Having grown up in Singapore, Ichiban Boshi to me was always associated with sushi, bentos, donburi, and other family-friendly Japanese fare, but not exactly ramen. Fast forward 10 years, and a meeting with University friends reveal that Ichiban Boshi in Sydney, to my initial confusion, is all about the Ramen.
Ramen is a food nerd’s wet dream. There are so many elements to it – broth, egg, meat, noodle, toppings – that it can go gloriously right, or disastrously wrong. And with ramen joints popping up in what seems like once every other week in Sydney, any restaurant offering up this unique mix of springy egg noodles, viscous broth, fatty meat and all the comfort of a mother’s embrace on a cold winter’s morning had better be on top of their noodle soup game, or risk getting edged out in the competition.
So I was particularly intrigued when I was invited to sample the menu at Ichiban Boshi at The Galleries Victoria – do the crazy peak hour queues signal another hardhitter in the Sydney ramen scene, overlooked because it is situated in the bright white lights of a popular shopping centre?
But first, the entrées. Okonomiyaki, $8, is one of my favourite Japanese street snacks – I guess I identify with the Japanese students for whom this savoury cabbage-and-seafood pancake is an exam time staple. Sometimes served with on a sizzling hotplate, this small compact pancake is almost always smothered with a sweet, tangy Japanese barbecue sauce, lashings of Japanese Mayo and handfuls of dried bonito flakes, pickled ginger, and green scallions.
The okonomiyaki here is certainly small and sauce-smothered, and also topped with an extra thin egg omelette. It’s firm and thick, though it’s hard to judge flavour or textures otherwise because my tastebuds were so entertained by rivers of sauce. It could be a clever ploy to hide an otherwise average pancake, or maybe they’re just really generous with the sauce.
And I do like sauce.
And then there’s the much more interesting Tempura Salmon Roll, $9.50.
A thick salmon and cucumber roll is covered in tempura batter and deep fried, before being doused in chilli Mayo and topped with scallions.
I was quite curious if the rice would insulate the salmon enough to create the elusive hot/cold mix and leave the salmon raw, but it was, if lightly, cooked through. The tempura provided a pleasant crunch, and the chilli mayo, provided richness and kick. Not bad for an experience.
I must say that I wish I could be hooked up to that Mayo via an IV. Or any Mayo. MAYOOOO.
On the ramen front, we got the very imaginatively titled Very Hot Ramen, $11.90, and the Tan Tan Tsukemen, $13
The Very Hot Ramen was hot in the way a vacant, plastic-surgeried swimsuit model sort of way. There’s a lot of flash in the crimson red colour of the soup, but no actual heat or substance lying within. The noodles were too thick for the soup (or the soup too thin for the noodles?) and every mouthful for me was tepid and on the bland side.
The Tan Tan Tsukemen was heaps better, with a savoury pork mince gravy in a small bowl for you to dip your noodles into. The boiled, marinated egg was nice and tender, and although it was a touch overcooked for my taste (I like molten flowing egg yolks) it still was worth the extra order. I have a thing for cold noodles in summer, and this was a great choice for the sweltering heat outside.
Unfortunately, I can’t count Ichiban Boshi amongst the heavyweight ramen hitters in Sydney, but they do provide a little something for everyone, and varied menu options in the middle of the city. Makes me wonder what it would have been like if their menu hadn’t been changed.