Ramen Ikkyu | Sydney CBD

Oh, ramen! That alone is an adequate introduction.

When a new ramen restaurant makes its Sydney entrance, there will be waves. Take Ippudo, for example. To cause a tsunami, how about throwing in the fact that chef Haru Inukai, of one-toqued Blancharu fame, is manning the helm? That’s where Ramen Ikkyu takes the stage, drawing queues before opening hours even though it’s only a small corner stall in Sussex Centre food court.

But it’s just noodle soup, right? The beauty is that that’s exactly what it is, pure and simple.

What’s the fuss? Read on to find out!

Date Last Visited: 14/8/13
Address: Sussex Centre Food Court, Sussex St Haymarket, NSW 2000
Recommended Dish(es): Ikkyu Shoyu, Tsuke-men

Much like pho, there is a magic about ramen that makes this simple-on-the-surface staple the subject of fierce debate. Few can come to an agreement on the best broth or even noodle hardness, let alone the best ramen. Proponents of ramen are passionate about this incredible dish, and rightly so. Marry the perfect broth with a well-made noodle and you will draw queues, especially given its “cheap eat” status.

Ramen Ikkyu

Small place, but draws the queues

My first visit to Ikkyu was about a month after it first opened. At that time, it was rumoured that chef Haru was only producing 150 bowls a day, after which shop is closed. This is not the case as of my latest visit, whether or not it was initially true or not. More likely, they have adapted to demand and can now make roughly the right amount of broth each day.

Ramen Ikkyu menu

The menu is extensive enough to cover the usual suspects, plus Ikkyu’s own specialties!

What exactly makes Ikkyu special? Well, there is the much vaunted-pedigree of the head chef himself. Haru controls a great deal of the cooking process, ensuring that quality is on par with his standards, i.e. quite high. Experience at French-Japanese blancharu has produced a ramen range where flavours are moer lighter than many other ramen restaurants, such as Gumshara or Menya.

The menu has had additions since I last visited, but today, you can still order anything discussed in this post.

Orders are taken on iPads, and you can order sides such as extra chashu or nitamago (lava egg).

Ramen Ikkyu

Tokyo ramen ($10.5)

A quick primer, ramen comes in four major forms:

* Shoyu (soy sauce-based)
* Shio (salt-based)
* Tonkotsu (thick, collagen-rich pork based; Gumshara’s principle ramen style)
* Miso (that would be…miso)

There are others, but these are the most common. Ikkyu offers them all, with a spin on Tonkotsu in that it’s a lighter broth but still richer than the other three. Paitan, it’s called, which is basically a white-ish broth made from pork bones cooked for oh so long the broth has all the goodness of the pork.

The Tokyo ramen is essentially a shoyu-based ramen, but different in that it uses chicken broth. The result is a rather gamey broth with a heavy soy note.

It’s definitely very good, though preference-wise, it doesn’t stand up to Ippudo’s Hakata-style broth. That is the most subjective thing I’ll say in this post.

Ramen Ikkyu

Slurp slurp

The noodles? Well, that’s actually where Ikkyu shines for me. The broth was OK, but the noodles are delicious. It’s so well cooked I feel like I can still taste the wheat it was originally made from, while retaining a perfect level of hardness for me. This is why Ikkyu ramen sells, as far as I’m concerned.

Ramen ikkyu

EGGS AND CHASHU PORK. Two things I could eat all day

As for sides, I’ve noticed that Ikkyu’s chashu is variable in quality. On one visit, it was deliciously succulent; another, overcooked and too dry. Lots of potential room for improvement here. As for the eggs, they come out colder than I’d have liked them to, so broth-warming is necessary. Otherwise, top notch chook.

Ramen Ikkyu

This chachu was a bit too dry for my liking

Ramen Ikkyu

Ikkyu miso ramen ($10.5)

The Ikkyu miso is surprisingly disappointing. The broth is too light-handed on the miso, and I felt I was drinking rather tepid broth. Presentation was also a downer, as I’ve seen Instagrams where the toppings were nicely laid out upon serving. The lunchtime rush imposes a heavy toll on any kind of presentation effort.

Ramen Ikkyu

That Ikkyu Miso

Ramen Ikkyu

Close-up magnifique

Ramen Ikkyu

Ikkyu Shoyu Ramen ($10.5)

I think Ikkyu does its best work with the Ikkyu shoyu ramen. It’s different to the Tokyo shoyu in that it emphasises the shoyu a bit less and accentuates the chicken flavour and saltiness of the broth. It’s well done for sure, but once again, it’s for a certain palate. Noodles are top notch as always.

I’ll point out at this point that in terms of toppings, Ikkyu is roughly middle-of-the-pack in the context of major ramen offerings in Sydney. It’s not stingy with them, but they’re not particularly all that exciting. That said, the quality of the toppings are consistenly good, which is real important, as that could break an otherwise good bowl of ramen.

If you’re unimpressed, you can always order more – ramen isn’t expensive so the wallet can be stretched, I’m sure!

Ramen Ikkyu tsukemen

Tsuke-men ($14)

A lesser-known type of ramen is tsuke-men. It’s different because there’s no soup broth, but rather a dipping broth. The ramen and toppings are placed in a separate bowl, and you get to have at it to your preference.

Ramen Ikkyu tsukemen

All the chashu in all the bowls

In line with Ikkyu’s subtle but sophisticated flavour philosophy, this tsuke-men has the lightest dipping broth of any I’ve tried (Ichiban has the saltiest – not too great either). It’s soy-based, with strong sesame notes. I’d say this time it works very well, as the lack of any appreciable soup means that the light flavour works out well for the taste.

Ramen Ikkyu

The dipping begins!

Besides, you can always control your portion – feel free to even drink the dipping broth if you like. It’s oily, but that may as well be a synonym of delicious.

Ramen Ikkyu

Free kaedama is best kaedama

A markedly terrific mechanism Ikkyu has is the free kaedama. This refers to a free serving of extra noodles, perfect if you’re feeling particularly hungry. Finish your noodles, then bring the receipt snipped and get another serving in a new bowl to use for your left-over broth. That alone is worth giving the place a try.

I have mixed feelings about Ikkyu – it enhances Sydney’s ramen scene merely by being different, and thus adding value. That different is appreciated by many ramen connoisseurs, as shown by the constant queues outside the place. For me personally, my preference still goes to Ippudo/Menya/Ramen Kan, but I can see myself one day in Sussex Centre one day, and I won’t be surprised at all if my feet shift me towards that delectable noodle they call ramen.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

Awesome:

  • Possibly the best ramen noodles in Sydney
  • Broth is perfect for those with lighter palates

Not so Awesome:

  • The broth is too light at times
  • Toppings are a hit and miss, especially the chashu & tepid eggs

7/10 Caesars

Ramen Ikkyu on Urbanspoon

  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 3.5 stars
  • 70%

  • Ramen Ikkyu
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: April 1, 2015

Summary:

14 comments on “Ramen Ikkyu | Sydney CBD”

  1. Chris @ MAB vs Food Reply

    That menu board in your pic is a bit old, they have a lot more options than that now hehe. Any way, Gumshara and Ikkyu are my favourites. I like how they are so close to each other, so I can decide last minute which one to go to for my regular lunchtime ramen fix. I am with you, the noodle at Ikkyu is probably the best and the broth at Gumshara can’t be beaten in Sydney.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      You are right Chris – that is something I noted in the post. I visited Ikkyu yesterday funnily enough – amazing how much it has changed. Glad for it though!

  2. ChopinandMysaucepan Reply

    Dear Michael,

    Fantastic review to inform us about so many ramen joints in Sydney at the moment. My recent bowl of ramen was at Gumshara and I opted for the “heavy” version. After a few spoonfuls, I needed their option to add hot water even though I like strong flavours in my food.

    I have yet to try Ippudo but at $18, it makes me want to go to Pho An instead and request for extra sides as well.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Gumshara’s undiluted ramen is one for the hardy; it took some getting used to but once there, the result is well worth it.

      Indeed, at $18, Ippudo is no cheap eat by any means. Best for the occasional “I feel like something different” kind of visit, as I maintain that no other ramen joint in Sydney makes a Hakata broth as good as Ippudo’s.

      I think of pho and ramen as complementary dishes, even though logic would suggest they’re substitutes. There’s plenty of room in the culinary landscape for both 🙂

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Agreed, as said in the post, the broth is just OK. Hakata broth from Ippudo is much, much better. Gumshara deserves its reckoning as well – it’s glorious Tonkotsu heaven.

  3. Padaek Reply

    Looks and sounds like a top ramen joint. Have not heard of tsuke-men before. Looking forward to trying it now. Thanks! 🙂

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