MY PHILISTINIC love for instant ramen would make connoisseurs of the Japanese noodle broth cringe, so I worried the experimental flavours of Ramen Lab in Mount Lawley might be wasted on my MSG-reliant palate.
I perused the menu keenly but was discouraged to see there were only two choices of broth; rich pork or creamy chicken, which both seemed a far-cry from the clear soup I was accustomed to slurping from a styrofoam cup.
But I banished all thoughts of microwave meals and ordered the Ttan-Ttan ($17.50), which promised a familiar strong and peppery flavour alongside a host of new flavours like niku miso vegetables and XO sauce.
I also ordered an entree of Takoyaki ($6); octopus balls which came topped with spicy garlic aioli, seaweed crumbs, and bonito flakes – which were still curling from the heat like living tendrils when the dish was delivered by a friendly waitress.
I devoured all six of the delicious morsels, which were creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The flavour was reminiscent of the ocean but not overly fishy even though it was made of octopus, covered in seaweed sprinkles, and topped with bonito flakes (which are pretty much the fish version of bacon).
When the Ttan-Ttan came, I was pleased to discover it delivered on the strong and peppery flavour, but it had a thick layer of chilli-oil on top of the rich pork broth so it was too much for a belly already full of octopus.
The soft-boiled egg and handmade thin ramen were perfectly cooked, but I couldn’t help feeling like the barely-cooked kale in an oily broth was a fusion of healthy/unhealthy cooking that needed more experimentation.
Luke Lee, the head chef and owner of Ramen Lab, came out to ask how the meal was and was obviously disappointed that I hadn’t finished everything in my bowl.
He explained that Ttan-Ttan mein is a Chinese inspired dish that is oiler than Japanese ramen and probably only appeals to his Chinese customers, but pointed out other dishes on the menu I would have liked better.
It turns out Mr Lee is a true fusion chef: he’s of Korean heritage, a connoisseur of Japanese cuisine, and a graduate of the Western-focussed Le Cordon Bleu Sydney.
As a result, his Asian menu includes an unusual mix of Western ingredients, like parmesan cheese, red cabbage kraut, and pistachio cranberry chicken sausage.
The Ramen Lab has only been open for six weeks, and Mr Lee promises the menu will continue evolving.
As his restaurant’s name suggests, Mr Lee is not hesitant about experimenting with flavours to discover something that customers love.
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM
Shop 36/602 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley.