Ramen-porn is notorious among Sydney’s foodies, there’s no doubt about it, and with the rise of colder weather I can wager I’ll be seeing a lot more of it on my Instagram news feed.
Ramen is not something that is new to me anymore, however my first taste of it a few years back was the best introduction I could possibly have as a ‘ramen-virgin’ (insert obligatory snigger here). The Sister and I often visit Taronga Zoo together and choose to drive, going along the Pacific Highway and through North Sydney on our way there. It was on a number of occasions coming back in the early evening that we frequently noticed a line outside a bright-orange shack on the side of the road near North Sydney Boys’ High, but didn’t pay much attention to it.
And then we were watching Food Safari on SBS one evening when they were discussing Japanese food and ramen, and had a feature on that shack as Ryo’s Noodles, the very place we had been driving past. We had to visit now.
There’s always a line here, so it’s matter of getting here early if you don’t like to wait while being stared at by the passing traffic. Ideally 12 noon for lunch time, about 5.00 pm for dinner. Also, if you arrive late (heaven forbid), you run the risk of them being out of tonkotsu soup!
If you do end up waiting, you can look at the massive menu outside. The waitresses occasionally come out and will go down the line to ask for numbers. There are just two waitresses – two Japanese ladies who appear to be in their mid twenties, but it’s difficult to tell with the false eyelashes and very short denim shorts. They’re a little ‘cutesy’ in the Japanese way, but every time I’ve been they are nothing but polite, friendly and accomodating.
For the long time that Ryo’s has been here, I’m surprised they haven’t expanded and bought out the Thai shop next door, but at least they’ve made a slight improvement by adding an air-conditioner inside. Having a ramen craving mid-summer was never much fun!
If you’re the type who will only eat at posh, upmarket establishments, this is not the place for you. It’s Asian street-style dining – you’re either squished next to other diners at the tables or if you’re dining alone, there’s less of a squish up at the bar. I fail to understand why people insist on bringing their whole extended family here for dinner and demand a table for six or eight – you’ll be waiting for a long time and get glares from single diners only wanting a quick ramen. I’ve been here on evenings where there have been no less than four prams wedged in between the tables – were you really intending on feeding your baby ramen?
The walls are a garish shade of pastel yellow, and cold tap water is self-serve from a thermos (believe me, you will be needing it). On the walls is pieces of paper with the menu written in both English and Japanese, paper fans, a very small TV in the upper corner, records over the years for the most number of noodles eaten, and various celebrity signatures, including that of the Iron Chef French himself, Hiroyuki Sakai.
The Top 5 ramen bowls are listed on the blackboard above, and I’ve heard that you can also request the ‘house special’, which is a combination of two or three of them.
You’re handed the menu when you’re seated, a large bright orange laminated sheet.
I’ve been here to Ryo’s enough times and eyed up other diners’ food to know what I want. A ramen each, a gyoza and the fried chicken. My dining girlfriend for lunch requested what is normally my usual, the Ramen in Tokyo style soy sauce (chicken) soup with roast pork, egg, bamboo shoots and nori ($13.50).
For ramen novices and those who dislike the fattiness associated with ramen, this is the perfect introduction. A quite light chicken and soy-based soup, there is still that incredible warmth. Combined with the nori (which you shred up), the roast pork is perfectly balanced between melt-in-the-mouth and lean and that gorgeous soft-boiled soy egg, it is an easy satisfier. It is so delicious that you don’t actually realise how salty it is until you take your first sip of water.
I was in the mood for a bit more of an authentic ramen experience though, having been to Japan at the start of the year and visited ramen shacks that only had the basic Tonkotsu (pork soup) and no other options. Well, they did have options: either original, or original with extra roast pork! Thus I went for the Ramen in soy sauce flavoured (pork) soup with roast pork, nori, egg and shallots ($13.50).
It’s easier to see that this is a heavier soup. Cloudy and dense, it left a delicious (or to some people, obscene) layer of shine on my lips when devoured. Collagen in its most original, pure form! The noodles were perfectly cooked, the bok choy just cooked enough to retain enough of its fresh crunch. I saved the soy egg until the very end, savouring it slowly. I’m still yet to find a better soy egg anywhere else!
The Gyoza ($7.50) was five dumplings lightly pan-fried, crisp on the outside and containing a light and juicy mixture of pork mince. The dough was perfectly thin, but no so thin that it fell apart when we dipped it into a bit of soy.
The Fried Chicken ($8.00) is one of the reasons why I love Ryo’s so much – no other places’ fried chicken compare. The most tender pieces of chicken thigh you can imagine, marinated in a unidentifiable mixture (I can detect soy and ginger, but that’s all), battered, deep fried and then served with a squeeze of Kewpie.
It was a little overly-salted this time however, so I wasn’t quite feeling the love. Still crunchy and satisfying as usual though.
Having consumed our sodium intake for the week in one meal,, my girlfriend and I made ourselves scarce and dropped by Chatswood on our way home to walk off a bit off the food through some retail therapy, where I picked up these gorgeous kicks from Windsor Smith, $79 down to $25 – bargain or what?!
Totally wearing these to Zumba. It was actually my girlfriend who wanted to shoe-shop, however unable to find the shoes she wanted, she ended up with a consolation-buy, two gorgeous little cacti from a florist in fluoro.
Watch out for Wednesday’s recipe, lovelies! Until then xx
125 Falcon Street, North Sydney NSW 2060
(02) 9955 0225