With floor to ceiling glass windows and a sculptural blonde wood interior that extends up onto the ceiling, Tontaro Ramen Honten casts a cosy warm glow onto Sussex Street.
It’s what attracted me into this little ramen shop, before I knew it was yet another Jun Toyoda enterprise. You might know this restaurateur from his food court Chinatown eatery, Ramen O-San, or from his North Shore ramen shop, Ramen Megumi, or maybe you’re familiar with his long-standing Potts Point restaurant, Busshari, joined more recently by yet another ramen spinoff, Wok and Noodle Bar. Either way, Toyoda is big news.
At Tontaro, Toyada is trying to branch out from the collagen-rich, thick tonkotsu ramen he’s famous for at O-San. Rather than fatty pork bones, he’s gone for pricier marrow-rich bones to give the soup more depth.
While the pork Hokkaido-style Spicy Miso Ramen ($17), that is made with house-blended miso and chilli oil, is still rich with mouth-coating fat, there’s also a deep and satisfying middle to the less viscous soup. It’s appealing to look at too, with two charred slices of char-siu pork, half an umami egg, slivers of leek, green shallots, black fungus, bamboo shoots and a dusting of chilli flakes.
If it’s umami you’re chasing, the Black Tonkotsu Ramen ($16) has you covered. It’s kogashi – or charred – ramen that’s got a dark, smoky-flavoured broth made using roasted garlic oil heated in a wok over a high flame.
It has a deeply savoury, very adult flavour palate, with a hint of intriguing bitterness, that sees me dipping into a Ramune ($4.50) sweet Japanese lemonade for occasional respite, before diving back for more of the compelling soup. The soup's charry flavour goes particularly nicely with the blow-torched char-siu pork slices. Dipping in deeper into your soup, you’ll find wonderful house-made noodles that are a chewy, toothsome pleasure to eat.
Both the look, and (more importantly) the broth at this ramen shop really appealed to me. With cute wooden solo dining hutches that pull you away from the scrutiny of other diners as you slurp your soup, I could see myself nipping back for another sneaky bowl of tonkotsu ramen before the season is finished.
Tontaro Ramen Honten
339-345 Sussex Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9283 3522