Time Out says
RaRa Ramen’s vegan offshoot is winning hearts and minds with plants and seeds in Newtown
Ramen is made up of five elements – broth, noodles, tare (seasoning), toppings and oil, making it the Captain Planet of noodle dishes. It has also historically been very meaty. But RaRa Ramen’s Scott Gault and head chef Terry Jeon cracked the code for rich, savoury, creamy ramen broths with not a pork bone on the premises of their all-vegan soup shop, Lonely Mouth. The secret to their plant-based “tonkotsu” is roasted sunflower seeds and hemp seeds. The oven’s heat unlocks the aroma, and then they grind them down into a paste, mix with light vegetable stock and strain so that it’s silky smooth but retains the creamy mouthfeel. It’s then topped with nori, green onions, bamboo and seitan ‘chashu’. “The goal was to make vegan broth that has the complexity that you would get from a bone broth, not compromising on flavor just because you’re not using meat,” says Rara and Lonely Mouth co-owner Katie Shortland.
It was the popularity of the vegan offerings at their original Redfern ramen shop that prompted the expansion into an exclusively plant-based restaurant, which they’ve opened in the tiny shopfront that used to house fine dining restaurant Oscillate Wildly. “This is one of my favorite streets, the Courty is one my favorite pubs. It was the dream location,” says Gault.
The transitions from pork tonkotsu to vegan soups isn’t the handbrake turn it appears. “Ramen is nose-to-tail cooking. It uses bones and cuts that you wouldn’t use in other dishes – that’s what interests me and that’s why vegan interests me too. The point wasn't to make a vegan restaurant, it was to make a bloody good ramen shop that everybody could come to,” says Gault.
There are three soups on the current menu, which includes a Kyoto-style tantanmen made creamy with soy milk spiked with Sichuan pepper’s numbing heat, and the mixed miso. But there’s crunchy joy to be found on the snacks menu too. Little rafts of sweet golden corn kernels sheared from the cob are encased in tempura batter and severed with mayo and sichuan salt, and the secret to the cauliflower karaage’s satisfying savouriness is the shoyu ramen tare marinade used on the raw florets before battering and frying them. Need a sharp reset for your palate? The house pickles feature juicy chunks of cucumber, radish, seaweed and the white ends of the reams of shallots they use to garnish the soups. Or for feistier refreshment, they make an excellent vegan kim chi in house.
The kitchen is so small you can reportedly touch the walls on all sides when standing in one spot, and the dining room isn’t much bigger, with timber benches ringing the room and a communal central perch with seating spread out conscientiously to adhere to physical distancing rules. If all the seats are taken you can always opt for takeaway, but you’d miss the presentation, which is a not insignificant part of the charm. Head here when your mouth is feeling lonely and is looking for a noodle soup that treads lightly on the planet and your pocket, and you’ll never feel shortchanged on the flavour front.
273 Australia Street
|Opening hours:||Wed 5-9pm; Thu noon-2.30pm, 5-9pm; Fri noon-2.30pm, 5-9.30pm; Sat noon-9.15pm; Sun noon-8pm|