Manpuku Kingsford

December 12, 2015

Even though it's sweltering hot in Sydney right now, that alone won't deter me from getting my hands on a delicious bowl of ramen. I remember when Manpuku first opened up shop in May last year and what a joyous and momentous occasion it was for university students studying at nearby UNSW. To be able to have a steaming hot bowl of authentic ramen during those breaks between lectures and/or tutorials/lab was unheard of so it's not surprising for this restaurant to be bustling with university students on weekdays.

Manpuku is located along the main shopping strip and parking may be painful to find from Mondays to Saturdays. Fortunately, DT and I had the pleasure of visiting Manpuku on a Sunday so we could take advantage of free unlimited parking along the bus lane.

There are many ramen restaurants dominating the ongoing ramen craze happening in Sydney with the majority specialising in tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen. Manpuku differentiates itself with its tori (chicken) gara ramen which I wasn't aware of until Yuri informed us. 

Chef Hideto Suzuki giving us the thumbs up
Head chef Suzuki was working for a ramen restaurant in Neutral Bay before he set up his very own Manpuku in Kingsford and he has recently expanded to Chatswood, made possible due to the huge success of his first shop.

Wall calligraphy
Beautiful calligraphy decorated the walls of the restaurant, the large kanji reads 'yume' meaning dream and represents Chef Suzuki's dream of sharing his passion for ramen come to life.

On the opposing side the large kanji characters on the right roughly translates to putting heart and soul into each bowl of ramen served at Manpuku. From the amazing ramen we had the privilege to try it was clear that the restaurant was super dedicated to fulfilling that mantra. Service was also very efficient and friendly even when it became incredibly busy.

Top ten selling ramen
If thick collagen-infused pork broth doesn't tempt you at all then Manpuku may be the perfect alternative as their tori gara broth is extremely light and being a clear broth your noodles will be visible in the bowl. Don't be afraid of sacrificing flavour either because there was plenty of it as a result of boiling specially selected chicken bones for many hours to extract their flavours.

There are three variations of tori gara ramen you can choose from: 
  • shio (salt) - four types of salt are used including rock salt and sea salt
  • shoyu (soy sauce) - three brands of soy sauce are used
  • miso - four types of miso used
Shoyu gara takes their number one spot for most popular ramen followed by shio gara. We had a small bowl of each along with the tonkotsu and tori gara ramen which combined the best of both worlds and was ranked number seven. It's also affectionately known as 'ramen with the long name' because just try reading that out when you order it (and fail miserably).

Pickled sides station
We could further customise our ramen experience with two types of pickled vegetables. There was even minced garlic to be had for that extra pungent aroma.

Pickled sides
Pickled ginger and leaf mustard went well with tonkotsu ramen as its acidity cut through the richness of the broth.

Soy (shoyu) chicken based half ramen $7.90
I was afraid that the broth would be bland and less satisfying compared to tonkotsu however my misconceptions were obliterated as soon as I had my first spoonful of soup. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount and depth of flavour found in the chicken broth and with a hint of underlying sweetness. Both the shio and shoyu versions were exploding with flavour and both were incredibly good. There was an obvious difference in taste as the shoyu variation possessed a distinct and refined soy flavour and was ever so slightly sweet. I really can't definitively say one was better than the other although DT said he preferred the shio gara ramen.

Salt (shio) chicken based half ramen $7.90
Perhaps if you're not too fond of soy sauce then the broth seasoned with salt would be more to your liking. Regardless, you seriously can't go wrong with either of them. In terms of appearance, the broth seasoned with salt was lighter in colour whereas the soy broth was tinged brown. 

Ramen noodles in tori gara broth
Thinner and straight ramen noodles were paired with the tori gara broth and they were cooked to be on the softer side but not to the point it was mushy which I really enjoyed. They truly complemented the lightness of the broth along with the wholesome juicy and salty bamboo slices.

Ramen pepper
Add extra seasoning with their Specialty Ramen Pepper which is recommended for the chicken broth. I love pepper but I haven't seen it commonly used for ramen. It was no ordinary pepper either being a white pepper laced with a mixture of powdered menma (bamboo), dried garlic and onion. The pepper and a smidge of minced garlic mixed into the broth provided some extra oomph.

Soy based pork and chicken soup ramen $14.50 (aka long name ramen)
While tonkotsu is not their primary focus Manpuku managed to satisfy my tastebuds with theirs. Yuri mentioned that their tonkotsu is made using a pressure cooker unlike their tori gara broth which is boiled in a giant steel pot and simmered away for hours on end to achieve that intensity of flavour. As a result, the porcine flavour was not as prominent as opposed to the tonkotsu ramen found at O-san and Gumshara and that could win some or lose some. I do find myself craving that viscous tonkotsu broth rich in collagen and emulsified pork fat now and again especially during winter but there are days where a less heavy tonkotsu ramen would be preferable and Manpuku's fits the bill.

Closeup shot
Consistency-wise it was visibly thicker than the chicken broth and obviously not to the level of Gumshara's tonkotsu but was still opaque and milky and resembled a thin cream. The pork flavour was rather mild which would be deliberate as it allowed the flavours from the chicken broth to come through as well along with the special soy seasoning. Thicker wavy noodles were married with the thicker broth. They had a more substantial chew to them and also bouncier which I particularly liked.

Chashu slices are a staple ramen topping and mastering the art of braised pork belly would be considered of utmost importance for executing that perfect bowl of ramen. Manpuku have an excellent chashu game going on as we were delighted with mouthwateringly tender and wonderfully smoky slices of pork. The seaweed (nori) sheet plastered on the side even has their name imprinted on it.

The ramen at Manpuku is served in specially made ceramic bowls designed to retain heat and hence keep your ramen at the perfect temperature all the way. Yuri pointed out the hand drawings on the inside wall of the bowl and in tiny writing you will see "We will rock you!". I loved the personalised touch as it made the ramen eating experience more special.

Soft-boiled egg is also a must have topping to go with ramen and Manpuku didn't disappoint in that department as the yolk was mostly gooey throughout and the soft egg white had absorbed the flavours of the soy sauce and mirin and in turn developed a lovely browned exterior.

Green tea and strawberry cream mochi $2.50 each
Ending our excellent meal with two plump mochi. The mochi skin was stretchy and smooth and I was expecting an ice cream centre but it was a paste and tasty nonetheless. 

Super yummy sweet treats that were served cold and the green tea flavour was pronounced and the same for the strawberry. 

Become a part of Washoku Lovers to receive a membership card and present it to one of the staff when dining at Manpuku to claim a free bottle of water or canned soft drink (Monday to Friday only).
It's super easy to sign up:

The birth of Manpuku has broadened what knowledge and experience we Australians have for ramen and for that I am eternally grateful because I now know that there is more to ramen than tonkotsu. Now if only another branch opens closer to home then my life would be almost complete.

Many thanks to Yuri from SDMG Marketing for the invitation

Manpuku Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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