275 Australia St
Newtown, NSW 2042
It’s been a long two months, but the blog is back! Socially-distanced, but undeniably back. Oh how I’ve missed going out to eat!
Lonely Mouth opened pretty much on the cusp of coronavirus forcing us all into lockdown, so I was afraid that by the time we were allowed to emerge from our homes again, it would have fallen victim to the economical crash like so many other restaurants. Thankfully, that was not the case. They’ve kept things going with a steady stream of takeaway orders, and they’ve reopened for dinner as of last week. You do have to book via email for a strict 45-minute sitting, but once you’re there, you can feel safe in the knowledge that everyone is generously spaced out, and everything is disinfected meticulously between customers, right down to the laminated menus.
I’ve been keen to get to Lonely Mouth ever since it opened, the reason being that it’s the sister restaurant of RaRa, which in my opinion, does the best tonkotsu ramen I’ve ever tasted. But there is one crucial difference between the two restaurants – the menu at Lonely Mouth is entirely vegan. Now, I don’t usually abide by that sort of nonsense, as I believe ramen is just not the same if the stock isn’t made from a few hundred kilos of pork bones. But the ramen at RaRa is so good, and the chef so fanatical about getting things right (he even flew ramen consultants down from Japan to approve of the ramen before launching at both sites), that I have every faith in getting a bowl of excellent noodles.
The interior of Lonely Mouth (which, by the way, is named for the Japanese word kuchisabishii, which means wanting to eat something even when you’re not hungry – a concept I have a very thorough understanding of) is definitely reminiscent of RaRa, though more traditional in execution. Whilst RaRa with its shiny new fit-out and accents of glass and concrete gave off the feel of a modern izakaya, Lonely Mouth leans towards a low-key family-run Japanese restaurant with its large paper lanterns and muted oak panelling. It’s not all tradition however; there is plenty of greenery attached to the walls to pander to the millennials, and a nice little light box depicting a cute drawing of a happy ramen slurper. The staff are equally as cool and welcoming, and thanks to our waitron, I now refuse to answer to anything other than ‘party people’.
To start off, there was a rather generous snack of Corn Tempura ($8). The batter is unfortunately a little underdone on this one, slightly soggy and pale rather than crisp airy goodness. The corn however was fresh and sweet, and the vegan mayo an impressive approximation of the real thing; they even managed to give it a slightly eggy taste!
Let me cut straight to the chase and say that the Sunflower and Hempseed Shoyu ($19.5) – their take on the tonkotsu ramen – was absolutely phenomenal. Neither the appearance nor the taste gave away the fact that this bowl of noodles is entirely plant-based. The deep, rich broth is something many ramen restaurants can only dream of aspiring to, and aside from the slight nuttiness, tastes just like pork bones cooked long and slow. I’ve had plenty of non-vegan ramens that don’t taste half as good as this.
The house-made noodles were, of course, just as excellent. Slightly thicker than their counterpart at RaRa, these had a toothsome bite and soaked up the broth with no trouble. The vegan charshu was less convincing than the broth, but it still tasted great, so nothing to complain about there. In fact, the only bad thing I can say about this is that on the night we visited, the vegan egg was unavailable. Looks like I’ll just have to go back – such a shame.
The Vegan Miso Ramen ($18.8) may be familiar to some, as it has already gained a loyal following from its time on the RaRa menu. If you’re looking for a healthier bowl of noodles, this is the one to get. Unlike the rich, salty shoyu, this one is made with a base of soymilk, resulting in a lighter, sweeter broth, warmed with the addition of ginger and miso. Topped with a rainbow of crunchy veggies and some very addictive grilled tofu, this is one bowl of nourishing goodness.
Objectively speaking, the ramen at Lonely Mouth obviously isn’t going to be as good as the one made with huge vats of boiled pork bones at RaRa, but even taking into account the arguable handicap of not being able to use animal products, this is still a top-notch bowl of noodles. It had absolutely no trouble hitting that ramen craving, and left me thinking about it for the rest of the night. This one isn’t just for the herbivores; if you like ramen – heck, if you like good food – then you need to give this place a go.
Rating: 14.5/20 – im not snacky; i have lonely mouth
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.