesn’t like house-churned butter?
Nomad is big on curing and smoking so it would have been silly not to try their charcuterie board.
Housemade Nomad charcuterie ($26)
The contents change regularly and I’ve been told that horse meat was presented on the board served a few times. Sadly, horse wasn’t on the menu that night (we asked) but we did get mortadella, chorizo, kangaroo salami and several pork bits (neck, belly and shoulder).
BBQ king prawns with pine nuts, brown butter and parmesan ($18)
To me, $18 for two bloody prawns seemed as tight as a guy who insists on going halves on an inexpensive first date. (sorry, I’m old fashioned)
However, they tasted phenomenal – I loved how the prawn’s sweet flesh went well with the nuttiness of the dressing and the sexy smokiness that permutated all the way through.
Wood roasted pork with charred cabbage, served with sweet potato and cheddar gratin ($38)
The wood roasted pork was another standout dish. The pork crackling was beautifully crunchy against the soft fatty meat. And although I’m not a HUGE fan of sweet potato, the gratin was the perfect accompaniment to the pork – strangely enough, the sweetness effortlessly broke through all the richness.
We really couldn’t finish the gratin.
Pedro Ximenez Magnum with salted peanuts ($7 each)
However, we could still squeeze in a bit of dessert. It was approaching 8PM so we were well within time to finish our meal before they shooed us away. We were eyeing the bunuelos (South American donuts) that were making the rounds throughout the dining room so naturally we asked the waiter for some.
Unfortunately, they ran out (WTF? At 8PM?) so we ended up ordering a Pedro Ximenez Magnum each instead. They were no donuts but they nonetheless made us satisfied. (chocolate, a hint of liqueur and super salty peanuts to top it off – what more could you want?)
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Nomad; the food was exciting and delicious without being too complicated and left us wanting to return for seconds (or in Julie’s case, thirds). I also liked that in a city where people like to show off, there was none of that here; everything was refined yet unpretentious. Although we had a time limit, we did not feel rushed for the service was very professional, yet relaxed. It was the perfect meal to what had been a busy week in Melbourne for me.
Next time, there better be horse and donuts though.
53 Riley Street
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
+61 2 8068 8818
If you’re going to Sydney, there is an unwritten rule that states that you MUST stop at famed patisserie Flour and Stone. Even if you’re not a huge cake person like I am, there is bound to be something wonderful for you to try on the spot or to take home with you to Melbourne in a huge Longchamp carry-on (cough).
I rocked up to Nadine Ingram’s famous café one Saturday morning when I had a bit of time to kill before my next appointment. Armed with instructions to take home ‘at least four panna cotta lamingtons’, I was ready with a large canvas tote bag to transport my precious goodies back to my AirBnb accommodation in the middle of Oxford Street.
The diminutive café was packed when I arrived but the pastry gods must have been kind to me for I was able to score a small table against the wall. Once I paid for my two boxes (yes, TWO) of goodies, I grabbed the coveted seat and sat down with my Coffee Alchemy latte and super flaky almond croissant. While the coffee was just so-so, the croissant was delicious.
Panna cotta lamington ($6 each)
The lamingtons were bigger than I expected (then again, at $6 you’d want them to be, well, not tiny). Each lamington was a perfect cube made from two vanilla sponge slices, with the bottom layer of sponge soaked in creamy panna cotta to give it a pudding-like texture. The sponges were separated by a thin layer of sweet jam before being covered in chocolate and thick coconut pieces.
Look, I can see why people go nuts over them – and don’t get me wrong, they were delicious – but would I bring them back to Melbourne again? Probably not. I think it’s because I’m not big on traditional lamingtons nor do I like my sweet baked goodies to be anything BUT flaky or fluffy or airy. God, I’m so difficult.
Lemon curd tart; vanilla custard and raspberry doughnut ($4.50)
I didn’t particularly like the vanilla custard and raspberry doughnut either – while the actual ‘dough’ bit of the doughnut was nice enough, there just wasn’t a lot of jam or custard so I felt a bit ripped off. MUCH better was the lemon curd tart – firm, right base combined with a lush velvety filling and a whole lot of bite/attitude made for the perfect post-dinner dessert.
I did find Flour and Stone a bit of a hit and miss but it’s got more to do with my weird tastes rather than a reflection of the quality of the goodies as fantastic as they are. Given the way people kept going on about the lamingtons, I guess I allowed myself to set unrealistic expectations for them. Meanwhile, I was delighted by the lemon curd tart and almond croissants, two Flour and Stone items that, imo, don’t get as much hype.
If I’m in the area, I’ll definitely stop by to pick up a few almond croissants and lemon tarts as well as try some of their other items – the too many pretty photos of the raspberry tart on Instagram did it for me.
2/77 Archer Street
Chatswood NSW 2067
+61 2 8084 1714
There’s some amazing gelati to be found in Sydney and we’re not just talking about the likes of Messina and Cow & The Moon (review to come soon). We’re also referring to the humble small operations in Sydney’s leafy ‘burbs that don’t get the hype as those big players do. Instead, they happily continue to do what they’ve been doing since day one without so much as a fuss. Chatswood’s Gelateria Gondola happens to be one of them.
I caught up with my brother-from-another-Asian-mother Lawrence one Friday night after dinner. Lawrence and I met on Tinder back in Melbourne one evening and after a couple of drinks at 1806 (a flowery cocktail for him, a whisky for me), we already knew we were going to be great friends. Lawrence is a Sydneysider so whenever I’m in town, we always catch up for dinner and/or drinks on the Friday night.
On this particular Friday night, we did laps around the North Shore before stopping for dessert. Preferring to shy away from Messina’s queues, Lawrence suggested we go to one of this favourite neighbourhood ice cream spots.
Gondola’s all about making fresh artisan gelati in small batches every day. There is no wankery involved and no crazy flavours ‘just because’; it’s all classic flavours made with natural ingredients. Nothing more, nothing less.
Jersey milk gelato (one scoop, $5); pineapple and salted caramel gelati (two scoops, $7.50)
Lawrence always goes for the fresh jersey milk gelato and I can see why – it’s so lusciously creamy with the slightest hint of sweetness for that bit of buzz. Meanwhile, I went sweet and sour with my pineapple and salted caramel combo. My salted caramel gelato was creamy – not as much as Lawrence’s but that was no problem – and, unlike other salted caramel-flavoured stuff out there, was actually more salty rather than sweet. LIKE LIKE LIKE. My pineapple gelato was cool and refreshing without being too sweet – it was almost like eating a frozen pineapple.
In my opinion, Gondola doesn’t get the recognition it deserves but the owners don’t seem to mind. All they care about is going about their business making good gelati with obvious passion rather than trending on Twitter. Much love to these guys – and their pineapple gelato.
48 Albion Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 9212 3602
As far as I know, Sydney doesn’t do burgers as well as Melbourne. We have a list of great places to grab a fantastic burger at a reason price that’s longer than the number of Brownlow votes Matthew Priddis pulled last night. Meanwhile, I’ve only had a good burger twice in Sydney: one at Mary’s in Newtown (post soon to come) and one at Chur Burger in Surry Hills.
Chur Burger is a bit of a Sydney success story. Started by former fine dining chef Warren Turnbull, the diner started off quietly as a drive-thru. These days, there are three branches in Sydney, including one in Manly, and one in Brisbane. And let’s face it, it probably won’t be long before Turnbull opens a Melbourne restaurant to compete with the dozens of already awesome burger joints around town.
But back to Sydney. This was the time when my Sydney network wasn’t as wide as it is now; subsequently, I found myself with no one to have dinner with on a Saturday evening. Earlier that afternoon, I had been casually playing on Tinder – it was the afternoon when I discovered the joys of Tinder trolling too – and matched with a nice, vanilla Asian guy who lived way out west. I wanted a dining companion and he wanted a companion for the evening (not that in way) so we agreed to meet up over burgers.
Although nothing evolved out of my meeting with Peter, we nonetheless had a lovely meal at Chur Burger. And even though it was 8PM on a Saturday night in Surry Hills, we only waited 15 minutes to get a table in the loud, boisterous dining room.
Fish burger: crumbed fish fillet, picked cucumber, lemon mayo, dill; chips ($5)
All burgers at Chur are $10, a steal given how delicious and generously sized they are. Peter went relatively healthy with the fish burger, which contained a massive slab of white fish. ‘Delicious’ and ‘yeah, pretty good’ were the words that came out of Peter’s mouth as he was eating it – and no, he wasn’t talking about me.
Beef burger: beef, pickle, cheese, tomato jam and Dijon mayonnaise
I played it safe with the beef burger. It was a fairly solid burger with all the ingredients ticking the boxes – the beef pattie was juicy and both the tomato jam and Dijon mayonnaise gave the package a lovely kick. I guess if I had to be picky, I’d say the bun was just average. Yeah, it’s brioche but it didn’t have that lovely Huxtaburger-like buttery texture we all know and love.
Chur Burger was great and all, but it would find it hard to compete with the Melbourne burger talent. I’ve been told that Chur was once super-fantastically-amazing but since it started multiplying, the quality control has been all over the place. Even the Brisbane restaurant was off to a shaky start but I’ll be the judge of that when I do get around to visiting at some point.
222 Riley Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 8093 9807
Surry Hills is one of my favourite suburbs in Sydney; I love the abundance of restaurants, cafés and wine bars and I love the buzz it generates as soon as the sun dips beneath the horizon. It also happens to be within easy walking distance from the city, making it one of the most convenient places to get to.
I woke up one morning in Darlinghurst and decided to go for a stroll to Surry Hills for a bite and a coffee before a day of talks and stuff at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. There are a hundred of apparently decent places to have breakfast in the area but somehow, I ended up at Riley Street Café & Wine.
Latte ($3.50 or $3.80, or something like that)
The café made news two years ago when they decided to serve takeaway coffees for $2.50, something that’s totally unheard of. I don’t know if they still do it now though. Either way, I paid my $3.50-or-$3.80 for my latte which is market price – and it was okay; not enough body for my liking.
Egg and bacon roll ($14)
Riley’s egg and bacon roll is supposedly what they do best. Here, a gooey sunny-side egg and two slices of bacon were enveloped in a warm seeded roll along with some caramelised onion, rocket and salsa verde. There was also the option to add provolone cheese for $2 which would have been sweet but at the time of ordering, I thought it was too much so I didn’t.
Look, the roll (which was more of a sandwich, really) was not bad. It filled me up and everything but was it worth $14? Probably not. The bread was lovely and nutty but perhaps a bit too hard – and that pretty much ruined it. Everything else was fine though.
Given that there are places to enjoy a nice(r) coffee and breakfast in Surry Hills, I probably wouldn’t go here again. For a $2.50 takeaway coffee if they still had it though? Maybe…
Shop 3, Level 3
9-13 Hay Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 2 9281 6648
Disclaimer: Libby dined as a guest of Hakata-Maru Ramen.
I seem to be going to Sydney quite a bit these days so with that in mind, let me bring out the first of my protracted Sydney posts.
A while ago, Hidetoshi Tsuboi of Chinatown’s Hakata-Maru Ramen invited me to attend a mini-tour of the then-newly established ramen eatery in Market City. He must have somehow mistook me for a Sydneysider so I told him that I live(d) in Melbourne and that as much as I love ramen, I could not accept his invitation.
Regardless, Hide was lovely enough to keep the invitation open for my next Sydney visit – which wasn’t to occur for another eight months or something ridiculous like that. So on my first Sydney visit for 2014, I hopped off the plane at Sydney airport, checked into my accommodation (after accidentally walking into a crack den full of derros on Oxford Street – omg, don’t ask) and walked down to Chinatown to meet Hide.
Hakata-Maru Ramen may have only been in business for a year but they’re already gaining a popular following. Their speciality is Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen, the same type that Ippudo also excels in. In fact, Hide went on to say that Hakata-Maru’s ramens were better value – ‘same thing, slightly different price points.’
After exploring the kitchen and trying my best not to drool at the big vats of stock bubbling away, Hide gave me a few things from the menu to try.
Chicken wings ($3)
First up, the chicken wings. They similar to the Nagoya-style tebasaki chicken wings which are crispy as hell and glazed with a sweet and slightly sticky garlic glaze. These ones were more dry rather than sticky but I enjoyed them nevertheless.
White tonkotsu ramen, with sesame seeds and pickled ginger on the side ($8.80)
I was then given their default white tonkotsu ramen as well as a bunch of trimmings on the side. The black stuff you see is the soy garlic sauce which, for an extra dollar, turns your white tonkotsu ramen into a black tonkontsu. Meanwhile, the fiery red stuff you see turns it into a potently spicy red tonkotsu.
Hide offered me little bowls to spoon my ramen noodles and broth in so I can mix the toppings and flavours accordingly. I have to say that the pure white tonkotsu broth was my favourite – it was a milky, clean broth full of flavoursome goodness without the nasty oiliness that you get at Sydney’s rival ramen restaurants. And even though I love garlic, I found the black garlic broth a bit too pungent and the red one was nice but only in small doses.
Is it as good as Ippudo’s ramen? It’s definitely up there but Ippudo’s broth is perhaps a little more refined. That said, I’d happily go to Hakata-Maru Ramen if I’m too lazy to walk up to Pitt Street Mall or if I want to go somewhere more chilled and casual.