Tender meat and soft noodles bathing in the juices of a belly-warming broth. Is there anything more satisfying than a clean slurp of ramen?
While Japan may lay claim to inventing the world's most sumptuous noodle soup, Sydney can hold its head high. Late-night ramen joints are almost as common as underground bars and beachside brunches.
Whether you're a fan of collagen-heavy, rich tonkotsu or a lighter miso broth, we have assembled our definitive list of Sydney’s tastiest ramen hangouts.
Here's where to find the best ramen in Sydney.
Surry Hills, Parramatta
Sneakers, bubbly, fried chicken and, of course, ramen. No, you aren’t in some sort of hybrid, cosmopolitan heaven. Welcome to Butter, where the chicken is succulent, the bar is always popping (corks and hip hop) and the ramen is a cataclysmic smorgasbord of photographic food porn. Topped with succulent chicken tenders (what Butter does best), the ramen is well worth the calorific indulgence.
Rising Sun Workshop
As sure as the (ramen) sun rises in the east, it sets in an inner-west motorcycle workshop in Newtown. Part café, part motorcycle mechanic, Rising Sun Workshop follows the adage of traditions being a guide and not a ruler. Three ramens are available at lunchtime, and each is a recipe that chef Nick Smith has painstakingly perfected.
"The Dark" could easily be one of our favourite Sydney ramens: it's a Shoyu ramen, featuring broth made with chicken, pork bones, shiitake and smoked hocks and topped with Kurobuta belly, black fungus, bamboo, egg and nori. "The Light" is a Shiyo with Bannockburn chicken broth, and "The Monk" is your vegetarian go-to, and can be made vegan on request too.
CBD, Central Park, Macquarie and Chatswood
There is a reason why Ippudo has taken over the ramen world. With four stores in Sydney alone, the Japanese-founded franchise has established what they call “Global Standard” ramen. While you can’t expect to see avo-toast ramen any time soon, Ippudo tailors their international menu to suit local seasons, produce and demands. Most ramen variations are made with Ippudo's creamy tonkotsu broth, signature secret dashi and housemade thin straight noodles. As a pre-ramen snack, we highly recommend Ippudo's pulled pork bun with umami sauce. It will change your life.
Ra Ra often attracts queues out the door—and once you've had a slurp or two of Ra Ra's ramen, you'll understand why. Owners Katie Shortland and Scott Gault are the custodians of a top-secret ramen recipe, passed down by ramen masters Go-san and Hyodo-san. Noodles are handcrafted daily and tonkotsu made traditionally using just water, garlic and pork bones. The intimate 28-seat venue offers an authentic insight into Japanese food culture too, thanks to its slurpable bowls, refined concrete fit-out and the epic selection of Japanese craft spirits on the menu.
In Japan’s major cities, it's totally probable that you will have the best meal of your travelling life at the dodgiest, tiniest, open all-night eatery. Ichibandori in Neutral Bay ticks all of those unassuming boxes. The always-packed 20-seat venue gives you a front seat to a team of meticulous chefs creating a divine, produce-driven selection of piping hot ramen creations.
With the intimidating guise of Japan’s finest chefs looming from tattered murals patched around the walls, this Darlinghurst ramen joint has set the bar high for itself. Luckily, the intimate 25-seater delivers. The abundance of aromas radiating from Chaco Bar's hole in the wall kitchen provides an accurate reflection of what is presented in each bowl. Fusion ramen deliciousness.
Anzac Parade in Kingsford is a student’s delight of so-cheap-it’s-cheerful Asian eateries. Manpuku sets itself apart from the hassle-free crowd. With a second store in Chatswood, Manpuku offers a no-frills, authentic ramen experience. Loosely translating to "Millions of Happiness", Manpuku achieves its namesake thanks to buttery noodles and a soul-warming broth.
From the ramen icons at Ippudo (see the above for confirmation of icon status) comes another noodle trailblazer, Gogyo. A sophisticated younger sibling of the esteemed franchise, Gogyo provides a chic experience inspired by up-market Tokyo eateries. With a mix of bar and shared long-table seating, the bustling venue encourages diners to sip on sake before diving into the Kogashi-style ramen. This "burned" style sees ingredients treated with chargrilled precision before joining noodles in a beautiful, piping hot broth.
What do you hope to find at the end of the queue? Forget the freebie, at Ryo’s in Crows Nest you’ll find chef-driven adoration of traditional tonkotsu-style ramen. There is no PR spin, nor glistening design. Ryo’s lets the thin egg noodles, soothing broth and mixture of toppings synonymous with the traditional ramen speak for themselves. The line out the door is worth it for the 12-hour slow-cooked pork bones.
As an expat hankering for a taste of home, Mori Higashida has introduced a heart-warming ode to his most beloved dish to one of Sydney’s busiest food courts (Eating World on Dixon Street, of course). Gumshara’s tonkotsu ramen is oily and slippery. Just the way it’s meant to be. Better yet, the self-serve garnish station really lets you go all-in with flavour.
Gaku Robata Grill
Gaku Robata is the food brainchild of Haru Inukai and Shimon Hanakura (former head chef at Aria). And, as you'd expect, it's a sensory ramen experience. The Tokyo-style hideaway offers a fresh, cosmopolitan menu with nods to French cooking techniques for dinner. Meanwhile, the hunger-busting ramen lunch menu (starting at $15) is an inexpensive collection of the finest quality produce the city has to offer.
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Image credit: Ra Ra Ramen | Bob Barrett.