4/4-8 Waters Road
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
+61 439 945 245
Valentine’s Day came and went a few days ago, so it’s fitting that this post is dedicated to my first love: ramen. Don’t worry, I’ll ensure that this blog is ramen-free for the next few weeks. But for now let’s talk about Ramen Megumi, the newest addition to Neutral Bay’s dining scene. (Though to be fair, it’s been around for a few months now so it’s not terribly new)
Living on the other side of the harbour often means that you need to cross the bridge to get your hands on decent food. While this is normally no big deal, it’s nevertheless nice when an awesome place opens up close to home – and by close, I mean less than 10 minutes walk. Ramen Megumi sits next to Neutral Bay Woolworths (well, one of two Woolies in the suburb anyway). It’s owned by Jun Toyoda, the guy behind Ramen O-San in the city aka one of my favourite ramen joints in Sydney so I knew I was in good hands even before I stepped into the eatery for the first time.
At the time of writing, I’ve been to Ramen Megumi no less than ten times now. It’s close, it’s cheap and they get the food to you in no time – what more can you want when you’re busy working and you only have time for a quick lunch that doesn’t involve leftover roast vegetables or a trip across the harbour?
The menu here is quite extensive. You get the default handmade egg-y medium-sized noodles regardless of what broth you order. You can choose from tonkotsu, paitan (chicken) and gyokai (seafood and pork), to name a few – and my goal was to try as many as possible before I was ramen-ed out (an unlikely occurrence but you never know).
I started off with something simple, their white tonkotsu ramen. There aren’t many places in Sydney that do a cheap bowl of ramen, even at this basic level so Megumi’s white tonkotsu was a steal at $10 though you don’t get any trimmings. Even after slapping an extra $2 for a generous amount of bamboo shoots, you’re still doing better than most places. Curiously, there’s no option to add egg at Megumi but anyway. Back to the white tonkotsu: taste-wise, the broth was rich and flavoursome, a bit on the heavy side but nowhere near as concrete-thick like Gumshara’s. If you want something cheap, tasty and soul soothing, this is the ramen to go for.
Personally, I like the black tonkotsu a little better. For an extra dollar, black garlic is added to the tare (base) to give the broth a lovely smoky and nutty flavour, levelling out the pork. It’s weird because I generally find black garlic ramen dishes a bit too overpowering for my liking but these guys have the balance down pat. I’ve ordered this dish twice already and I’ll definitely have it again.
My favourite ramen at Megumi, however, would have to be the gyotai tonkotsu. I’m not aware of any places in Sydney that do a gyotai tonkontsu ramen, which is a hybrid seafood pork broth, though I’ll be happy to be corrected. Here, the ratio is skewed towards seafood rather than pork, resulting in a lighter soup – definitely a tick in my books. The seafood component is made up of snapper head and bonito, creating a broth that’s smoky, aromatic and so damn delicious. Add some bamboo shoots in the mix and you have yourself a winning lunch.
Also good is the white paitan ramen, if you’re not that into pork. Naturally, you get a more delicate broth than your standard pork varieties but Megumi’s version is still big on flavours. I can definitely see myself slurping a bowl of this stuff when I’m down with the flu this winter.
And because it’s summer in Sydney, Megumi currently has a chilled ramen as a special. I would have preferred tsukemen but here, the chilled ramen is the hiyachi shuka. The sauce is pleasant enough (think rice vinegar, soy and sesame oil) and no doubt most would be better off enjoying something like this when it’s 40 degrees outside than a hot bowl of soup but I don’t know – it didn’t quite speak to me. It was the first time I left Megumi without finishing a bowl of ramen… but like the good Asian that I am, I doggy bagged it instead of leaving it on the table for the staff to throw out.
If ramen isn’t your thing (crazy talk, I know), then are plenty of rice dishes. Bean always orders the chicken katsu curry, which is generously sized and delicious. When Megumi opened, you could only order one standard size but now you can choose between a small or medium bowl ($10/$13). While the curry itself is delicious, there is no way I’d ever order it over any of the ramen dishes I’ve talked about above (well, maybe except for the chilled ramen). Every now and then, they’ll forget to take the chicken off the chicken pieces before frying so sometimes you’ll bite into soft piece of chicken skin. Secondly, I don’t know why they chuck in beef mince in the curry sauce.
You can be sure my next visit will be very soon. Many people criticise Neutral Bay for not having many good dining options and while I’m inclined to agree, Ramen Megumi is an exception to this rule. Here’s to many more happy lunches there!