Yang is already a familiar name around the sleepy north shore suburb of Castlecrag. Yang & Co, the “Australian Asian” restaurant owned and operated by chef Lex Wong, has been serving up cuisine-bending dishes for a few years now – think pork belly with kimchi on roti paratha, and fried popcorn chicken with Japanese-style curry. But the extra timeout over lockdown gave Wong a chance to experiment, and out of it came an entirely new concept.

Wong relaunched his eatery as Yang’s Ramen and Tacos in October. “Rather than specialise in an entire cuisine, I wanted to focus on a specific dish, but be really open-minded about how I approached it,” Wong tells Broadsheet.

Wong is no stranger to Mexican cuisine, after getting his start at Chica Bonita in Manly. He even made a guest appearance at the diner’s Taco Tuesday recently – whipping up a brisket taco with xni pec (a habanero salsa) and jus, and a champagne lobster taco that sold out in record time.

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When creating his own menu, Wong put a lot of thought into how he could produce a high-quality product while retaining the street-food-level price point you’d expect of a taco. His solution? “Buy the whole thing,” he says, referring to the cows, pigs and chickens he uses, “and make it interesting by preparing it in different ways.”

The carne asada taco is filled with different cuts of dry-aged grass-fed Angus beef, cooked over coals and served with guacamole and a house-made salsa verde done two ways (fresh and roasted). The leftover bones go into the broth for Wong’s ramen, which he serves with noodles prepared daily, just 15 minutes before service.

Wherever possible, Wong likes to start from scratch. For example, he makes the cheese that tops the potato taco (roasted sweet potato finished over coals with an almond salsa and pine nuts), as well as the soft corn tortillas all the tacos are served in.

He also makes most of the hot sauces, including the lacto-fermented habanero salsa served with the cochinita pibil taco (Yucatan-style pork slow-roasted in banana leaf and spices, and served with pickled red onion). He says all the fun he’s had with fermenting has turned him into something of a “hot-sauce sommelier”.

The ramen menu is equally impressive. Wong brings Japanese and Mexican elements together with surprising seamlessness. “Why can’t you have a Margarita with your ramen, or a saké with your tacos?” he asks.

The tonkotsu (thick pork) ramen is topped with a generous chunk of pork char siu that’s been cooked over coals – and choosing between the tori paitan (thick chicken) ramen or Wong’s take on chicken noodle soup is tough. He’s perfected a broth that doesn’t leave you feeling heavy – in fact, you could probably even convince yourself to try to fit in a chocolate and Milo ice-cream taco or a black sesame and miso sponge cake with miso curd for dessert.

Yang’s Ramen and Tacos
79 Edinburgh Rd, Castlecrag

Hours:
Tue to Thur 5pm–10pm
Fri to Sat 12pm–3pm, 5pm–10pm

yangsramenandtacos.com.au