The election wasn’t the only cause of long queues on Saturday. There was a long and constant line that had nothing to do with voting booths or sausage sizzles; it was in Neutral Bay outside Yasaka Ramen’s new restaurant.
In most ways Yasaka Ramen’s new 24-seat restaurant is just like the original. It’s bright orange, relatively small and the menu is almost identical. The homemade noodles, the broth and the tare (seasoning) are all the same. But it tastes different. The change is down to the new cooking method.
“Here we don't use the pressure cooker. It's just traditional,” says ex-Gumshara man and Yasaka head chef Takeshi Sekigawa. He and his business partner Ben Zhang made a splash importing Japanese pressure cookers to make ramen broth at Yasaka’s first restaurant in the CBD. They’re used to make the broth more intense, but here in Neutral Bay, the Japanese community’s old heartland, Sekigawa is making ramen how it’s been done for decades, with just heat and a pot. “It's thicker and the taste is a little more sweet,” he says. “We don't use oil or fat, just bones and water to make soup.”
The other difference in the menu, besides the lack of don and curry, is just as subtle. Look at the side-dish menu, under prawn karage and chilled tofu, and you’ll find bao buns. There are two options, char siu and kakuni, the latter of which Sekigawa explains as “soft bone pork”. He says it's the long cooking time that makes the bones soft. The char siu (Chinese-style pork belly) is a mixture of Chinese, Japanese and Italian flavours. “It’s just pork belly, it tastes Japanese but it’s a mix of Western and Japanese herbs and spices.” At the moment they’re only available here, but Sekigawa says they’ll come to the city soon.
The other thing on the horizon is breakfast. Sekigawa is short on details on how exactly it will work, but he hints at doing some breakfast baos and early-morning ramen alongside typical Sydney cafe dishes. “I want to bring the morning meal in Surry Hills to here,” says Sekigawa.
BYO will soon be introduced and they may get a licence in the future.