IT WAS a bit disconcerting seeing my favourite food court – Dixon House – in Sydney’s Chinatown, in slight disarray with empty stalls and for lease signs scattered about the place the other day. Food court land can be a do or die affair, unfortunately.
Thankfully, the aunties at two of my favourites – Phnom Penh Teo Chew Noodle House and Won Ton Noodle House – are still there as they have been for over a decade dishing out great bowls of noodle soup, stir fries and braised dishes as has Sizzling and Hot Pot Kitchen which still attracts what seems to be an endless queue of diners that linger around other folks trying to get a seat or table in the main communal dining area.
I ventured down to Dixon House for lunch recently after reading a post about a ramen hole-in-the-wall called Ramen O-San Bar by Sydney street food bloggers Shawn and Alison of B-Kyu. I haven’t been to Dixon House for a while and as ramen is classic comfort food for me, it was a good incentive to pop my head in to visit this old Asian street food stalwart on Dixon Street mall.
Ramen O-San Bar is the newest joint for Chef Kazuteru’s who has six other such shops in the world (five in Japan and one in Cambodia). The stall immediately on the left as you enter through the sliding doors of Dixon House on the Hay and Dixon streets corner (next door to Phnom Penh Teo Chew Noodle House). Its menu is displayed on a huge banner hanging near the service window (which makes me think that Ramen O-San Bar may have been at a market or two), and features a variety of ramen as well as some other dishes (to the right there was a large pile of charsiu pork rice balls for $3). There is tonkatsu ramen ($9.80); sumo ramen (pork and chicken soup with pork kakuni); black garlic tonkatsu ramen ($10.80); spicy ramen ($11.80); seafood tsukemen ($13.80) as well as some rice bowls (pork belly and charsiu pork).
You can add extras to your ramen bowl for a small cost (like an egg, bamboo shoots, leek, shallot, nori, etc).
I love tonkatsu ramen and I measure ramen joints on the quality of this style of ramen. For ramen acolytes, this style of ramen broth is like Dom Perignon to a Champagne connoisseur. Tonkatsu is a cloudy white-coloured thick broth made from boiling pork bones for many hours which infuses the soup with a hearty pork flavor with a creamy consistency. Sometimes other lighter stock might be added to for the final stock soup.
I ordered Ramen O-San Bar’s tonkatsu ramen ($9.80) with the addition of a soft-boiled egg (in Japan it’s called onsen tamago), for $1.50).
The bowl took just over five minutes to be served (I assume as the onsen tamago was being bathed). It was a hearty, nutty and creamy, lip-smacking, collagen-enriched pork broth. Classic to the style. In the bowl was a topping of sliced spring onions, shredded wood fungus and slices of pork. The noodles were firm.
I added about half a teaspoon each of sesame seeds, minced garlic and chilli flakes (available at the the stall), to the bowl after my initial couple of slurps just for a flavour boost. Did it need it? Probably not – but I am a creature of habit when it comes to adding such tid bits to my ramen (don’t worry, I did taste the soup before adding my extras). The onsen tamago was excellent and almost perfect – it had a runny orange yolk and was a fine addition to the ramen.
Maybe I should have also ordered a nori sheet and some menma? Next time.
This ramen hit the spot and ticked all the boxes. The only thing that I could criticise was the lack of extras – you need to build your own from a base (as in Japan) but in OZ there are other ramen places where you get a little bit more (such as nori and menma). But considering the quality of the broth – extra bells and whistles are only an after thought.
With a line starting to form outside Ramen O-San Bar as I left I hope its popularity reinvigorates my favourite food court.
The verdict: Ramen O-San Bar has one of the best food court tonkatsu ramen in town and is worthy of a place alongside the much raved about Gumshara (Eating World Food Court) and Ramen Ikkyu (Sussex Food Court).
What: Ramen O-San Bar, Stall B1 at Dixon House Food Court, cnr Hay and Dixon streets, Haymarket, Sydney, NSW Australia. The food court is open seven days a week from 10.30am to 8pm (but some outlets’ openings vary).
Ate there: February 2015.