Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hakata-maru Darling Square, Haymarket

My favourite Sydney Hakata ramen shop is back in Haymarket with their range of Fukuoka inspired ramen! I was saddened when Hakata-maru closed their Market City shop a while back. Thankfully, they scored a spot across from The Exchange (on Nicole Walk) at Darling Square

I’ve always liked their no-nonsense approach to their ramen and the price point is probably one of the best in Sydney. The space is like a contemporary tavern. They have communal tables,
two areas of window counter seating near the kitchen and lots of outdoor tables for two.

The usual Hakata-maru ramen choices are available on the menu including the white tonkotsu ($12.50). This is a classic Hakata-style ramen that uses a shio (salt) based tare to season the pork bone (tonkotsu) broth and because of that, the broth retains its milky colour and consistency. The shio tare brings out more of the porky flavour and umami. It also has that classic thin noodles cooked katame (or al dente) and topped with chashu, kikugare, negi and nori.

From all the Hakatamaru dishes that I’ve had in the past and present, my personal favourite is the bonito shoyu tonkotsu ramen ($16.50).The noodles used are the standard curly type used by most ramen shops but cooked katame. The broth is soy based with a double soup of katsuobushi (bonito) broth and tonkotsu broth. The broth had a lot of umami and depth with some smoky notes from the bonito broth. Topping includes chashu, bean sprouts, negi, nori and half ajitamago (flavour egg).

If you want your tonkotsu ramen with depth minus the smoky fishy flavour, try their shoyu tonkotsu ramen ($16.50). It pretty much has the same toppings as the shoyu niboshi ramen but the difference is in the seasoning. As the name states, the broth is seasoned with soy tare that gives depth and complexity to the pork bone broth and with added sweet notes.

The Darling Square shop offers more than just ramen. They currently also have curry rice dishes and sides like karaage chicken and gyozas. Soon they will also have Japanese inspired gua baos like kakuni bao and karaage bao at $5.50 each.

Hakatamaru Darling Square
Nicole Walk
35 Tumbalong Boulevard
Sydney NSW 2000
Soft opening hours:
7 days 11:30 pm to 2:30pm, 5:30pm to 8:30pm

Friday, August 2, 2019

Pasta Wafu, Darling Square - Sydney

I’ve had some of the best Italian food in Japan. I always hit up pizza and pasta shops whenever I visit Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. It’s all thanks to my homie Kerby Craig’s influence. The Japanese take (or known as Wafu) on pasta is especially interesting.

Speaking about Kerby, he recently teamed up with renowned chef Hamish Ingham and restaurateur Rebecca Lines to open Pasta Wafu. This eatery is located in the centre of the newly developed The Exchange in Darling Square. The focus of their joint venture is Japanese style pastas. Expect dishes like the classic mentaiko pasta and more with their very own fresh housemade pastas. So what sets Pasta Wafu from most Italian pasta you may ask? It’s the fusion of familiar Italian pasta making and cooking methods with Japanese ingredients and flavours to bring out and maximise umami in every dish.

The classic Mentaiko pasta ($14) is available on menu. It consists of Pasta Wafu’s housemade spaghetti with mentaiko (pollock roe) butter sauce and nori. This is a staple in all Japanese pasta shops. The simplicity of the creamy sauce with explosions of umami from the nori flakes and mentaiko with some subtle sweet notes is what appeals to me with this style of pasta.

The miso fettucine ($14) has housemade fettuccine, miso bolognese, shiso and nori. Whilst the miso bolognese had lots of umami and nori, the shiso added some complexity to the dish. I would have liked more miso bolognese sauce as it was a tad on the dry side. But I’m taking into consideration the fact that I was the first customer on their soft opening and some teething issues is always expected (from any new eateries/restaurants). Nevertheless, flavours were solid.

My absolute favourite was their kinoko spaghetti ($14). Spaghetti with mushrooms, shio koji (malted rice with salt & water) and shoyu butter. There was definitely no shortage of umami in this dish. The shio koji brought out umami from the mushroom and gave the dish complexity. The shoyu butter added depth to the flavour. I added bacon for $4 and onsen egg for $4.

Tiramisu ice cream mochi

Classic Japanese sides are also available like crispy renkon ($5) and karaage chicken ($11).

They also got you covered with a great line of beverages. The Shokuhin umeshu ($14) is a must try especially if you like sweet fruity notes in your alcohol.

I miss Japan and the dishes just took me back to my lovely winter holiday visits to the land of the rising sun. Congrats Kerby, Hamish and Rebecca on your joint venture together! 

Pasta Wafu
The Exchange Darling Square
35 Tumbalong Boulevard 
Sydney NSW 2000 

7 days 11:30am to 9pm

Pasta Wafu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato