The Galleries, 500 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Ichiban Boshi and I go way back. I first heard of the now-iconic ramen chain over 10 years ago, when I had just started reading food blogs, and the thought of writing my own was years from even crossing my mind. I had never had proper ramen at the time, but that didn’t stop me from being completely enamoured with the idea of noodles in deliciously porky soup (in fact, I think this may be where my ramen obsession started). And I almost, almost got to eat at Ichiban Boshi too, when I went to the Gold Coast with my family in 2008. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out, and it took another 10 years and an interstate move before the chance came up again.
Except the drama didn’t end there. When I finally got around to visiting Ichiban Boshi late last year, I showed up only to discover that they were closed for renovations. I couldn’t be too upset however; not only were there plenty of ramen restaurants for me to check out in the meantime, when they finally unveiled the new interior, it was decidedly more swish, and a much nicer place to eat. Food-wise, the menu serves up a broad range of Japanese dishes; not only is there a generous variety of ramen, pretty much all the classics were there as well. Coupled with the affordable prices and convenient location, it’s no wonder that a queue is inevitable at meal times.
You won’t find the Takoyaki ($7, 6pcs) on their paper menu, but don’t fret – just check the iPad menu and it’ll be right there under appetisers. These may not have been covered in a blizzard of sauce and bonito flakes in the way I like, but they had a deliciously gooey texture that indicated that these were made in a real takoyaki iron, rather than the deep-fried variety you normally get.
This post is actually from two separate visits, but unfortunately, we still didn’t manage to nab one of the 30 bowls of tonkotsu ramen they make each day on either of those visits. But that’s not to say there weren’t other good options. The Tokyo Ramen ($11.9) was as good as any bowl of shoyu ramen I’ve had, if not better. The soy sauce-based broth was dark and aromatic, and infused with generous amounts of pork fat for a rich flavour. The toppings were adequate though nothing to write home about, but the noodles themselves were a standout. Medium-thickness with a slight wave, the generous amount of kansui used in the dough made for a silky mouthfeel and a springy texture, plus that unique bicarbonate taste that I find just so addictive.
The other bowl of ramen we tried was the Shio Ramen ($11.9) with an extra Soft-Boiled Egg ($2) thrown on top. As you’d imagine, the salt-based broth was significantly cleaner and more delicate compared to its soy counterpart, a change that was matched by the toppings of sweet corn and crisp sprouts. I personally prefer my ramen a bit more robust, but this is a good choice for those who like their noodles lighter.
As I’d been looking for a go-to Japanese restaurant for quick and easy meals, I was also keen to see how their non-ramen dishes stacked up. First up was the Katsu Curry Pork ($14), which was perfectly adequate in the best way possible. The pork cutlet was juicy and crisp, the curry sauce reasonably robust, and the accompanying miso soup and side salad got the job done. They even came with a side of my favourite red radish pickles. This may not be anywhere close to the delicious curries I had in Japan, but it does a great job of satisfying the craving.
The Salmon Don ($16) was similarly satisfactory. Although I wasn’t overly impressed with only getting seven pieces of thinly-cut sashimi, I was happy with their freshness and buttery flavour. The rice was also fluffy and well-vinegared, and the addition of nori slivers and sesame seeds on top gave the rice a bit of extra pop that you don’t normally see.
Despite the relatively unremarkable rice dishes, and ramen that was great, but really not that different from the many other great noodle houses in Sydney, I’m actually rather fond of Ichiban Boshi. It’s certainly not a place I’d go as my first choice, but the fact that they have such a great variety of decently-made Japanese dishes, in such a convenient location, for such reasonable prices, means that I’ll probably end up back here on a semi-regular basis. It managed to hit that sweet spot that neatly marries convenience, familiarity, variety, and taste, without compromising too much on any one aspect. If you’re looking for a quick satisfying Japanese meal, this is the place to go.
Rating: 13/20 – found my go-to.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.