52-54 Albion St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Sydney is a city full of good ramen and discerning noodle-slurpers, so for a bowl of ramen to stand out, it really has to be something special. And in late 2017, that came about in the form of Gogyo and its burnt miso ramen, which had the city lining up for a taste.
So what’s the deal with this ramen? Well for starters, it’s definitely not your regular miso ramen. Instead of miso paste worked into a broth, the daring chefs heat a ladle-full of pork lard until it’s at a searing 300oC, before dousing the (sometimes literal) flames with miso and chicken broth. The result is an alarmingly dark broth, suspended with globules of charred pork fat. It’s easy to see why this has captured the city’s imagination, because there’s certainly nothing else like this around.
Gogyo may be new in Sydney, but it’s actually part of a well-established chain back in Japan, and sister to the popular Ippudo. But to call it just a ramen chain seems a little bit unfair; although the exterior is rather minimalistic and traditional, once you step inside, you’ll find yourself in a sleek, dark space that feels like a cross between a high-end Japanese restaurant, and a fashionable hotel bar. Reflecting that is a menu consisting not only of ramen, but also a rather inventive list of snacks and share plates that just begs for an accompanying drink.
The oft-raved about crackling piggy roll was unfortunately no longer on the snack menu, but the Chilli Dog Roll ($8) sounded just as fun. This was literally a chilli dog in miniature, but the flavour is definitely larger than life. Instead of watery chilli and a plasticky sausage, this was upgraded with a snappy, smoky pork snag, and a dollop of surprisingly spicy miso-laced chilli. The bun was, of course, squidgy and sweet.
I’m breaking all sorts of self-imposed rules here by ordering the Wagyu Sukiyaki Spring Roll ($7), but hey, I had heard good things about it. Served piping hot and golden, the crispy casing held a fragrant mix of onion and wagyu in a sweet sukiyaki sauce. It’s definitely tasty, especially with the side of sukiyaki mayo. But would I order it again for the best part of a tenner? Probably not.
Now here’s what we’re all here for – the Kogashi Miso Ramen ($18). Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any ramen-related flames from the kitchen that night, but the periodic hiss of the soup hitting the burning pork lard was unmistakable. The resulting broth was every bit as thick and murky as I’d been promised, with only a couple slices of charshu and half an egg visible on the surface.
And indeed, this was nothing like I’d ever had before. Despite the intimidating appearance, the flavour profile of the soup was surprisingly smooth and mellow. The combination of miso and charred pork fat combined to form a deep, earthy sweetness, rather than the bitterness you might imagine. The soup was also incredibly viscous, which meant that it was not good for drinking, but did ensure that there was soup clinging to every bite of the taut, straight noodles. As for the toppings, the charshu was tender and the egg gooey, but it’s hard for anything to make much of an impression when they have the charred miso broth to compete with.
The tonkotsu ramen at Ippudo was one of the best I’ve had, so I expected the Tonkotsu Classic ($17) at Gogyo to be just as impressive. To be honest, this was not only nowhere as good as Ippudo, it probably ranks the lowest out of all the bowls of ramen I’ve had in Sydney so far. Despite the admirable creaminess of the broth, the tare – the flavour base the ramen broth – was so mild I wondered if it was there at all. As a result, what I got was a bowl of ramen that lacked any depth or complexity, and though not bad, did nothing to compel me to eat it.
As I had hoped, the kogashi miso ramen is one of a kind, and alone is worth a trip to Gogyo. But with that said, now that I’ve tried it, I’m not sure I’ll be coming back any time soon. The snacks I had were nice, but very, very expensive for what you get, even considering the quality, and the tonkotsu ramen was average enough for me not to be overly enthusiastic about trying out the other options. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t say no to another dinner at Gogyo, given that the food was pretty good all-up, I can’t help but feel like I’ve had the best it’s has to offer with the kogashi miso ramen.
Rating: 13/20 – ramen as black as your soul.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.