In Newtown, a bookstore where you can really use your (soup) noodle
The Berkelouw Books branch in Newtown is a find in itself, hidden down a quiet street, in an old brick warehouse. The place supposedly used to be a swinger’s club upstairs – in fact, we’re unofficially told, there was still a big swing hanging in the centre when the bookseller’s renovation team took over.
Even now, the two-level bookstore can still contain a secret – namely a surprising, stylish little 38-seater ramen joint that’s tucked into the back. Ramen Bar quietly opened a couple of months ago, offering fusion-style bowls under the auspices of Swedish brothmaster Robbie Oijvall (oy-vell).
If Swedish meets Japanese sounds a bit concerning – kind of like those Korean-Japanese-Thai eateries with their attention-deficit Asian menus – there is some consolation in that Oijvall cooked at the original Wagamama in London for four years before coming to Australia to launch the brand here. It ain’t a Michelin star, but we do like a chef with dedicated time wielding the region’s flavours.
Walk past Berkelouw’s literature and cookbooks, and you’ll find a tiny look-in kitchen fronted by a few communal tables, and strewn with clusters of circular paper-lantern lights and Mao-red walls that would make any Communist Party 90th proud. Here, Oijvall focuses on making authentic, MSG-free broths, and then has fun mucking around with more elaborate fillings.
A top pick among the 10 types is the Murakami ramen, named after a famed Japanese novelist: a bowl of thick pork stock with pork belly and shoulder, pickled bamboo (menma) and slow-cooked ‘hot springs’ egg (onsen tamago). There’s also a soy ‘shoya’ stock Miyagi (as in Mr “wax on, wax off”), a Korean-style ‘kan ko ku’ with beef brisket and kimchi, the ‘ahiru’ with duck confit and orange dumplings, and the ‘Kurosawa’ with salmon, sweetcorn and tonkatsu broth.
Maybe start with some pork & fennel gyoza, a pour of ginger & star anise ice team, and then prepare to be bowled over.
Where: Berkelouw Books, 6 O’Connell St, Ground Floor, Newtown
Hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-3pm, 5-9pm | Sun 11.30am-8pm
Details: Ramen Bar’s Facebook page