I’d always thought of Chaco Bar as a yakitori place, and it is, but only for dinner. We went for a weekend lunch, and discovered that the lunch menu is all about the ramen. I picked the yuzu scallop ramen ($16), with one bearded Hokkaido scallop, a wanton, black mushrooms, leek, Japanese mustard greens (mizuna) and butter, plus an egg as extra ($3). I also ordered a yuzu and lychee soda ($7), which was huge, beautifully refreshing and possibly my new favourite drink ever. Now, the ramen was a first for me – I’ve only ever tried ramen with pork, miso or soy broth, but this was a seafood broth, and it was beautiful. It was lighter than the other kinds, although surprisingly rich, particularly with the butter stirred through, and the yuzu in the broth really helped balance it out. The scallop was a little bit chewy, but I’d never had a bearded one before, so that may be usual. The ramen had a perfect amount of bite, and I really liked the mustard greens, which also helped cut through the rich seafoodiness of the broth. The egg, as all ramen eggs are, was perfection, and I saved it until last (although the wanton was a close contender for best bit – soft skin, tasty insides). I will definitely be back!
Chaco Bar, 238 Crown Street, Darlinghurst NSW, http://www.chacobar.com.au/
One of my childhood friends was visiting Canberra recently, and we had time for brunch on a Saturday during her visit. It was a tough call deciding where to go, but A Baker won the day. We sat outside in the (patchy) sunshine, and I was particularly excited to see a noodle soup on the menu! I ordered the ginger chicken broth, with soba noodles, egg ribbons, spanner crab and coriander oil ($18.9) and was utterly delighted with the meal. Firstly, the flavours were perfectly balanced, with a perfect kick from the shredded ginger and a subtle tang from the coriander oil. Fried onion crisps and spring onion added great flavour and texture, and there was a fair amount of tender, super-tasty crab floating around. The soba noodles were perfectly cooked (looooveee soba!) and I enjoyed the ribbons of cooked egg as a filler. The dish was also nicely seasoned, enhancing the elegant ingredients and making the broth very moreish to drink. I also grabbed a fresh apple juice ($6.50), which had a nice amount of pulp, and needed regular stirring to stop it separating. As the weather warms up even more, this will be an irresistable combination of location and quality food!
A Baker, Unit 2, 15 Edinburgh Avenue, Acton ACT, http://abaker.com.au/
Gumshara is a happy place for me. Not because of the ambiance, or the décor, or the service; Gumshara is pure bliss for the taste buds. I know I’ve said it before, but this really is the best ramen in Australia. I ordered the tonkotsu ramen with a ramen egg, which is ready in a flash and served in a humungous bowl. There are two things that make Gumshara the best. One: the noodles. The ramen here have such great bite – it’s really very satisfying eating them, almost like the most perfect al dente pasta. Two: the broth. Ok, so this isn’t going to do your cholesterol any good, but who can resist a rich, thick, fatty, salty pork-bone broth in winter? Not me. The broth has a way of coating your mouth, like a layer of porky velvet. Mmm. The pork slices are tender and fatty, and I always like to add a sprinkling of sesame seeds for extra flavour. As always, the ramen eggs are the best, with the gooey, runny yolks and marinated whites that I can’t get enough of.
Gumshara Ramen, Shop 211, 25-29 Dixon Street, Haymarket NSW, no website.
Canberrans rejoice! Ok, well, people working in Barton, rejoice! There is finally a (relatively) cheap Japanese place for lunch! I popped in to Genki for a weekday lunch and had trouble picking which of the many favourite Japanese comfort-food dishes to pick. In the end chose the tonkatsu udon ($14), which is a big bowl of udon noodles in broth with crumbed, fried pork on top. For this pricepoint, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the broth, although the dish isn’t exactly authentic. I did really enjoy the vegetables served in the broth – snowpeas, broccoli, mushrooms and carrots, plus the liberal sprinkling of not-very-Japanese crispy eschallots. The tonkatsu was nicely crumbed and drizzled with the appropriate sweet sauce, and the serving was really quite generous. I am a sucker for udon noodles, and these were just what I wanted on a chilly afternoon. Plump, soft and chewy, they hit just the right note for comfort food. The service was a bit abrupt (very little explanation of the system – pay and wait for your number to be called), but this is a very welcome addition to the Parliamentary Triangle’s limited dining scene.
Genki, 48 Macquarie Street, Barton ACT
Genki Roll has a special place in my heart – I used to eat lunch there quite regularly as a student, so on this visit I tried my old favourite, the hot udon soup, to see if it’s still as good as I remember. The answer is yes. For a great value $5.20 you can get a regular sized udon, and I added tempura vegetables for an extra $2.50. The bowl was still a good size, and the tempura was going nice and soggy in the broth (yum). The noodles remain beautifully springy and given the different widths, I wonder if they’re made in store (does anyone know?). New is the pile of not-very-authentic greens on the side, which I avoided. The tempura vegetables did seem to contain prawns (maybe a communication error?) but was fabulously fried and full of onion and other good bits. Soaked in the broth, they were perfect. The prawn was a bit ho-hum, but as always, the broth is the real star and it was just like I remember -salty, and with that proper Japanese flavour that udon broths should have. Sure, it’s not exactly healthy, but on a chilly afternoon, this dish will warm you to your bones.
Genki Roll, Adelaide Central Plaza, Rundle Mall, Adelaide SA
My first stop after picking my bags from the luggage carousel in Adelaide was Ryo’s Noodles. Yep, not even kidding. Last time, Mum gave me massive order envy with her miso ramen, so that’s what we both picked this time. Ryo’s is unusual for a ramen restaurant in that you can request your serve to be salt reduced, which we both did. The star of this ramen is the broth – the miso flavour just adds a lovely richness to the already complex broth, which only tastes better the more you eat. I found myself wishing for a second stomach in order to have more! The pork is beautifully tender and not overly fatty, although I would have liked another slice. The spring onion and bamboo shoots are great textural elements, and the ramen noodles themselves have a great amount of bite, making them a real delight to eat. The bowl actually has a very generous serve of noodles, and I was very full by the end of my meal. We had cups of green tea with the food, which come with free refills – the tea was simple and a nice complement to the ramen. See you on my next visit, Ryo’s!
Ryo’s Noodles, 80 Gouger Street, Adelaide SA
My friend and I had a craving for pho, so on a Monday night after work we headed up to Dickson to indulge our craving. Pho @ Dickson is unassumingly located on Woolley Street – if I hadn’t know it was there, I might have missed it. The restaurant was quiet on a Monday night and we received excellent service. I ordered the ‘bells and all’ beef pho ($14.50), which included rare beef, beef balls, beef tripe and cooked beef brisket (so, basically, all the beef). The bowl was huge, and this was my first time trying beef tripe – I didn’t mind the flavour actually, although the rare beef is always my favourite part of eating pho. The broth was suitably beefy and I could tell that this wasn’t going to be a need-to-down-a-litre-of-water type pho – it wasn’t outrageously salty and that left plenty of space to appreciate the broth’s flavour. The noodles varied in width, leading me to suspect that they make their own, and all of the usual accompaniments are offered (bean sprouts, Thai basil and lemon wedges, plus the sauces). At the end of our meal a sliced orange was brought out as a palate cleanser. I was impressed, definitely worth a visit.
Pho @ Dickson, 14 Woolley Street, Dickson ACT, no website