When you enter Lucky Chan’s, an intriguing faux laundry at the front leads through to a long ground-floor bar. Counter seats accommodate lone diners and pairs, with tables tightly packed along the facing wall. It’s early in the week and Chan’s is heaving over its three floors, thanks in part, no doubt, to the interest and loyalty garnered from its unusual provenance. Welcome to Australia’s first crowd-funded bar – one that’s riding on the love of all things ramen right now. But its success goes beyond mere luck.
The team here – who were also behind the Classroom and Cocktail Gastronomy – have pitched it just right. Prices for a bowl of ramen start at $14.90, and bao from $6 each, putting the diner in reach of everyday eating. Whether you’ve got company or not, it’s a place to dive into a bowl of ramen, grab a bao, a foursome of dumplings or just go straight to the Old Fashioned. As expected, the offering behind the bar is stellar, from the Japanese whisky to the beer. Craft is an option, while the Asahi Super Dry on tap for us is the way to go. Crisp pigs’ ears ($9) and whitebait ($8) are serviceable starters – but it’s the ramen especially that deserves your attention.
Good ramen takes times. Perhaps that’s why there’s so many bad expressions of it out there, when some feel they can serve up weak broth, below-par noodles, call it ramen and hey presto! Not here. Noodles are made in-house (as are dumpling casings) and the all-important broth, prepared over 12 hours, is all bone and no booster. The results are good. Tonkotsu has the thick, scraping-the-roast-tray effect on the palate that makes it the standout ramen for those who like their broth bold. For those who favour shio, shoyu and miso iterations, you’re covered.
You may lament all you like the rise of the concept eatery over more authentic choice that is changing the face of William Street, but the numbers say it all. Lucky Chan’s little kitchen is pumping out more than 1,400 bowls of Ramen and 4,000 dumplings a week. It plays to the young professional crowd and the bartender-on-their-night-off demographic. So, the question is, do you feel Lucky?