ZENYA Noodle Bar stands out amongst the surrounding Korean and Chinese restaurants on Rowe Street at Eastwood for two reasons. One, it’s Japanese and two, it has a stunning and contemporary chocolate-hued and exposed stone interior opposed to those stark white-washed walls that you tend to get in other Asian restaurants.
I’ve come here for the ramen and Zenya has a reputation for making a good one.
The restaurant is narrow but long, with a wooden bench and stools at the front of the restaurant while beyond in the long, deep main space lie the tables (with stainless steel exhaust funnels above them – possibly from life as a former Korean BBQ restaurant?) as well a TV blurting out a bit of J-pop. First impressions count – decor great – first human contact bad. As a sole diner I was put at the bench and was ready to order (having studied the menu outside) but the front service gentlemen told me: “I have to do something else”, and went back to the front counter to shuffle menus (taking orders probably isn’t in his job description but surely client service is). Thankfully for Zenya’s service reputation a pleasant waitress approached me only after three minutes to take my order.
I ordered the Sho-yu Ramen set (for $9.80 -plus a $3 upgrade with a ramen or udon dish), and comes with gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) and salad. I also ordered a pot of green tea ($2.50) and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tea that arrived in the pretty ceramic pot and matching cup was Japanese genmaicha green tea (a loose-leaf green tea which contains roasted brown rice grains). The tea, which is slightly cloudy with a light emerald-green colour, has a slight roasted flavour to it and is always a joy to drink. And, best of all, it is unlimited.
The small green leaf salad and the gyoza came out first. The salad was a basic mixed leaf salad with sliced onion and a wedge of tomato and a tangy miso-style dressing. The three gyoza were filled with seasoned pork with cabbage and spring onion and were moist and juicy – the thin skins lightly fried then steamed. They came with two dipping sauces – one soy with citrus overtones and another slightly spicier version.
Next came the steaming bowl of ramen with wooden ladle. The pork broth was light brown with two slices of roast pork, a beautifully boiled egg with gooey centre, bean sprouts, matchstick-slices of dried mushroom, chopped spring onion, mema (pickled bamboo), a dusting of sesame seeds and a square of nori paper to one side all – on top of chewy ramen noodles. The soup was rich and flavoursome – with the scent of pork and soy wafting through the steam. It was certainly a broth that had been well prepared and lovingly worked on in order to integrate all its components over time. It was well-balance had some guts but was not overpowering.
One of the other courteous waiters told me that the pork broth is made fresh from pork bones and a pig’s head (which is a traditional ingredient), and left to simmer for over 14 hours. Apparently Zenya’s two most popular ramen were the Tokyo (made with a chicken stock), and teriyaki chicken (in a chicken or pork stock). For ramen aficionados there is a range of 16 ramen styles to choose from at Zenya, including miso-based and the shio (salted) style. There also is a range of bento boxes, udon and a variety of other Japanese-style dishes (such as donburi), available.
The verdict: Contemporary and warm interior and great and authentic ramen (from $9.80) which has been prepared with attention and skill. The extra $3 for gyoza and salad makes it a nice all-rounder. Real tea! Zenya will not disappoint ramen afficandos and the menu will cater for the non-noodle lover. Someone, though, needs to pull aside the front man and give him a stern talking to.
What: Zenya Noodle Bar, 217 Rowe Street, Eastwood NSW 2122. Phone: (02) 9874 2122. Open: Lunch on Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am to 3pm and dinner on Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm to 9.30pm (until 10pm on Fri & Sat). Closed on Mondays. BYO (wine only). www.zenyanoodlebar.com
Ate there: 31 July 2010.
Go to the Oodles of Noodles page for more information on ramen.