An Omakase at Ichibandori | Neutral Bay

This post is based on an independently-paid visit to Ramen Ichibandori

Ramen in an omakase? There are no rules. Omakase, after all, only means ‘[I’ll] leave it to you’; its sushi connotation is purely a by-product of frequent association. But if that’s the preconception you harbour when booking yourself in for Ramen Ichibandori’s omakase, it may be to your advantage: because this is going to be unlike any other omakase you’ve had in Sydney.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Octopus w/truffle oil. Excellent texture; however, I dislike the artificiality of truffle oil. Your mileage may vary.
Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Roasted veg w/kinzanji miso, an unprocessed sweet miso. A motley assortment of vegetables? Yes. But far more delicious than it looks.

Every Sydney Japa-foodie has heard of Ichibandori. Started by Tomoyuki Matsuya (ex-Hana Ju-Rin) and Hideto Suzuki (ex-Manpuku), it attracted an instant cult following with its late-night ramen offerings which – according to hearsay at least – are arguably some of Sydney’s most refined.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Snapper; bass grouper (super crunchy)
Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Steamed wakame, saikyo miso coral trout, yuba. About as delicious as it is random, which is to say very, very delicious.

If you know the backstories of the chefs, you’d know that with this new venture comes with it great change for the chefs, though possibly much more so for the former sushi itamae. This is perhaps the Japanese equivalent of Western fine dining chefs ditching the tweezers for the griddle (hint: I’m talking about the ‘fancy burger’ revolution that defined the last decade), after all.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Katsuo & torigai. The torigai was unusually pungent (in a way I didn’t like) but the katsu is one of the best bonito I’ve had in months.
Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Miso beef tongue w/karashi miso. Bloody delicious.

But the heart wants what it wants: it’s hardly surprising that it only took a few months for Matsuya to feel the clarion call of omakase once more, and like a true master of his own destiny, he acted on the impulse and began serving omakase once more at Ichibandori during off-peak weeknights.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Grilled scampi w/Matsuya’s housemade karasumi; cuttlefish w/shiso & truffle oil. The former was good; my impartiality towards truffle oil meant I didn’t quite like the latter.
Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Zuwaigani chawanmushi w/kani miso. Not the silkiest egg but good flavours. Lots of hidden ingredients within – you’ll just have to try it yourself!

What was surprising was just how much has changed between my last omakase at Hana Ju-Rin in 2016 and now. I was kind about that experience in terms of my language back then, but the truth was in between the lines: too much white fish, too much shiso – too much same same. I wasn’t a fan, and I never made a second visit. But now? It’s almost as if hidden shackles that had constrained Matsuya back then had been unfettered: it’s the most unique – and perhaps even whackest – omakase in Sydney.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Swordfish toro w/wasabi leaf (2nd favourite piece!) and 5-day aged maguro akami. Yum.
Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Abalone steak cooked in Pepe Saya butter w/wakame & eringi. Never take this off the menu pls.

Of course there’s Matsuya’s sushi (which is now much better), but the delights are in the seemingly random: vegetable courses with the power to convert haters, seafood surprises such as a butter-poached & grilled abalone that was ‘I want what she’s having’ delicious, and even a play on the final hand roll – commonly tuna, seen at the end of many an omakase, here with juicy Kagoshima wagyu instead.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Matsuya’s signature salmon belly w/roasted negi; murasaki uni w/kinzanji miso. Favourite and good respectively. Yum.
Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Bonito tonkotsu ramen w/sprouts & perilla seeds. A light refreshing flavour that flies in the face of ‘regular’ tonkotsu. I should have gone for seconds – super crushable.
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Ramen in an omakase? There are no rules. Omakase, after all, only means '[I'll] leave it to you'; its sushi connotation is purely a by-product of frequent association. . Every Sydney japa-foodie has heard of Ramen Ichibandori. Started by Tomoyuki Matsuya (ex-Hana Ju-Rin) and Hideto Suzuki (ex-Manpuku), it's become as much the ramen sensation as it has been great change for the chefs, though much more so for the former sushi itamae. Thus, it's hardly surprising that it only took a few months for Matsuya to feel the clarion call of omakase once more, and to begin serving it at Ichibandori during off-peak weeknights. The heart wants what it wants? . What was surprising was just how much has changed between my last omakase at Hana Ju-Rin in 2016 and now. My no-bullshit policy compels me to say that I wasn't taken by that experience. Too much white fish, too much shiso – too much same same. But now? It's almost as if hidden shackles that had constrained Matsuya back then had been unfettered: it's the most unique – and perhaps even whackest – omakase in Sydney. Of course there's the sushi (which is now much better), but the delights are in the seemingly random: vegetable courses which would convert haters, seafood surprises such as a butter-poached & grilled abalone that was 'I want what she's having' delicious, and even a play on the final hand roll – commonly tuna, seen at the end of many an omakase, here with juicy A5 wagyu instead. . And of course, with Ichibandori's now-famous ramen in mini size as one of the omakase courses, the transformation is complete: Matsuya unleashed. Blog post is now up! Link in profile. #ISH_Ichibandori

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Ultimately, like the homey izakaya vibe of the restaurant, so too your expectations must correspond: expect something like Sokyo and you will be disappointed. Take Matsuya’s omakase for what it is: his very own passion project, served course by course. But I have to say, with Ichibandori’s now-famous ramen in mini size as one of the courses in the omakase, the transformation is complete: Matsuya unleashed.

Ramen Ichibandori Omakase
Kagoshima wagyu hand roll. Love the play on this traditionally tuna-based finale.

A note for completeness: there was also an unpictured dessert of houjicha daifuku w/matcha roll cake & anko, made by Matsuya-san’s wife.

For a different experience that shares Ichibandori’s irreverence towards the traditional notions of what omakase ‘should’ be, try Sushi E.

Date Last Visited: 10/Dec/2019 
Address: Shop 4/81-91 Military Rd, Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Price Guide (approx): $165pp (for omakase)

This post is based on an independently-paid visit to Ramen Ichibandori

Ups:

  • The rebirth of Tomoyuki Matsuya’s omakase combined with Ichibandori’s strong suits makes for a one-of-a-kind omakase.
  • BYO!

Downs:

  • As the restaurant’s primary purpose is to be an izakaya, the high benchtops and standard table setting means that there is a physical disconnect between the diners and the action. Matsuya is unable to serve you over this counter and thus must walk over. It simply doesn’t feel the same.

Pro-Tip:

  • Omakase is only available Monday and Tuesday nights. Bookings essential. If you’re after Ichibandori’s regular offerings, don’t show up on these two days!

Would I return: yes

F7 | S4 | A1.5
7/10 Caesars
See how I score here

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Ichibandori Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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