27 Russell St, Melbourne CBD. Phone: (03) 9650 3708
Disclaimer: Guest reviewer Richard, a keen connoisseur of ramen, ate as a guest of Ikkoryu.
In the case of Gensuke and (I believe) Fukuryu, there is a providence link with an actual Japanese ramen shop or chain. This is also the case with Ikkoryu, which is opening properly in Melbourne from Wednesday 1 April and is a brand of the Yamagoya Ramen Group hailing from Fukuoka.
Ramen is, like the indigenous Japanese religion Shinto, not monotheistic. There are dozens of types of ramen—reflecting prefectures of Japan (or even different parts of the same city)—and a good shop in Japan will generally stick to one, at most two types. The Melbourne scene is heavy on Fukuoka-style tonkotsu (pork-bone broth), and Ikkoryu does nothing to change that. I’d love to see more fish-and-pork mix broths and tsukemen (dipping noodles) which are big in Tokyo right now.
But anyway, Ikkoryu. The space is clean, open, modern & efficient. It is a bit chain-y and high-end-by-numbers which is not a bad thing. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a demi-basement. They’ve brought out a Japanese calligraphy artist to decorate the sliding doors that delineate the private tatami area. A pleasant place to slurp.
We’re here on the soft opening and so we get to sample the yakimeshi (fried rice), karaage (Japanese friend chicken) and gyoza (dumplings) as mini-entrees.
The karaage and gyoza are particularly good: the chicken is juicy and the dumplings have an appropriate level of filling. My co-conspirator James likes the yakimeshi but I am less certain… it lacks the simplicity and slight stickiness of the Japanese fried rice I love. (I wonder if yakimeshi is a style of Japanese fried rice I’m not familiar with… it is nearly always referred to as chahan where I eat in Tokyo.)
The ramen is, of course, the main deal here. As at Gensuke, you have several options (flavour, strength of flavour, noodle chewiness etc) which you circle on the paper placemat in front of you.
I opt for the standard normal-everything Original Tonkotsu. The theme is refinement. The soup is an elegant style: a creamy (but not thick) tonkotsu broth of pork bones only (no chicken) with a light flavour and little pungency. It’s a bit beige for my tastes but a great intro to this style of ramen.
The men (noodles) are billed as hosomen (thin noodles). This is true but they are not super skinny, being a satisfying thickness and cooked to a slightly chewy perfection. The ajitama (flavoured soft-boiled egg) is really excellent, with a deliciously creamy yolk. The chashu (roast pork) is tasty and melty.
James orders the miso tonkotsu and this really shines: a deeply satisfying and complex blend of white and red miso and some subtle spices take this ramen up a notch into special territory. It makes me enthusiastic to try their other flavour options which include garlic, spicy and yuzu (Japanese citron).
Overall, this is perhaps Melbourne’s most refined ramen experience. The dining experience can also include premium sake options and a gamut of wine and beer. I always feel a bit weird eating ramen in upmarket environments and quasi-premium price points because it’s disconnected from the authentic Japanese experience: ramen in Japan is a kind of artisan junkfood, shamelessly delicious, unpretentious, often shabby and usually inexpensive. But turning it into fine dining probably reflects the economics of offering this food here. And we mustn’t discourage that!
Disclaimer: I’m getting a media pass to visit this show. I’m fairly sure it’s because they saw my burger cake.
So I never used to be a baker. I always considered myself more of a cook. I was, and am, of the opinion that while cooking is something of an art, baking is much more of a science. Not to say that you can’t bake with flair – many people do it every day – but baking appears to deal with a much greater level of precision when it comes to the chemistry that underpins sweet deliciousness.
That all changed when I started my previous job, and there was a cultural norm in the team that everyone baked. It got to the point that we’d half-joke about asking questions when interviewing for new team members about their baking prowess. Half-joke.
Over the past three years, I’ve developed a set of precision skills, almost out of professional necessity, and now baking is something that doesn’t seem particularly daunting to me. In fact, it’s something I really enjoy, and I’m angling for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer – cobalt blue, if you’re offering – for Christmas.
But Christmas is so far away, and there are many, many baked treats and sweets to be had in the meantime. Coming up next weekend (21-23 March 2014) is Sydney’s inaugural Cake Bake and Sweets Show.
There are a bunch of celebrities who will be there doing demonstrations and no doubt signing books – I’ll have to remember to bring my Eric Lanlard book along – including Adriano Zumbo, Eric Lanlard, Duff Goldman, and a long list of reality TV show cooks. Speaking of reality TV cooks, I ran into a former masterchef contestant at work the other day, and rather embarrassingly insisted that she looked familiar, but that I couldn’t pinpoint where we’d met before. I’m sure she gets it all the time, but I felt rather silly when my colleague told me she was on masterchef last year. Oops.
Anyway, the good PR folks at the Cake Bake and Sweets show have given me a double pass to the show to give away to my blog readers (those of you who have stuck around through the arid desert that has been my posting activity of late).
So to win, just leave a comment below telling me your favourite baked treat. The tickets are physical, and they’ve been mailed to me (oldskool) so you’ll have to put an entry in by 5pm Wednesday 19 March to ensure I can get the tickets to you.
Just here in Perth on a brief stopover to Mauritius (yes, expect lots of photos soon). I have to say, I’ve been very impressed by the food I’ve tried this time around. A vast improvement on my visit here the years ago. Here are a few highlights from my short visit.
Food court folly: yes.
But I was not expecting
Sugar in the broth.
Suburban corner shop
Can have amphora.
Well, it was OK
The spinach was the best thing
Pay at the cashier
Underneath the gym
Chicken rice needs more flavour
White fluorescent lights
I moved up to Sydney about 4 months ago, and big city life has pretty much sucked the free time and creative impulse out of me to continue writing blog posts.
But I’m about nothing if not adaptation, so what I’m going to do to adapt to this change in lifestyle is this: the format of half-eaten will change. Expect things so be shorter, sharper, and you’re only going to get pictures if it’s so impressive that it warrants it.
Stay tuned, because half-eaten it’s about to be back; but not as you know it.
FRIED. TRIPE. I CAN’T EVEN. Need to go back for more.
Disclaimer: The booze which features in this post was supplied for free by WineSelectors. Make of that what you will.
If we’re friends and we’ve gone out to dinner together, you’ll probably know that I don’t like pinot noir. Because if we’ve gone out for dinner together, I’ve more likely than not ordered pork, I’ve probably ordered it for you too, and you’ve probably jumped to the conclusion that you should drink pinot with your pork. At which point, I’ll scrunch up my face, and declare that I don’t drink pinot. At least not Australian pinot. (I was coerced into trying – and subsequently liking – a French grand cru bourgogne at the Royal Mail Hotel a while ago.)
Anyway, when WineSelectors offered to send me some wine to try and review on this blog, I thought, “Free booze!” and then immediately caveatted that I was going to be bluntly honest about what I thought of the wine. To which they replied, “Well, that’s fine. Because you’ll be choosing the wines yourself.” Which basically meant that I was a bit screwed, because I don’t know that much about wine, I just know what I like. One of the things I know that I like is viognier, so I included a bottle of the Hugh Hamilton Loose Cannon Viognier in my order.
And though I probably am an alcoholic, I’m not an anti-social alcoholic. So I invited a couple of friends over to dinner to help me ‘taste’ the wines (read ‘finish’). And because it wasn’t a Friday night, eating wasn’t cheating, so I made dinner. A roast rack of pork, no less. Oh yeah, that rant about pinot before wasn’t that random. This is what the rack looked like before (that’s salt, pepper, rosemary and sumac on there):
… and after! (After 20 minutes in an oven on max, followed by an hour at 160c.)
We had some green beans with goat’s cheese, a cannellini bean, pea and cavolo nero mash, and I made an onion jam.
Damn I love it when meat blushes at me.
But yeah, so, the wine. I discovered a few things about this Loose Cannon Viognier.
- It doesn’t really have any bouquet when it comes out of the fridge. This does change as it comes closer to room temperature, at which point it smells vaguely citrus-like.
- It’s DAMN FRUITY. (I mean that in a good way.)
- It doesn’t go well with hommus. (We had nibbles before dinner proper.)
- Mr J claimed he could taste quince in the wine, but I think that was more likely to do with the quince paste he was slathering on his crackers.
- The wine is kind of savoury, with orange notes.
- It’s pretty good with pork!