Never-ending queues began forming pretty much the moment co-owners Scott Gault and Katie Shortland fired up the stockpots at RaRa back in September of 2018. The wildly popular Redfern ramen bar quickly earned major kudos from tonkotsu diehards, not only for the purity and porkiness of the secret-recipe broth, but also for the housemade Hakata-style noodles and the thick cuts of charcoal-grilled free-range chashu pork on top.
Yet, much of RaRa’s runaway success story has been about its winning vegan broths – a soy-shio and a creamy miso. So much so, in fact, that Gault and Shortland are opening a new outlet that’s entirely plant-based. They’re calling it Lonely Mouth, a loose translation of the Japanese expression ‘kuchisabishii’, used to describe that all-too-familiar feeling of not being especially hungry but wanting to eat nonetheless.
“It was never in the back of my mind to open up a vegan-only ramen store,” Gault says, “but the ongoing support of the vegan community and the popularity of the vegan dishes we launched at Redfern have blown us away. We’ve always been working on new vegan dishes, but the Redfern space is so tight that we haven’t been able to expand the menu as much as we’d like.”
The 24-seat eatery will be sliding in to the former Oscillate Wildly space on Australia Street in Newtown (Gault’s “favourite street in Sydney”), next to Black Star Pastry and across the road from 212 Blu and the Continental Deli. Expect a more intimate vibe than the original and month-old Randwick branches, decked out with lo-fi materials like perforated plywood, hanging plants and a Japanese vending machine.
As far as the menu goes, they’re paring things way back to start with and offering the now-famous miso, a pork-free Sichuan-style tantanmen, and a new hemp and sunflower seed broth that mimics the mouthfeel of tonkotsu, inspired by a creation Gault came across on a research trip to LA. Toppings will include the usual suspects, along with the addition of a housemade seitan chashu and vegan “eggs”.
A short list of snacks rounds out the soup selection, including cauliflower karaage, vegetable gyoza, corn tempura, jackfruit baos and Japanese pickles. And to chase it all there will be vegan wines, as well as beers from Yulli’s Brews and Japanese imports on tap.
Get excited ramen fans, but be prepared to wait. If you thought the lines for a slice of Black Star’s strawberry and watermelon cake were long, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Lonely Mouth is slated to open daily for lunch and dinner, beginning Saturday, March 14 at 275 Australia St, Newtown 2042.