With food court ambience, Ichi-ban Boshi clearly isn’t about fancy trappings. What lures in diners is simple and tasty Japanese fare. Located near the Japanese bookshop giant, Kinokuniya, mark it down as a solid spot for a night of wintery self-care - kicking off with a warm noodle soup and concluding with a new book to read.
When I arrive on the stroke of 6pm, Ichi-ban Boshi is already full. The self-serve waiting system allows you to request a table, either solo or shared, then hover in the wings as you wait for your number. Despite both of their tonkotsu ramen selling out at 3pm, I’m still delivered menu cards touting these signature items. It’s a bit of a tease, heralding the start of an affable but error-ridden table service.
Fair pricing across the menu sees us precede our ramen with snacks and sake. The house-brand junmai daiginjo, Ichibanboshi ($25/300ml), is pleasant enough, cutting against the intensity of cucumber dragged through salty pickled plum sauce.
Chikuwa Isobe-Age ($7) make even better drinking snacks. Shaped like bamboo shoots, they are battered fish cakes which have been seasoned with dried seaweed (nori).
For something more fun, the Tempura Salmon Roll ($10.50) is a deep-fried salmon roll. It has been lightly covered in tempura batter then drizzled with chilli mayo. and sprinkled with shallots. It’s filling and tasty, and cooked so quickly and gently that the interior salmon stays cool and raw.
Wanting something tasty, I eventually (after trying for both signature tonkotsu ramen) opt for the Aburi Chashu-men ($14). This noodle soup has a light soy pork broth, firm noodles, bok choy, nori, shallots and bamboo shoots, but the centrepiece is really the aburi chashu - charred slices of fatty roast pork.
I order it with a Special Boiled Egg ($2) that is forgotten, but rectified quickly. I find my ramen enjoyable but salty. When our second Sparkling Water ($3) finally arrives (a long time after the first one), I polish it off quickly.
My vegetarian dining companion also ordered a Special Boiled Egg ($2) to bulk up her Vegetable Ramen ($14), though this time the kitchen got it right. It was a generously proportioned mound of nicely firm egg noodles (ask for udon if you don’t want any animal products) and vegetables – corn, carrot, cabbage, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and more – presented a soybean stock. This stock also saw her work up a thirst.
Despite the continuing queue, we weren’t hurried, and enjoyed this unpretentious meal in a casual setting, right in the heart of the CBD.
Level 2, The Galeries,
500 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 7677