Ever since Chaco Bar opened, we’ve had a bit of a soft spot for it. The Darlinghurst yakitori restaurant does all sorts of meat on sticks, as well as some pretty epic gyoza. But for the past wee while it’s also been quietly knocking up ramen at lunchtimes – so it makes sense that they’d take on a premise that’s all about ramen. And it’s happening: they’ve told us on the sly that they’re confirmed to launch a four-month pop-up at the Wulugul Pop-up at Barangaroo, right next to Belle’s Hot Chicken on the old Mamak site, opening on Monday April 11.
And this is not just any ramen, Sydney. This is the real shit. Owner and chef Keita Abe is from Fukuoka in Japan, the home of tonkotsu ramen. He tells Time Out, “I never had other flavours of ramen in my hometown because tontoksu is everywhere. The people of my prefecture love it.” But that’s not what he’s going to be cooking up at the pop-up. Here, it’s less about the pork, and all about the chicken.
“It’s all chicken based,” says Abe, “Because we are a yakitori shop, 95% of our ingredients are chickens.” For him, it’s about using all of the animal, “I get so many bones after I’ve cleaned out the chickens, so I started to make ramen so that it’s all getting used.”
There will be four flavours. Fat Soy boasts a chicken-base and is topped with melty charcoal pork chashu and a seasoned egg. Abe describes it almost like you would a tonkotsu: “It’s really strong, fatty, punchy, heavy.” Fish Salt is probably unlike anything you’ve had before, deriving from the soup known as ‘champon’, which was created in Nagasaki to feed Chinese students missing the taste of home. “Champon is not famous in the world yet,” says Abe, “This is the ramen of Nagasaki. It has lots of seafood, cabbage, and there’s pork chashu on top as well.”
The next option is Chilli Coriander. It’s made up of a base of chicken and fish broth, topped with steamed chicken thigh, seasoned egg, house-made chilli oil and Japan’s equivalent of the Szechuan pepper: the sansho pepper, which is hot and numbing. The last ramen on offer is the Yuzu Salt, which Abe describes as “elegant and in a summery style.” It’s got that sour, citrusy flavour from the yuzu, with a chicken stock base and squid tentacles on top. Plus it’s topped off with yuzu infused butter. Hello…
All of these bowls will be filled to the brim with Abe’s ramen, which he has made for him fresh, according to his own specific recipe.
There will also be some non-ramen options on offer that all sound equally as epic. Spiced cod rice will see the popular Japanese mentaiko (marinated cod or pollock roe) spiced to the nines and served with rice and hot wasabi leaf. “This is soul food from Fukuoka,” Abe tells us. Charcoal Chashu pork will see the pork cooked in stock and finished over the grill, served with rice and takana leaf (spicy mustard greens). There will even be those famous gyoza to keep Chaco’s regulars’ happy.
If you work in the northside of the city, your lunches just got a little bit amazing. We'll see you down there.