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Monday, January 19, 2009

Zenya Noodle Bar, Eastwood

Gyoza, included in the $3 ramen upgrade for 3 gyoza & salad,
(otherwise order separately for $5.80 for six)
Pork and vegetable dumpling with Japanese soy
and citrus dipping sauce

The ramen adventure continues.

K & M are still making their way through their photocopied list of Top 15 Ramen in Sydney, photocopied from a Japanese community magazine. They've already eaten at Zenya and are keen to go back again, this time with second opinions ie. fellow rameniacs.

As we drive past to look for parking, G-man wails "Oh nooooo... it's clooooooooosed!" He's almost inconsolable. I'd seen the doorway too, noting its dark and non-lit appearance.

We park anyway and head towards the restaurant, fingers crossed. Thankfully it's not true. Zenya is open. The front room just has zero lighting [see photo at the end of this post for proof!].

Genmaicha roasted rice green tea

The noodle bar is narrow but deep, with long lounges along the wall and bench seating on the other side of each table. Small metallic exhaust fans hang over each table, a reminder that this was once a Korean restaurant, we presume. It's busy and constantly full, mainly populated with students.

We're impressed with the simple but elegant genmaicha green tea. The roasted rice grains add a sweet nuttiness to the green tea, and the tea pots and matching cups are pretty to the eye as well.

Tempura assorted $12.80 (main-size)
Light crispy tempura that includes prawns, sweet potato, pumpkin,
onion, eggplant and beans

We start by sharing a plate of assorted tempura as an entree, a pleasing crunch of crisp batter.

Side salad, included in the $3 ramen upgrade for 3 gyoza & salad

Half of us have upgraded our ramen to include the side salad and three gyoza. I'm particularly impressed with the gyoza which have a zingy fresh filling of pork and cabbage, and satisfying golden fried bottoms. The skins have thin and delicate, and their more-ishness takes me straight back to Japan.

DIY chopstick rests - two styles

The do-it-yourself chopstick rest, constructed by folding the protective sleeve of your chopsticks, is now a ritual for me. I have to laugh when I see the version by Mr Potato Head -- he shrugs and says rolling it is faster and just as effective.

Spicy tontoro ramen $12.80
Lighted salted chicken flavoured soup noodle
topped with succulent pieces of spicy pork, bean sprout,
nori paper, dried mushroom, bamboo shoots and boiled egg

And then it's ramen time. According to the menu, all the ramen soups are pork-based, in stocks that have been processed for over 50 hours.

Spicy miso ramen $11.80
topped with bean sprouts, nori paper, sliced mushroom,
bamboo shoots, corn, boiled egg, roasted pork and fresh chilli

I'm going halves with G-man. We start with the spicy miso ramen, not quite as hot as we'd expected, although the fresh chillies do add some heat. The bowl groans with crunchy slivers of wood fungus mushroom, sweet juicy kernels of corn, slices of bamboo shoot, wilting bamboo shoots and a halved just-set boiled egg, the yolk solid but slightly squidgy (yum).

The highlight is the roasted pork, a pale slice of pork belly shimmering with ribbons of fat, the flesh so tender it practically melts in the mouth.

Teriyaki chicken udon $11.80, or $14.80 with 3 gyoza and salad
Soy flavoured white-wheat noodle soup
topped with wakame seaweed, shitake mushroom,
chopped shallot, fish cake and teriyaki chicken

Citrus pepper ramen $12.80
Lightly salted chicken flavoured soup noodle blended with citrus pepper,
and topped with bean sprout, nori paper, dried mushroom,
bamboo shoots, boiled egg, corn and roasted pork

We swap bowls halfway and I slurp my way into the citrus pepper ramen (my choice). There's an energising and uplighting flavour of lemon, yuzu and pepper to the soup, sweetened with the juice-bursting kernels of corn. Again the roast pork is satisfyingly tender.

Current personal ramen rankings as at 19 Jan 2009:
#1: Ryo's Noodles
#2: Zenya
#3: Tokyo Ramen
#4: Menya
#5: Ichi Ban Boshi
#6: Ramen Kan

Ryo's Noodles still has the thickest and most flavoursome (and saltiest) stock, and I think their noodles have the best chewiness or al-dente factor.

And for those interested in seeing the Top 15 List of Ramen in Sydney, check back here on Tuesday :)

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Zenya Noodle Bar
217 Rowe St, Eastwood, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9874 2122

Opening hours:
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5.30pm-9.30pm (til 10pm on Fri & Sat)
Closed on Mondays

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Japanese ramen -- Ajisen Ramen, Haymarket
Japanese ramen -- Ichi Ban Boshi, Sydney (Feb08) and (Aug05)
Japanese ramen -- Menya Japan Noodle Bar, Haymarket
Japanese ramen -- Ramen Kan, Haymarket (Aug 05), (Nov 04)
Japanese ramen -- Ryo's Noodles, Crows Nest (Mar08), (Aug07) and (Jul07)
Japanese ramen -- Tokyo Ramen, Hornsby

Eastwood - Da Wan Lai (Chinese)
Eastwood - Zenya Noodle Bar (Japanese)
8 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/19/2009 01:37:00 am


  • At 1/19/2009 4:15 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Glad to see you have enjoyed one of my favourite local eateries. Not suprising you have ranked them only 2nd to Ryo's! I'm sure there will be even longer queues now.

    If you do go back, make sure you try their takoyakis and unagi.

  • At 1/19/2009 9:16 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your chopstick rest is definitely more stylish, even if it's slower to make. Yummy boiled egg and corn niblets!

  • At 1/19/2009 9:19 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Didn't they have soft shell crab ramen? Your description of the pork sounds flubberlicious.

  • At 1/19/2009 10:45 am, Blogger Annie said…

    Yum! I really will have to go and have some ramen soon... you are making me hungry! And did you manage to leave without that teapot and cup in your bag?! It's stunning!

  • At 1/19/2009 2:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you mind posting a tutorial on the DIY chopstick rests? I'm intrigued.

  • At 1/20/2009 12:58 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ange527 - Next time I need to bring an extra stomach. Thanks for the tips, and ha, I doubt there'll be extra queues but let me know if you notice any increased activity!

    Hi Arwen - lol. The chopstick rest is a new thing to me, but it's a good time-filler whilst you're waiting for your meal (and actually useful too!). The soft-boiled egg is always a highlight and the corn kernels were so super sweet and juicy.

    Hi Veruca Salt - They had soft shell crab as a side but I think I'm starting to get crabbed out these days (quelle horreur!). The pork did involve some contemplative eye-closing :)

    Hi Annie - I was just reading an article about people "appropriating" restaurant tableware - usually the people in the fanciest clothes! Hope you satiate that ramen craving soon!

    Hi Angeline - Sure, no problem. Next time I have ramen I'll find a volunteer to demonstrate :)

  • At 1/20/2009 8:32 pm, Blogger danster said…

    Hey Helen, i've been reading your blog for ages and have thoroughly enjoyed every single article but have yet to post until now. Have you tried the ramen at Takeru on Kent St and how would you rate that?

  • At 1/21/2009 1:07 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Danny - Thank you for being such a long-term reader and an even bigger thank for finally making your first comment. Hurrah!

    I haven't tried Takeru on Kent Street yet, but thanks for the tip.

    ps. Once you've made your first comment, it's so much easier to keep 'em coming :)


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