It's difficult to go past the daily handmade noodles and rich fatty Tantan-men of Ichi Ban Boshi however the 40 minute waits can be a little trying on a hungry stomach and so it has been time to try other CBD ramen restaurants recommended over time. Strangely Condor Ramen and Go-shu Ramen are directly next door to each other so we thought we'd succumb to the awkward looking waitress and try Condor Ramen first. I think this trick must work on a lot of diners because a number of other Sydney food blogs I read comment on the same awkwardness.
The ambience isn't great, the eatery is mostly outdoors next to the raging traffic of York St as city rush hour exits from the Harbour Bridge, there are indoor tables but it looks muggy and oily inside and we take the traffic noise over the grease. The tables and chairs are student eatery types with plastic covers, but a lifetime of excellent Chinese eaten in restaurants that look like a warehouse break room have taught me that looks can be decieving.
Firstly we order gyoza, as they are an easy item to judge the quality of any ramen shop. Firstly we are asked if we wish them steamed or fried which is also a good sign and when they arrive they are excellent. They take a little longer to arrive than I am expecting but on delivery it would appear that the entire dumpling has been made to order. The pastry and filling are both light and fresh, these have neither been frozen nor sat for a long period. The filling is heavy on vegetables and if you're a meat fanatic these may not be for you however I found them delightful. Das Boy is slightly disappointed as he likes the nouveau spin on the ponzu sauce which is delivered with the gyoza at Ichiban Boshi and is let down by the more traditional dumpling sauce presented here.
Das Boy is very keen on katsu curry and forgoes the ramen in favour of this dish; he's delighted to find a giant pile of tsukemono lavishly heaped on one end of the plate. The crumb on the katsu is slightly disappointing and is fairly thin for panko crumbing however the meat is juicy and the oil is well drained, the curry is spicy but not overpowering and contains some beef and vegetables throughout. It however is soon forgotten as my own ramen comes out.
Tantan-men is one of those foods I could live on for weeks and not get sick of it, the rich chilli sesame pork broth is filled with hand spun noodles, egg, vegetables and sweet stir fried pork representing all the food groups except for dairy - which is just fine by my lactose intolerant self. It's hard not to compare the bowl to that of Ichiban Boshi where I eat regularly and I find the noodles are good, but not as good, maybe made this week rather than this day; the meat is nice, but not as sweet and I am disappointed to see that the colour of the egg gives away its cheap cage hen origins.
On the other hand the portion size is far more sensible; I'm actually able to eat most of my bowl of noodles. The real highlight of the dish is the soft juicy and fresh bamboo shoots laced throughout the bowl, it is obvious that the owners of Condor Ramen are big believers in fresh regular produce and I would suspect by the taste that they have been to the market that day. Towards the end of the bowl the soup is getting slightly gelatinous and I suspect that they use higher fat pork than I am used to and it sits a little heavy on the stomach.
I tend to prefer more chilli oil cooked into my ramen soup however plenty of condiments are provided for balancing the soup and by the end of the bowl, thick with fat and studded with sesame seeds, I wonder that a richer soup wouldn't have been overpowering.
All in all the food is good and satisfying but not truly excellent; though the fresh gyoza and bamboo are stand out from the whole meal and good enough to come back for on their own. If I were truly craving ramen I would probably attend another restaurant but as good mid week fare to stave off cooking the price and quality are more than adequate.
Open Sunday-Friday from 11:30am-10pm
No booking required
5 York Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9299 8686