The other day the Prick heard it remarked that Australia was fast becoming “the coup capital of the Western world” given the enthusiasm with which our political class cycles through leaders. The old reminder whispered into the ears of Roman emperors – remember, thou art mortal – seems almost quaint.
“Remember, thou hath the political lifespan of a carnival prize goldfish” would be more accurate.
What does this have to do with food? Well, it underlines that favourites can change and change quickly and when it’s on, it’s on. For months now the Prick’s favourite Sydney ramen had been found over at Ippudo (as much because it’s right next door to the office as because it’s generally very good indeed). But ever since a couple of disappointing meals, capped off by a frankly pellucid and limp soup on a day when something far heartier was needed, the mood for change has been in the air.
And thus it was the day after Kevin “Programmatic Specificity” Rudd’s revanchist return to the Lodge the Prick joined a happily increasingly-regular group of taste testers to Gumshara, a little ramen shop tucked in the back of Haymarket’s Eating World food court. The quest? A new favourite ramen: A Prime Ramenster, as it were.
Gumshara’s ramen is at heart a pure beast, classically made with the sort of obsessiveness seen in any Tokyo ramen shop where customers queue for an hour to get their fix. The stock is just pork bones and water – the chef goes through 120kg of bones every day – boiled for twelve hours so that every last bit of cartilage and marrow and fat makes it into the broth. This guy is, as the PM said in his cringe-making return speech, “cooking with gas”.
Ordering looks complex but isn’t. A few bases (including the magnificently-named $25 Super Mega Ramen, which sounds like a character in some Japanese trading card game) can be complemented with any number of toppings, in my case eggs and further grilled pork.
All in all, it’s a great bowl of soup. The eggs alone are a thing of genius and much discussion and debate was had about their superiority to the sort of scientific, 62-degree eggs increasingly seen around town (we food types are a fascinating bunch). The condiments add zing, particularly the pickled cabbage and chili oil. In the mouth the stock starts out mild but builds in intensity to become overwhelmingly unctuous and rich, almost numbing.
But that’s not entirely a good thing. For while a tonkotsu broth runs counter to everything they might teach at Le Cordon Bleu, making it subversively attractive, there’s also the danger that something else is lost along the way. Classical French stocks are all about purity and clarity, yes, but they also gain a degree of depth with aromatics. With this sort of tonkotsu stock, there’s no thought of getting rid of the fat – that’s what makes it so great – but it can verge towards monomania.
The Prick’s verdict? The Gumshara ramen was good, deep, thick – but ultimately pretty one-note. Sure, that note may have been lovely, more Jacqueline DuPre dragging her bow across a cello than Emergency Broadcast System warning tone, but many of us were left looking for more. RamenQuest continues!