30 April 2011

Ramen Bar at Berkelouw Books ~ Japanese - Newtown [CLOSED]

Intriguing Japanese ramen with a Swedish twist at the new Berkelouw Books Ramen Bar in Newtown. [CLOSED - LATE 2011]

A Japanese ramen bar in a booskhop? With a Swedish chef? We gotta try this...

The ramen bar is in the rear of the ground floor of Newtown's Berkelouw Books. It's dang groovy, with plenty of room to move on a rainy Friday night.

The menu takes it's naming cues from famous Japanese authors - Murakami (Alison't favourite), Kurosawa the director and the fictional Miyagi (wax on, wax off). There's quite a few vegetarian options (yasai) and a choice of broths.

One of Alison's biggest gripes about ramen bars in Sydney is the lack of free pickles or ginger to add to your bowl. Is there a chronic fear of ginger thieves? We order the homemade pickle thinking it's similar to ramen pickles but this is more in the style of an antipasto, on a  bed of seaweed to bring it back to the Japanese flavour.

On the specials board, along with a spicy pork mince ramen option, is Ringo Hamu ($6.50) and the rough translation of apple ham is what this dish is and more. Smoked pork hock and shitake mushroom terrine with kimchi and apple compote. The kimchi is made from cucumber and red cabbage and the flavours are a marriage.

Murakami Ramen - just like his novels, thick and tasty and leaves you wanting more. The broth is a concentrated miso flavoured beauty, heavy on the Gumshara side of porkiness. Instead of the standard soft boiled egg there is a poached egg that breaks open to ooze the egg yolk over the noodles.

The Miyagi Ramen is a salty shoyu based broth, which Shawn detects has a real karate kick of peppery flavour. Same eggy goodness, and the noodles in both have the right amount of chew. There's two types of pork, a shoulder and a roasted pulled style, not as much as other joints but enough to give you an idea.

We worry about slurping ramen juice all over the exquisite books surrounding us, but those cookbooks behind us should be made to take food splatters. As we sit there in a bookshop eating noodles and listening to Velvet Underground and The Pixies, Shawn feels a pang of New York hipster and I feel a Harajuku funky moment.Slurp it up.

It's not authentic Japanese ramen but it is a very interesting, tasty and well-presented fusion of east and west. We enjoyed our feed immensley and will be back to work our way through the menu.

Berkelouw Books Ramen Bar is at 6-8 O'Connell Street Newtown, on the ground floor. It's just off King Street, turn at Guzman & Gomez or the T2 shop on the corner.

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  1. I've been to this bookshop quite a few times but never notice the Ramen Bar. I wonder how new it is? A lunchtime adventure is order me thinks...

  2. It's been open about a month - yes, just close enough for lunch!

  3. Oh god, must go here. Poached egg and porky broth, oh god.

  4. A friend told me about this place a couple of weeks ago and I tried to remember to get down there. Bugger, looks like I forgot. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I haven't been quite adventurous enough to go any off King Street in newtown....haha :) But this place sounds really interesting- I'll have to try it out some time!

  6. im not even brave enough to eat on king st. So von your positively adventurous is my books :P

  7. Ate there with my girlfriend once. We weren't overly impressed, neither of us finished our ramen. Gyoza were dry and did not have a very Japanese flavour to them and the soups were complete soy bombs, drowning out any other flavour they may have had.

    Hope they get their act together, will try again in a few months to see if they have improved at all.

  8. This ramen shop must be run by non-Japanese people definitely.
    The names of each ramen do not make sense at all.
    One of them, 'Chugoku-go', means Chinese language.
    Authentic soup of Japanese ramen is not so dark as above and tonkotsu does not contain miso.
    Jasmine tea is not Japanese but Chinese.

  9. Anon - this place isn't trying or pretending to be authentic - it's more a fusion of East and West, I take my hat off them for trying something new and different :-)

  10. Come to think of it, I remember marvelling at a flavour in my ramen, it was some kind of pepper I think, possibly a Schezuan pepper, it appeared once in every few mouthfuls. It was not a Japanese flavour but dang it was delicious.

  11. Hey , im the head chef at the ramen bar and would just like to clarify a few things. we are , as pointed out, not of Japanese heritage, quite the opposite actually... we are a team of Swedish, English and Australia chefs who just want to cook food we find delicious and that we love to eat but that we cant seem to find elsewhere. As for the names of the dishes, well.. its more of a joke and not meant to be taken too seriously. As for the "confusing" flavors , its all the flavors we love working with. the whole concept is about having fun and being inventive and use and fuse all the foods and flavors from wherever it may come from, as long as its delicious. i was recently in Japan and what some consider "authentic" Japanese Ramen flavors , is certainly a matter of taste over there... i had Ramens with a green curry base or red curry base. organic tomato broth and all sorts.. so they are certainly having a lot of fun with their ramens as well. we love feedback, good or bad, it helps us improve and get better at what we do. but in the meantime , prepare yourselves for some epic winter ramens my friends. Peace & Love. Robbie

  12. We dig Robbie, love your work. Don't worry, some of our Japanese readers get concerned about Japanese food being made by non-Japanese - http://www.streetfood.com.au/2010/11/japan-village-japanese-enmore-menu.html

  13. ah, its totally understandable... i'd be interested to see how i'd react if a non swede opened up a Swedish themed restaurant...

  14. Robbie, the point is whether the recipe follows authentic Japanese ramen or not.
    A few of cooks in next Youtube are non-Japanese but following authentic recipe strictly.
    Robbie's noodles should be called 'Fusion noodle' or so, not Japanese ramen.

  15. Wasn't ramen originally brought to Japan from China? Doesn't that make Japanese ramen fusion food itself? http://www.ramenlicious.com/encyclopedia/history-of-ramen.html

    To say there is an authentic recipe that must be followed is just wrong. Who wrote the recipe?

    Next time I am in Japan I expect all my Italian pizza to be cooked by Italians and all my French food to be cooked by the French and they must all follow an authentic recipe strictly. Otherwise it should be called Fusion Pizza or Fusion cassoulet.

  16. http://www.alternet.org/story/151235/the_strange_history_of_ramen_noodles?akid=7080.283837.NlFLiL&rd=1&t=21

  17. >Wasn't ramen originally brought to Japan from China?

    No. There is no food called 'Ramen' in China. If you cannot believe it, order 'Ramen' in China and wait until it is served. You can starve.

    >To say there is an authentic recipe that must be followed is just wrong. Who wrote the recipe?

    Whether somebody wrote recipe or not is not the criterion to be called authentic food.

    >Next time I am in Japan I expect all my Italian pizza to be cooked by Italians and all my French food to be cooked by the French and they must all follow an authentic recipe strictly.

    Can't you read, "A few of cooks in next Youtube are non-Japanese but following authentic recipe strictly."? If you still do not like the idea, say, "It is fake!".

  18. I was wondering what this would be like when I came across it the other day. Whilst you enjoyed it, some others did not. I'll just have to try it for myself. Am glad for my Asian fusion in Newtown though.

  19. Ramen seems to be a personal experience in prefered flavour (and authenticity). Make sure you try it and judge for yourself. It's not standard issue, there's some deliberate differences, but it's worth the effort.

  20. Actually, you CAN order ramen in china. It's called La Mian 拉面


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