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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sokyo Ramen Pop-Up by Chase Kojima at The Star, Pyrmont

Yuzu shio ramen at Sokyo Ramen by Chase Kojima at The Star

It's official. Ramen fever has struck Sydney hard. On a Saturday night at The Star, on only its third day of trade, the Sokyo Ramen pop-up is enveloped by a snaking queue. At the helm is Chase Kojima, who has been tantalising his Instagram followers for several months now with his ramen research efforts. In the kitchen is head chef Mai Tatekawa who isn't just serving up ramen, but her take on fried chicken too.

Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star, Sydney
Sokyo Ramen pop-up stall

Sokyo Ramen has popped up in the space formerly occupied by Kampung Star, the Malaysian stall that always looked like it struggled to attract many customers. It's a completely different scene now, the site overhauled with neon lighting and bright cut-outs of Asian kitsch, including a series of Psy silhouettes dancing Gangnam-style.

Japanese motif wall at Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star
Asian motif wall including Pikachu and mounted dragon cut-outs

There are four different ramen styles on the menu moving from the lighter yuzu shio (salt) ramen to the heavier spicy miso tantanmen. We go with all of them tonight, adding a side of Mai-san's fried chicken for good measure.

Head chef Chase Kojima on the pass at the Sokyo Ramen pop-up at The Star
Chase Kojima on the pass

What we didn't expect to see was Chase Kojima working on the pass on a Saturday night. Although the queue was a dozen-deep when we arrived, the queue moves relatively quickly. After paying at the counter, customers receive a buzzer that will vibrate when your order is ready for pick-up. At its busiest period, we wait about twenty minutes.

Mai-san's fried chicken at Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star
Mai-san's fried chicken $9

You won't find gyoza on the menu - a usual side to ramen in Japan - but Mai-san's fried chicken is a worthwhile replacement. Nine bucks nets you a huddle of fried chicken fillets served with a spiced up mayonnaise. The emphasis here is juicy tender chicken, marinated in sake and soy, with a thin shell of batter for crunch.

Yuzu shio ramen at Sokyo Ramen by Chase Kojima at The Star
Yuzu shio ramen $15

The ramen range starts with yuzu shio at the mild end, described as "light and refreshing" on the menu. Each bowl comes with a sheet of imprinted nori, usually adhered to the side of your bowl with water but Kojima seems to give this up at one point and places them flat on the ramen instead.

Yuzu shio ramen at Sokyo Ramen by Chase Kojima at The Star
Ramen noodles in the yuzu shio

Unlike a lot of other ramen houses, Sokyo Ramen uses a lot of chicken stock in its ramen bases. The yuzu shio is built on a stock made from chicken and katsuobushi, shavings of dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna. The clear broth isn't overwhelming, boosted by the use of salt (shio) and finely grated yuzu zest across the top that gives a lemony kick.

The ramen noodles are noticeably straight but cooked to a pleasingly toothsome chewiness. The traditional pork belly slices are swapped out at Sokyo Ramen too for pork cheek, slow cooked until tender and then sliced so thinly they easily fall apart in the mouth.

Kyoto shoyu ramen at Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star
Kyoto shoyu ramen $15

The flavour profile kicks up a notch with the Kyoto shoyu ramen, a chicken dashi stock that is visibly dotted with clumps of pork backfat. The inclusion of soy (shoyu) adds a hum of salty sweetness. You also get to chow down on pork cheek chashu here.

Gyokairui tonkotsu ramen at Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star
Gyokairui tonkotsu ramen $16

Gyokairui tonkotsu ramen is another level of intensity, although compared to the big porcine hitters of tonkotsu like Gumshara and Ramen Ikkyu, this one only offers a fleeting dance of collagen across your lips. The stock is a trifecta of pork, chicken and seafood dashi.

And can we talk about those eggs? They may not be marinated as promised on the menu, but the yolks are a perfect puddle of sunshine yellow.

Spicy miso tantanmen at Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star
Spicy miso tantanmen  $16

For maximum flavour, head straight for the spicy miso tantanmen. Spicy miso butter is added to pork and seafood dashi, a heavier soup that is paired with pork mince, a poached tomato half and a couple of broccoli spears. It's not overly spicy but it's definitely one for those looking for gutsier flavours in every mouthful.

Homemade yuzu pop soda mocktail at Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star
Homemade yuzu pop soda mocktail $5

Drinks-wise, the homemade yuzu pop soda mocktail is the runaway favourite with the crowd. The fizzy mix of yuzu, passionfruit, aloe vera juice, Orgeat almond syrup and soda works well as a palate cleanser between mouthfuls of ramen. They also do bubble teas, bubble coffee, freshly squeezed juices and imported Ramune lemonade - the ones with the marble stuck in the neck of the bottle.

Chase Kojima at his Sokyo Ramen pop-up at The Star

The Sokyo Ramen pop-up is scheduled to finish up at the end of November. Get slurping while you can.

Sokyo Ramen pop-up by Chase Kojima at The Star, Sydney

Sokyo Ramen Pop-Up Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sokyo Ramen by Chase Kojima
The Star
Level G, Cafe Court (near Messina Gelato)
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Sydney

Sokyo Ramen is open daily until its scheduled finish on November 30, 2015.

Opening hours:
Sunday and Monday 11.30am-9pm
Tuesday to Thursday 11.30am-10.30pm
Friday and Saturday 11.30am-11pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Sokyo at The Star - Omakase sushi with Takashi Sano
Sokyo at The Star - Lunch and dinner during truffle season
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/13/2015 02:40:00 am


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