Chaco Ramen – Darlinghurst NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve been craving a good noodle, and our proximity to Darlinghurst post-floatation pool in Bondi made for a good opportunity to try out the ramen at Chaco Ramen, a place that had mainly been on my radar because of the yakitori at their sister sibling Chaco Bar. Little did I know (stupid) that there is literally a Chaco Ramen in Bondi Beach. We needn’t have detoured, but at least we didn’t have to pay for parking.

This photo of Morgan McGlone’s Hot Chicken ($9) is not the most attractive, but I think people actually come here to look at what’s inside their food, and I will have you know that I am classically trained and have a university education in dissection. Boasting about my mad pencil grip knife skills aside, I actually didn’t love this chicken. It is probably my own fault for reading “roast chicken” and being surprised when it came – as advertised – roasted. The skin just didn’t have the texture that I imagined when I read the word “hot chicken”. While my partner liked the mildness of the chilli sauce, I found this to be another weakness. As a chicken fan, I prefer ATL Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy‘s equally priced marylands over this.

This chilli coriander special ramen ($27) was a beast of a bowl in terms of size and taste, featuring a mixture of both soft poached chicken and chashu pork. The broth, chilli and coriander in flavour, was quite reminiscent of Chinese mala hotpot, which kind of made it less special to me because that’s something we eat all the time, though my partner absolutely enjoyed it. The egg was soft, the bamboo shoots were tasty, and overall there were enough different elements to this bowl to retain our interest throughout its consumption. Pretty good! Pricey.

I didn’t feel the need to upgrade our fish salt ramen ($20) to the special, as unlike the chilli coriander ramen this one came with chashu pork at the base level. In addition to the pork are a couple of john dory and prawn wontons, which were quite tasty and enjoyed by both my partner and myself, even though she did NOT enjoy the soup and the overall taste of this ramen, which she found to be too fishy for her. It should go without saying that yes, a ramen called the fish salt ramen might be a bit fishy for the anti-fishers out there, but I’m happy to report that as a pro-fish advocate I did enjoy this fishy and milky broth.

I enjoyed both ramens that we tried at Chaco Ramen, though if you’re someone who eats a lot of Sichuan Chinese food I think the chilli coriander ramen won’t quite feel as special. If skipping the fish salt ramen, would recommend getting the john dory and prawn dumplings on the side. Yum.

Chaco Ramen
238 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 9007 8352

Café Japanese

Tento – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

I’m a highly price-conscious consumer of food and other small luxuries, and while I will happily shell out for something truly special, sometimes I do need to be convinced that a meal is “worth it”.

I didn’t have any of this soy cappuccino ($4.50) as I was pre-nights but I really enjoyed the look and feel of this cup. They sell their mugs for around $50 on their Etsy store, and it looks like woman has bought 13 of their 16 items ever sold. I’m not currently in a suitable financial position to spend $50 on a small mug that I will never use (my mugs are in the litre-range, excellent for loading up on the disgusting but healthful material that is psyllium husk), but many of their creations are quite beautiful.

My partner isn’t usually an oyster eater, but these Magaki Pacific Oysters ($5 each) had enough random toppings on top to make her venture out of her comfort zone. These particular oysters were topped with salmon roe and flowers, which did add a nice fruitiness to the oceanic flavour mix. Again, love the bowl.

These Gobo Chips ($13.50) with wasabi mayo were a bit too fibrous and slimy for me. Any supposed health benefits, for example from burdock root’s relatively high fibre content were probably well balanced by the battering and deep frying.

We quite enjoyed the Snapper Ramen ($24), with its nice in house tonkotsu base, baby bok choy, and lightly seared fish. The yuzu kosho was described by our waitress as something we could use to add flavour, as was the vegan capsicum butter, which I felt was a bit redundant as that is the general purpose of any flavouring or topping. The flavours of the soup were nice overall, and perhaps the two above mentioned additions hindered rather than helped it. I enjoyed the fish but would’ve liked more.

The Area 51 ($36), a seared toothfish ochazuke was unfortunately quite similar in taste to the snapper ramen. It was probably our own fault for choosing both of these dishes rather than something different. My main complaint carries over from the snapper ramen, there being only a small amount of toothfish at this relatively large price, though my secondary complaint is the less than ideal broth to rice ratio. It tasted nice, but it just tasted like more of the same.


We spent $88 between the two of us, with one drink. While we did eat quite a bit of food, I still have difficulty reconciling the substantial price point for what was ultimately good but not super-special.

Cool crockery though

3/8 Hill St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

Asian Fusion Café Japanese

St Kai – Mortdale NSW Restaurant Review

We had a really great meal at St Kai, a Japanese-inspired cafe with great food, but not that many Japanese people on its staff.

The tantanmen ramen with miso pork ($22) was a really good bowl of ramen. The broth was incredibly thick and rich, heavy on the umami and heavy on the creaminess, with the perfect amount of spice from Mama Liu’s chilli oil (thinking about this now, I might actually pick up a jar for home). The noodles were very jīndao 筋道 (a term which I think is being slowly eroded by the increasingly popular “Q” of Taiwanese origin) in texture, with great chewability and springiness. I enjoyed the included greenery (seaweed and bok choy), and there was plenty of meat in the bowl for neither of our two adult humans to not feel like we missed out. An additional thoughtful touch to our experience included the provision of a pre-warmed share bowl, which I have a photo of but will only post on request because that’s not why you’re here. Overall a great bowl, quite elaborate for a breakfast, but actually somewhat breakfasty in its flavour.

Next, the first of two breads. The folded dashi eggs on soft milk toast ($21), allegedly with flying salmon roe as per the menu but thankfully with non-flying salmon roe in reality was a treat. The eggs were perfectly cooked, just a little bit runny but still with some of its own structure. The dashi and bonito powder added a high degree of umami to the meal, whilst the generous serving of ikura, juicy and salty, was perfect to flavour the dish. I don’t know if the shokupan is made in house or if it’s from elsewhere, but found it to be nice and sweet with a good toasting around the outside but still soft on the inside. Very good.

Next, a sweet dish. The french toast with black sesame butter & miso caramel ($18) was at its base essentially the same as the dashi eggs on toast, with what is probably bread cut from the same loaf. Where it differs is in its taste and execution, a real testament to how versatile bread as a vessel is. This was a sweet dish, highly buttery and decadent from the mass of butter served. The black sesame itself wasn’t particularly sweet, if at all, and indeed they also add some of it to the tantanmen for extra sesame-ness. Most of the sweetness of this dish came from the miso caramel, which all added up was just the right amount of sweetness (ie. not too sweet) for my mood that day. My partner actually got bored of all the bread, but I did not. Very good. Love bread.

The Ichigo Tokyo Milk ($4.50) tastes like steamed Big M and I have regrets.

STRAY THOUGHTS I don’t know who Peggy Gou is or why she features so prominently on St Kai’s promotional material. Do they have a commercial arrangement in place, or are they just fans? Another stray observation I will make is that during our one our stay at the restaurant, all tables inckluding our own were inhabited by Asians, but none of the locals who were just dropping by for a quick coffee were. Does this say something about Asian-Australian yuppies (another dead word) as a social group? Who knows.

ACTUAL THOUGHTS We enjoyed our meal and recommended St Kai to our friend and colleague BJCHC. Who would’ve thought such a place would exist in a small side street of Mortdale?

St. Kai
38 Balmoral Rd, Mortdale NSW 2223


Sekka Dining – St Leonards NSW Restaurant Review

As a fan of Japanese food unfortunately trapped on the wrong side of the Harbour Bridge, Sekka had been on my list of restaurants to try for some time. I finally found myself in St Leonards following a day of meetings at a nearby state ministry (the room where it happens), and ignoring my friend WKS’ advice, sat down for a meal at Sekka.

It turns out I probably should have listened.

We started our meal with a number of snacks, the first of which was the scallops in soy chimichurri and shiso ($3.50 each). These were quite good, with good flavour and a well-grilled but not too grilled texture.

Our next morsel was the M8 Wagyu yakitori with onions (2 for $16). While there was nothing wrong with the way these yakitori was cooked (see the cross-section for the nice rarity of meat), the meat was actually quite a bit tougher than expected. I guess that’s what happens when they specify “M8 Wagyu” but not the actual cut of meat provided.

The chicken thigh (skin on) yakitori with ginger and shallot dressing (2 for $14) should have been good, but despite everything in their favour were ultimately middling. The actual chicken of it was quite good – juicy on the inside, crispy skin on the outside. It was in fact so juicy that I burnt my tongue on the juices inside, though that was no one’s fault but my own, it was the path I’d chosen to go. The ultimate problem with this yakitori was, in my opinion, the general lack of flavour to the meat. It could’ve really done with a bit of salt or some tare, and while ginger and shallot is one of my top Asian flavourings I just don’t think it really goes that well with this kind of chicken (it’s great on Hainanese chicken rice, though).

Perhaps most disappointing of all was Sekka’s much lauded chicken wing gyoza (2 for $15). Essentially a chicken wing stuffed with prawn and deep fried (there is a mention of truffle on their menu but I’m not sure where that was hidden), these would’ve been good were they not so blandly flavoured. Frequent readers of this blog know that I prefer lighter flavours than most, but even then these winged gyoza could’ve done with a bit more.

After a procession of minimally inspiring entrees, our main course, the hojicha smoked duck ramen ($23), was actually amazing. The soup flavours were clear, vibrant and balanced, with neither the smoke nor the spicy shansho nor the tea flavours overplaying their weight. The semi-boiled egg was a umami treat, as was each slice of smoked duck breast, each presented with a sliver of skin and fat. Even the noodles were good. This was such a great bowl of ramen that I immediately regretted filling up on all those fried and grilled sides. I would’ve loved to have tried some of their other ramens.

Go, but skip the small plates and head straight for the ramen. That’s where the money is.

Sekka Dining
Shop 1, St Leonards Square, 472-488 Pacific Hwy, St Leonards NSW 2065
(02) 8054 9788


Osaka Trading Co – Forest Lodge NSW Restaurant Review

Located within Forest Lodge’s Tramsheds complex, near the former site of Chase Kojima’s Simulation Senpai, is the Osaka Trading Co, a day and night time Japanese restaurant with an extensive Japanese-focused bar menu which we did not at all partake in.

I’ve not got much experience with Lotus Root Chips ($6), but thought that these ones were pretty good. They crispy at room temperature, and had a good umami flavour to them. They were served with a shichimi chilli spicy mayonnaise dip, which I felt was a bit superfluous as the chips were good on their own. My learned colleagues JZHW and WKS had other opinions, however, having grown up on lotus root chips during their time as Asian youths. They thought that these chips were just middling, and could have been better a bit warmer. I really don’t know. I liked them.

The Tempura Corn with Wasabi Mayonnaise ($14) was good! It’s difficult to go wrong with deep fried corn, and even more difficult skill when wasabi mayo is added into the equation. This wasn’t a planned addition to our meal, but when we saw our waitress walk past us with a dish of this destined for another customer we knew we had to have it as well. Lightly battered and fried, I can recommend this dish.

The Tuna Tartare with pea puree, pea sprouts, wasabi olive oil ($22) was a letdown to say the least. There was nothing particularly wrong about the diced tuna or the accompanying sprouts or pea puree, but also nothing special. The taste and feeling of the dish can be best described as mild and cold. This was a pretty miniscule amount of food for a pretty significant price, and I can’t imagine anyone would be satisfied by it.

The Miso Ramen ($18) was also a disappointment. The bowl featured much corn, some wood ear fungus, and only a single slice of chahsu pork. While additional pork can be ordered for a small $3 fee, there was no mention on the menu of just how little pork would be available in the base bowl. This was a damaging oversight, in my opinion, as many unsuspecting meat fans will leave disappointed. In addition to this, the taste of the broth was a bit dark and bitter rather than a pure miso taste. I suspect this was due to the presence of black garlic oil, however other ramen restaurants like Crows Nests’ Ramen Kaio seem to be able to pull off a black garlic ramen much better.

Though Osaka Trading Co’s share plates start strong, there’s much left to be desired by their bigger ticket items of tuna tartare and ramen. I suspect it may be more of a vibe at night with a few drinks, but nonetheless I wouldn’t go back.


Osaka Trading Co
Shop 18, Tramsheds, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge NSW 2037
(02) 8880 0717

Diners JW, WKS, JZHW