Okonomiyaki pancake $4.50
We're on a search for good ramen. K and M have been eating their way through a list of Top 15 Ramen Dishes in Sydney--printed recently in a Japanese local mag--and now we're at Tokyo Ramen in the bustling Westfield Shopping Centre at Hornsby.
Tokyo Ramen is doing brisk business as well. In addition to the constant queue of people at the takeaway counter, there's a high rotation of noodle slurpers eating in, either perched on stools at the counter or huddled around the high-demand square tables.
Directly opposite is sister establishment, Tokyo Sushi, an island of rice and nori amidst the tides of shoppers, trolleys and dawdling children. The sushi looks good too, made fresh on site using a clever sushi machine that creates ready mats of rice that get handflipped onto nori sheets and then filled and rolled by the multi-tasking sushi staff.
Negimiso ramen $11.50 plus extra half-egg
Roast pork and shallots with a little chilli
But we're here for ramen. Most of us go for the negimiso ramen, a roast pork and shallot combination in a thick miso soup. We're surprised to find the porkstir-fried in a garlicky and spicy sauce, its residual oil a bit rich and heavy on the palate. Negi means leek, although in this case we end up with plenty of shallots. The stock is thick and almost opaque. It's quite spicy too with a heat that builds up as you near the bottom of the bowl.
We'd also ordered half a boiled egg as an extra, anticipating a delightful buttery moist egg yolk that the Japanese usually do so well. Today it's slightly overcooked, with a disappointing grey ring around the yolk.
Miso butter corn ramen $9.50
Roast pork and corn kernels with butter
M goes for something different with the miso butter corn ramen. The Japanese seem to love butter and corn, particularly on ramen. You can smell the butter as soon as the bowl hits the table. It's a Exxon-Valdez slick of melted butter that advances relentlessly toward anything in its path.
"Is it like drinking melted butter?" I ask. He nods slowly and reluctantly, a slight grimace on his face. This one's for hard core butter fans only.
The G-man orders the okonomiyaki pancake as an extra side dish. We dutifully help him finish it. It's been sitting in the hot display cabinet so it's a little thick and stodgy, although it goes down easily with the brown sauce and blob of mayo.
And my new trick for the day: watching M fold all the disposable chopstick sleeves into miniature chopstick rests. It's something I've never seen before although everyone else assures me this is soooooo what everyone does. I will do, from now on!
Final verdict? Ryo's Noodles still ahead by a slurp or two.
Are you a ramen fan? Where do you head when you're starvin' for ramen?
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Hornsby Westfield Shopping Centre
236 Pacific Highway, Hornsby, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9987 2688
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12/17/2008 12:15:00 am