Sunday, 22 June 2014

Ichi-ban Boshi - Sydney CBD - Sydney, Australia

Ichi-ban Boshi

Ichi-ban Boshi has been around for quite a while. It's a chain of restaurants with locations in Sydney CBD, Bondi Junction and Southport in Queensland. I can't recall my first time eating there, but what I do remember is it first occurred when I started working in the city. The go to place for our uni lunches was at Menya in Haymarket and till today, it still remains one of my favourite Japanese restaurants. Yet, Ichi-ban Boshi has also been one of  the top places to go to when I'm in need of a quick ramen fix.

The location of Ichi-ban Boshi couldn't get any better. Its in the Sydney CBD, located within 'The Galleries', connecting to Town Hall Station. It's a Japanese restaurant / noodle shop that specialises in ramen, but also offers a range of other authentic Japanese dishes such as donburi, fried noodles and udon. The one thing that I particularly like about this restaurant is their consistency and excellent portions. Service is friendly and efficient, and their food tastes the same regardless of whether you went today or one year later.

Compared to the traditional Japanese restaurant, that can be fairly small in size, Ichi-ban Boshi occupies half a floor, sharing the space with the famous Japanese book store called 'Kinokuniya'. Though there are plenty of tables, it does fill up and get very crowded very quickly. Queues during lunch time can be fairly long as it is popular with shoppers and office workers. I've waited in excess of 30 minutes during weekday peak hour lunch.

There is one dish that I have always wanted to try but have failed time and time again, given the limited quantities that were made each made. That was no other than the signature 'Tonkotsu Ramen'.  I know most Japanese ramen joints serve this but I really wanted to try out their version and what made it so special.

Back in the days, oh how I sound so old, they made 15 bowls per day. But now they have doubled the amount to 30 bowls per day. Given the number of people who dine at this restaurant, that is definitely not a very big number, which I guess, leads to more hype and anticipation from people like myself.

I've asked so many times and the only answer I would get is, "Sorry, we're sold out" or "Sorry, it is not ready". That deprived me of any hopes of ever getting to try a bowl of their 'Tonkotsu Ramen', no matter what time I went during the day. It just wasn't meant to be. So I asked Miss Booklover for her expert advice on this as she has tried it countless times. She said it was best to go around 4pm as she would usually get a bowl that time but I wasn't able to get to go at this odd hour of the day.

On a particular day, we were supposed to go Menya but she said to go and try our luck at Ichi-ban Boshi. I was not very optimistic as I've tried so many times after 5pm to no availability.

You will know it is available when there is a plastic A4 size of paper on your table and to my shock, it was on the table. We asked the waitress to confirm if it was available and it was. Hooray!!! One event ticked off my bucket list. After many years, my wish has come true.

The 'Tonkotsu Ramen ($11.90)' is basically a pork broth that has been simmered for many hours, said to be rich in collagen and good for the skin. It is topped with sesame seeds, shallots, half an egg, roast pork and a sheet of seaweed. See that runny, yolk egg? Just perfect. Once slice of tender and fatty roast pork that melts in your mouth. Oh so yummy. The only negative is the lack of meat but you get compensated with the abundance of noodles. It was also served with a little plate of red ginger which Miss Booklover says she's never got.

I also got a side of 'Beansprouts ($2.00)' to go with the ramen as I like that added crunch.

The thin egg noodles went very well with the tonkotsu stock. It was springy and had a nice bite to it. Great for slurping up with the delicious soup. These noodles aren't served with their normal ramen dishes.

The soup was decent and packed a whole lot of flavour. The rich broth wasn't thick like Gumshara's but it was thicker in consistency, say compared to a soy-based broth. Do eat it quickly, as a layer does form at the top as it starts to cool down. To me it was a good ramen and was it worth the wait you ask? Well, to be honest, I still prefer the Tonkatsu at Menya and I wouldn't go out of the way just for this but I'm thankful to have been able to try it.

On a previous visit to Ichi-ban Boshi, we also had some other dishes.

The 'Miso Ramen ($9.90)' uses a thick egg noodle in a miso based broth with roast pork, bamboo shoots, corn, beansprouts and shallots. The miso flavour is quite strong and you can taste it.

The 'Karaage Ramen ($13.00)' is one of my favourites. A thick egg noodle in a soy based broth with crispy deep fried chicken pieces. The chicken was requested to be separate from the noodles as it does get soft and soggy very quickly. The chicken pieces were wonderfully marinated and fried to a golden crunch.

A drink I like to order here is the 'Iced Cappuccino ($4.80)'. A bit on the pricey end, but I like the frothy top and sugar syrup on the side.

A great place for those looking for decent Japanese food at affordable prices Not only that, the food is tasty and place is clean. It's not the best out there but this casual restaurant serves simple Japanese fare with minimal fuss which keeps bringing people back. I do recommend going to their branch in Sydney CBD. They have a Ichi-ban Express located at the lower grounds of The Galleries but to me, it doesn't exactly taste the same as what is offered upstairs.

Level 2, The Galleries,
580 George St
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone no: 02 9262 7677

Opening Hours
Open 7 Days a Week
11:00am - 9:00pm


Ichi-ban Boshi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Chicken Baengi - Myeongdong - Seoul, South Korea.

Chicken Baengi

Deciding on what to have for our final dinner the night before we were due to leave South Korea was quite difficult. We were tossing up between having something we already tried, authentic Korean food or a recommendation from the guide book. Also, we didn't want to venture out too far as we had to pack and get ready for the flight the next day. Decisions decisions.

A bit apprehensive at first as we read no prior reviews, we stepped into the fried chicken restaurant at the front of our hotel (Skypark Central Myeongdong) called Chicken Baengi. The pictures at the front alongside the rows of fried chicken in the window were just too tempting not to go in.  The restaurant was filled with local Koreans so that was a positive sign.

Who doesn't like fried chicken right? Eating fried chicken makes me happy and thinking about it makes me drool.

Chicken Baengi is part of a chain of franchise restaurants.

Their speciality is fried chicken and beer. Fried chicken is available in either the original or with varying sauces such as spicy and garlic. They also have traditional Korean menu items available. The waiter was very friendly and she spoke in near perfect American English so ordering was extremely easy.

A bowl of crisps are brought out for us to munch on and the waiter offered to refill it after we emptied the bowl which was very nice of her.

When ordering fried chicken in Korean restaurants, pickled radish is usually served as a side banchan. This sweet and sour condiment is divine with the fried chicken.

Salt for extra seasoning which wasn't needed.

The 'Original Fried Chicken (KRW 16,000)' was a decent size plate of chicken fried to ultimate golden perfection. The serving was much more generous than Two Two Fried Chicken and I found that it wasn't dry or overcooked.

As per the norm, the fried chicken is double fried giving it that extremely crispy and crunchy exterior, yet moist and tender insides. The fried chicken here is not greasy and lighter compared to the normal fried chicken, making it highly addictive and stopping at one is not possible. It is served with a side of shredded cabbage and spicy mayonnaise which complements the chicken very well. It was so good, the plate was wiped clean.

Local Korean 'Cass Beer (KRW 4,000)'.


As previously mentioned, this turned out to be my favourite fried chicken place of the two that we went to. I'm glad we stepped out of our comfort zone and tried something that wasn't vastly mentioned online. It was well worth it and I absolutely recommend this establishment for their fried chicken and beer combination at very affordable prices.

10-8 Myeongdong 1(il)-ga,
South Korea

Phone no: 02 928 7703

Opening Hours


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Agio Italian Restaurant- Insadong - Seoul, South Korea.

Agio Italian Restaurant

Agio Restaurant specialises in Italian cuisine, namely pizza and pasta dishes. It actually wasn't on our list of places to eat at and I didn't think we would end up eating Italian food in Korea. However, I had the sudden craving for pizza after over indulging in Korean food for many days and my palate was in need of something that didn't have too much rice, meat or vegetables. Though, my expectations of finding excellent Italian food in Seoul was quite low and that proved to be quite the contrary.

After some searches on trusty Google, I stumbled upon a restaurant called Agio and the reviews were pretty good. It's fairly easy to get to, smack bang in the middle of the busy Insadong district, a tourist friendly area. They even have a branch at Hongdae for those who are interested.

Located within the side street that leads off the main street, is this quaint restaurant that occupies two levels of a rustic looking building, and the mere architecture made me reminisce back to the time when I was in Italy.

The kitchen is downstairs and the majority of seating is located upstairs. I loved the nostalgic decor with the antique style furniture that felt homely, yet maintaining that quiet and elegant ambiance away from the crowded streets.

One thing that differentiates this restaurant from other Italian restaurants is how the pizza is cooked. It is cooked in what they call a brick oven or how we Australians like to call it, a wood-fired pizza oven. The pasta here is also made fresh and that is apparently a rarity in Korea.

It's a casual restaurant with prices being quite affordable but I wouldn't say it's a budget restaurant and more towards the mid-range level. We were there at lunch and the crowd was relatively mixed. There were the couples, groups of friends and lots of families. Surprisingly, I didn't see any foreigners on that day and most were local Koreans.

The motto of the restaurant is 'slow food' and that was rather intriguing. The menu was set on a number of pages inside a folder and the menu was very easy to read as items were in both English and Korean. The staff were friendly and they took our orders promptly and food was also served quickly.

The waitress brought out complimentary house bread and pickles. A plus plus from me. The bread was warm and there was a hint of garlic to it which I liked very much. The pickles were nicely pickled in that they were sour and crunchy, but I'm not really a pickle eater so I didn't have much of it.

The 'Arabiata Sauce Spaghetti with Fresh Seafood and Tomato (KRW 12,500)' was absolutely amazing. The fresh pasta was cooked perfectly al-dente and complemented the chunky tomato sauce and the  seafood was tasty. A hearty and mouth-watering meal.

'Chicken Barbecue Pizza with Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese (KRW $18,500)' is on a crisp thin base topped with loads of mozzarella cheese and shredded chicken. They don't put a lot of toppings on their pizza and this is kept to a minimal, just like how the pizzas are done in Italy. That stringy and melt in your mouth cheese was superb.

The base was crisp, chicken was well marinated and the homemade tomato sauce was pleasant. A wonderful combination of flavours that just hit the spot. My initial reaction while scoffing down the pizza was, this is so good and indeed it was.

Agio is worth a go if you are in the area or looking for authentic Italian cuisine. We really enjoyed the food here and it surpassed our expectations. The pizza and pasta was definitely better than some of the ones I had back in Sydney and even comparable to the ones in Italy. The produce is fresh and that shows in their food.

Jongno-gu Gyeonji-dong 
South Korea

Phone no: 02 334 7311

Opening Hours