The kitchen crew yell out 'orders up' while waitresses loudly greet their guests with shouts of kangei (welcome). Amid the noise, sounds of zuzutto fill the air, as patrons hunch over and lovingly slurp from the gigantic bowls in front of them. While the austere tables and bustling atmosphere set the scene for a classic Japanese ramen house, Ippudo is no ordinary noodle joint. The now global franchise had its humble beginnings in Japan in 1985 but since its international debut in 2008 has become a ramen mecca, with more than 100 locations worldwide.
Nestled among the greenery of "Sydney's new downtown", Ippudo Central Park is a smaller, more intimate location than its "ramen brasserie" sister in the Westfield. The real draw of Sydney's second Ippudo, however, is the special miso-tonkotsu ($17-$25), a twist on the original tonkotsu broth, which isn't available in the CBD. The red miso blend is thicker and a bit nuttier than the classic pork-bone based cloudy broth. Succulent pork belly in the miso tonkotsu chashu ($22) is topped with an attractive mix of corn kernels, cabbage and pickled bamboo shoots that set the dish apart on the ramen menu.
For first-timers, the shiromaru ($15) — Hakata-style ramen with juicy pork loin, crunchy bean sprouts and silky black mushrooms — is the speciality that put Ippudo at the top of the ramen trade. Add the nitamago ($2), a delicious yet slippery whole flavoured egg, at your own risk. Whatever your ramen preference, order the noodles hard, as recommended.
Part of the quality ramen joint's global success stems from its client-minded approach. The Ippudo Sydney locations combine local products with Ippudo flavouring and noodle concept; the Aussie patrons are also considered in the unconventional shojin ($15), a vego option with seaweed and whole grain noodles that would not be present on a Japanese menu.
While the famous Ippudo bun selection is not yet available, there are plenty of other entree options for those with an enormous appetite. Try the unconventional fish and chip ($14), which is a lightly battered and perfectly golden salmon, served with a side of spicy tomato sauce and a blend of Japanese-style tartar sauce; the fried egg with a creamy yolk adds a truly unusual aspect to this dish.
For those with the mightiest of appetites, the Kae-dama system will sit you with an extra serving of noodles for just $2 extra. So go on, zuzutto away.